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  • Bill Chastain

TOYS AND GAMES: Back to the Brooklyn Bridge

Big oaks sprawl among us everywhere. Not until they are gone do you realize how lucky you were to have stood underneath their shade.

My father was my big oak.

Surprisingly, there’s nowhere I feel more connected to him than at the Brooklyn Bridge.

He knew more about the famed structure than anybody I know. Once he retired, he wanted to finally visit “The Great Bridge.” Sadly, he never did.

Dad earned a civil engineering degree from Georgia Tech and worked for Scott Construction as a co-op student and later at Tidewater Construction. Many of the jobs he worked on for both companies dealt with building bridges. Later he started his own business and worked as a general contractor, never to lose his affinity for bridges.

When Patti and I went to San Francisco for the first time in 1999, we ran across the Golden Gate Bridge and marveled at the structure. Upon returning to Tampa, I spewed on and on to Dad about the virtues of the Golden Gate Bridge. He would have none of it. While the Golden Gate indeed was a great structure, the Brooklyn Bridge was superior.

Of course, Dad had never seen either, but that didn’t stop him from making his case.

Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River to connect the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Dad appreciated the engineering expertise involved with the hybrid cable-stayed suspension bridge. His education and experience afforded him a deeper understanding than most about the obstacles cleared and the innovations that took place for the structure to be completed.

Thus, I had hoped we would visit the place together. That day was supposed to come in August of 2007. We had everything worked out for him to accompany me on a trip to New York City. He planned to sit on the bridge all day and soak it all in. Sadly, something came up and Dad did not make the trip. No big deal, right? We could plan another trip the following summer. After all, the team I cover for MLB.com — then known as the Devil Rays — always played the Yankees in three series a season in New York.

Dad died that fall.

Since then I’ve made several visits to the Brooklyn Bridge to spend time with Dad. Custom dictates I buy my coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts once I get off the No. 4 train — can’t buy Starbucks, Dad considered expensive coffee ridiculous — then I soak it all in.

If Heaven is like I believe it is, Dad has spent many days sitting on The Great Bridge. Chances are he’s even knocked back a beer or two discussing suspension bridges with John Augustus Roebling, who initially designed the structure.

Sunday I arrived to the Brooklyn Bridge early enough to dodge the Euro tourists, leaving me alone on a pristine morning with a lifetime of memories. Yes, it was a fine day to enjoy the shade.

bchastain19@gmail.com

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©2020 by Bill Chastain. Photo credits: Jill Doty Photography