This year will be different. My Dad has been in glory since 2004. My Mom went to meet him this April 25th, their wedding anniversary. I had a Mother’s Day card custom made for her this year, and the company mailed it direct. I got it back, “return to sender”. I don’t know how to describe how I felt when I saw it in our post box. I’ve had this sensation that my childhood has slipped away. I can still share memories of growing up with my brothers, but it is not the same. Somehow, talking over old times with Dad and Mom was just another way of saying, “Thanks for a great childhood.”
I was thinking about Dad yesterday. Thinking about how, when I was little, he’d always tuck the covers under my chin at bedtime. I still like to sleep that way. I remember summer drives, late at night…all of us in the back of the old Chevy station wagon in our pj’s, enjoying the cool breeze. Picnics at Beltsville Dam, trips to the duck pond, seeing the tall ships in Philly for the bi-centennial, going to Gettysburg and Valley Forge, Boston and country drives just to see where roads went. None of it was spectacular or expensive, but it was invaluable. New Years day in Philly, watching the Mummer’s parade and visiting family. In earlier years, Dad would bring his guitar and play along with my uncles at these family gatherings. I remember this song (and ironically, our youngest is named Kate 🙂 ). I now have that guitar. It was used hard, jumped on, used in “unconventional” ways which I blame on this from my sordid childhood. Like Dad, after attempts to refurbish it, to bolster its frailty, it was finally laid to rest. It was full of music, and so was he.
Dad was always busy, even on his days off. There was not much “me time” for him, although I remember him picking up the occasional Zane Grey novel at the library. He papered walls, refinished furniture, painted, laid flooring and carpet, re-shingled the roof, sewed slipcovers for the livingroom furniture and drapes and curtains for all the bedrooms. He used to cook the entire Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the foil “tent” he would construct for the bird (before the days of those new fangled oven bags).
One of my favorite memories was reading the funnies every Sunday with Dad. I’d sit on his lap, and he would read them all out loud to me. It was tradition. Every Christmas, when I got older, I’d decorate the tree, and he’d sit in the easy chair (on its third or fourth slip cover) and supervise, while slowly whittling down a little candy cane.
I loved the bear hugs, the scratchy whiskers, the scent of Old Spice. I loved the way he taught me, always looking me square in the eye and asking, “Catch?” (which was his way of saying, “Do you understand?”) before moving on to the next step of sewing, changing spark plugs, grilling burgers…whatever. I loved how he loved people. I never heard him say anything negative about anyone he knew (except for the occasional comment about some “knucklehead’s” driving or what he’d shout at the TV set while watching football 🙂 ). He loved family gatherings. I remember when we celebrated Mom and Dad’s 50th, and spent a week in the Poconos all together after the celebration. Dad sat in the corner, just watching all the kids and grandkids. Then he leaned over to me, beaming, and asked, “Isn’t this neat?”
These thoughts are all random, I know. Too lengthy? Maybe to some…”but if you only knew how much I want to say and don’t, you’d give me some credit”. Thanks, “Anne.” 😉 Perhaps no one will read this post. That is okay. It is good for me, which is one of the reasons I blog. It has always been therapeutic for me to put my thoughts in words. But, although this seems haphazard, perhaps without continuity, topic sentences and a formal introduction and conclusion, you need to know that my Dad’s life was planned and purposeful. From the “vacation club” fund at the bank, to the dimensions for the curtains in my room, to the painfully neat way he would neatly wrap up my sandwiches in waxed paper for school lunches, to his little handmade bill chart that he made from the bottom of a shoe box, he thought things through.
This is his legacy to me. Plan to be a good parent. Don’t wait and see if it might just happen along the way. Be deliberate. Look your kids in the eye. Hug them, teach them, guide them. His music still lives on in me as I try to follow his example.