by Tim Elhajj
Twenty-some years ago, I took my son to a Pennsylvania amusement park named for a chocolate bar and discovered I had a lot to learn about being a father. He was a chipper boy of about three-and-a-half. It was a bright summer’s day and we were having a good time. He insisted we ride a wild roller coaster that included a loop-the-loop. It seemed like a bad idea to me, but he was relentless: He tugged at my pant leg, screwed up his little sun-baked face and whined. I would have stood a better chance of denying him, had I felt a little more secure in my ability to father him. Or, perhaps, if I had a better sense of the kind of father I wanted to be. As it was, I had neither. Shortly after he was born, his mother had taken him and left me, and my father was dead and gone, leaving me with only the vague notion that I ought to be able to do a better job than he had done with me. It seemed simple enough. But I only had the boy for the afternoon. And more than anything else, I wanted to make him happy.
“You want to ride the SooperDooperLooper?” I asked.
He literally leapt into the air and bounced in a ring around me. His blond crew cut shone, his blue eyes glittered with anticipation.
Part of the SooperDooperLooper’s popularity is its low height requirement. Even so, I had to grab Timmy by his armpit and nudge him half an inch skyward to meet the bar. I nodded to the timid teenager collecting tickets and said, “He’s good.”