He was the father of my dreams on these vacations. So what if he never coached Little League? Man, could he swim fast! He had Aquaman powers, left over from his island childhood. He taught us how to snorkel, how not to be afraid of the water. He introduced us to bodysurfing, and we were swept along by gigantic waves. One time we were swimming in the ocean when all of a sudden, this ugly fish swam toward us and nibbled at his torso. I was horrified, but he laughed and laughed, amazed at how brave and playful these creatures were.

My father died almost 12 years ago. At his funeral, my voice felt so weak and my legs so wobbly I could barely read the passage my sister had selected, about how life, death, celebrations, and disappointments are all part of a magnificent continuum. It came from a book on Buddhism. I found out later that Buddha himself was said to have gone into mango groves to meditate and find tranquillity.

Recently, my mother, brother, and I were vacationing in Hong Kong. One evening, having just feasted on a five-course dinner, we stopped on our way back to the hotel to browse through a supermarket. There, a huge mango caught our eye. I mean huge! The size of a brick! We were stuffed, but we just had to take the massive specimen back to our room and eat it right away. I called up room service to get a sharp knife and extra napkins (though, alas, no toothpicks), and my mother washed (very thoroughly) our lucky find at the sink with warm water and tissues. We passed it around, delighting in its heft and wonderful scent, and then my mother pared off the skin and cut it into pieces, some big, some small, just as my father would have. I imagined him putting a slice all at once into his mouth, chewing and nodding, then reaching for another: his true mark of approval. And then he would tell us those stories again, about his slingshot and those big, bright fruits. I could hear his voice, clear as day, as I bit into the first slippery slice and took in the flavor, the memories, the messiness—savoring it all.


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