His New Imaginary Friend?

E has a new imaginary friend. Well, y’all tell me– does a dead guy count as imaginary? Or is the Smallest of the Small People seeing Dead People?

My Dad hated getting his picture taken. I’m unsure whether this was a lifelong thing, some kind of post-Vietnam freak out, or if he really thought that the camera ate a bit of your soul everytime the flash popped. The latter being the straight-faced reason given for not wanting to be photographed. For the picture in this frame, however, the Man Who Caught Big Fish won the battle over the Man Who No Like Pictures.

I got excited when I found it, not because of the fish, but because all of the other pictures that Zach has seen of my father were taken in 1976-1980. And because I’m a moron, it didn’t occur to me until much later that seeing young me with young Phil would start spark a bevy of mortality anxiety in poor Mr. Z’s brain.

But I am, and it did. An older picture of Grandpa Phil– proving that the man had indeed survived my childhood and teen years– seemed just the ticket.

That Elliot would become freakishly attached to said picture, carrying it around to various locations about the house, only to finally settle it facing his chair at the dining room table? Who could have predicted that?

I mean, he talks to him.

He decides G-pa Phil needs his own chair, thus the chair became a table.

“What” he says to me?

It’s surreal, yet funny. Unlike the very difficult questions that Zach always has for me about death and dying, Elliot is just sharing his life with the Man Who Caught Big Fish.

I might be using G-pa Phil’s current celebrity status for other things. C’mon now, if deepening my voice and saying “Please taste your shrimp, Elliot” will make the child taste new things? I have no shame, people. Now if a child just sits there with already-been-chewed-but-refuses-to-swallow shrimp in his mouth, prompting a frustrated temper tantrum from his mother? Followed by a mother who then totally shifts the blame for that temper loss on a dead man in a picture? Well, that would just be so wrong. Who would do such a thing?

Cough.