As his eyes closed on what would be his grave, the lake now up to the windowsill, the humming of rescue boats dying out for the night, he thought of what he would have shown his young son: Fish jumping in their yard, an alligator swimming through the swing set.
There was nothing more than Daddy Pappy had wanted to do than to make sure Little Cinder could see Tinker Bell fly down from Cinderella’s castle.
Little Cinder was Daddy Pappy’s only grandkid, his son having died in Afghanistan a few years before. Little Cinder spent most days and nights with him and Mama Grand while Cinder’s Mama worked at the diner and at the hotel as a housekeeper. It would have meant so much to his son to be present for this Disney moment with Little Cinder, but in his absence, Daddy Pappy did his darnedest.
They had saved all year for the Disney tickets but then the pandemic struck and they had to wait. At last, in July of the following year, the hottest and most popular time at the theme park, Daddy Pappy stationed his wheelchair in front of the roses before the castle. Even so, Little Cinder couldn’t see. He abandoned his wheelchair and pulled himself deep into the garden between the bushes, telling Cinder to follow, ignoring Mama Grand who was scolding him from the chain link fence.
Little Cinder could stand on a little rise in front of a tree and that way no one could obscure her view. There was even a light breeze blowing the roses this way and that, and Mama Grand, having finished with her disapproving looks, smiled at them and shook her head. Daddy Pappy knew she was worried about them breaking park rules but she would know because she knew him that he didn’t give a damn. At that moment, a huge blast of trumpets rose from hidden speakers, the park lights went dim, and an an announcer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, please welcome a special guest here to meet you on this most magical night!” And music blossomed out – “When You Wish Upon a Star!” Spotlights shone on the high turrets of Cinderella’s castle, where a beautiful, sparkling sprite with wings rode a zipline over the crowd.
At the spectacle, people gasped in surprise and clapped. Little Cinder jumped up and down and cheered. Then suddenly, in a rush of feeling, she flung her arms around Daddy Pappy’s neck.
It would be years later that Daddy Pappy, on one of his last days, remembered that very moment. He never said this to anybody lest anyone feel competitive with Little Cinder, but this moment when Cinder hugged him in a sudden rush of joy was truly the best moment of his life.