In my father's final interview he was quoted as saying, "I've pretty much spewed out everything I had to say, none of which has been particularly monumental, nothing which will stand the test of time ... Good writing, like wine, has to age well, and my stuff is momentarily adequate."
Fast forward three decades.
The Writers Guild of America has just voted The Twilight Zone one of the three best-written television series, ever. Forty-eight hours later, news broke that J.J. Abrams is in negotiations to buy my father's last unpublished work, Some Stops Along the Way.
Since my father's passing, there has been a postage stamp with his image, a star on Hollywood Blvd.; two attempted revivals of The Twilight Zone; a Disney ride; a movie, books, graphic novels and what that I believe would be his greatest accolade -- an innovative program developed by elementary school teachers in the Binghamton, N.Y., school district called "The Fifth Dimension." The curriculum is focused on enhancing the life skills of 5th grade students as they prepare to enter middle school by exploring issues of prejudice, scapegoating, mob mentality and other moral / social conflicts presented in various Twilight Zone episodes.
No one would have been more surprised, or more humbled by this program, and by these revivals and remembrances than my father.
On June 28th, my dad will have been gone for thirty-eight years. Even today, I struggle to get my head around that, to find a place to put that loss. If I were to write my own Twilight Zone script, it would look something like this:
Summer day, early afternoon. One of those flawless June skies. I am driving along the lake road, windows down, my dog in the back seat. I pass some people standing on their docks. Someone waves. At a stop sign I catch a glimpse of my dog in the rear view mirror but it is not the dog I left with; it isn't the one I own now. It's our old setter, Michael. Looking from him to my own reflection, I see my 19-year-old self staring back. I hit the brakes, turn the wheel sharply, and speed back to a screeching halt in front of our old summer cottage. Leaping out of the car, Michael behind me, I fling open the screen door and run down the stairs to my father's office.
And there he is. Sitting in his office chair. That black wavy hair I'd know anywhere. Slowly he swivels in his chair and just like always, like not a moment has passed, says, "Hi, Pops."
From the air slowly falls the article with the headline from the future, "The Writers Guild of America declares Twilight Zone one of the three best-written television series." My father catches it and places the article on his desk, shaking his head back and forth. "Will ya look at that, Pops? Will you look at that?" And he smiles.
I often think of something else my father said in that final interview when asked, "What do you want people to say about the writer Rod Serling a hundred years from now?"
My dad, in typical, self-deprecating, fashion answered, "I don't care... I don't care that they're not able to quote any single line that I've written. But just that they can say, 'Oh, he was a writer.' That's sufficiently an honored position for me."