Cover Photo: You wore blue. by Kerry Santana

You wore blue.

My memories of my father are in black and white.

My memories of my father are in black and white.

That may sound weird for a child of the ‘90s but it’s also weird to talk about your father in the past tense when he’s still alive. He’s a ghost now. Alzheimer’s does that to people: turns them into ghosts. He looks like my dad but he isn’t. He’s weaker, more vulnerable, given to moan and lament in the middle of the night and sleeps all day.

But my memories are brilliant flashes: flickering black and white images in a dark room.

He’d come home with a VHS tape he rented from somewhere and would declare, “This is a great movie. You need to see this.”

So at night, when I was supposed to go to sleep, he’d come into my room, pop the VHS into my VCR player, turn off the lights, and we’d lay back on my bed and watch whatever black and white film he had rediscovered for his daughter.

They were usually horror and sci-fi movies at first. The ones from the ‘50s with giant bugs and atomic monsters and teenagers caught necking in convertibles. Those were the ones my dad learned how to speak English from when he’d return to his aunt’s house after school in Brooklyn, a Puerto Rican kid with a new name in a strange new world of concrete and cold.

As I grew older, though, he ventured beyond my favorite genre of scary movies and bring home different things: a war movie, perhaps, (“Germans aren’t bad people,” my mom explained once. “The Nazis were bad but Germans today aren’t like that. Your best friend is German, remember that.”), a comedy, and finally, a romance.

I hated romance as a kid. It was gross and boring and alien. Horror, I understood. I felt horror basically everyday as a kid, in a world of grown-ups and germs and Amber Alerts. But romance? They may have well been speaking another language.

I don’t know how old I was when my dad first brought home Casablanca but I remember not being excited to see it. I knew war was involved and that was interesting but the cover of the VHS had two people locked in a passionate embrace and I was not impressed.

Then, as night fell, my dad put on the movie, turned off the lights, and cuddled me into his arms to watch it. It took two nights, I remember. I also remember being terribly impressed with my father’s ability to quote a line two seconds before Rick said it. He had the intonation and emotion down perfectly.

My dad loved Humphrey Bogart. He called him, “my guy.” He wore a white dinner jacket when he married my mom to look like Rick in Casablanca.

I watched it recently with him, lying with my dad in his hospital bed. I held his hand and whispered Rick’s most famous lines two seconds before Rick said them on the screen. We had to keep the light on because sometimes he gets upset in the dark now.

Writer. Feminist. Professional fangirl.