It is a lonely old night. All of the chickens here are roosting and I’m thinking. If you came here looking for a laugh, I will disappoint you this time. Humor was not the available muse this evening.
Back in September, I disappeared for awhile from this place. At the time, my mother was very ill. She passed away towards the end of September. I never wrote about it because this is my fun place and, well, there’s nothing very funny about your mother dying. There are, however, many funny stories about my mother, who was unique in that you don’t often find the mind of a toddler trapped in the head of a grown woman, and I mean that in the very nicest way. I’ve been playing with the idea of telling some “Vi stories”, and one of these days I may, but tonight I’m here to talk about my father.
He went into the hospital a couple of weeks ago. To make a long story short, there were some ups and downs, but finally he was released, after a successful surgery, just in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t take. The day after Christmas I got a call; the kind that all of us dread, from my brother, letting me know that our Dad had passed away. There was nothing that could be done.
Again, I had no intention of writing about it, but then something funny happened. I was sitting around tonight, playing with my fancy new laptop (thanks BigB), and I decided to check out my site statistics. I was surprised to find that one old post had been resurrected, seemingly. Not remembering what it was about, I went back to read it and discovered that it was about my Dad and his way with nicknames. I took it as a sign, because I do that. I’m like Mel Gibson, with a pointed tinfoil hat on my head, always looking for signs. Signs and crop circles. Anyway, it seemed like the right time and the right thing to do, so I’m writing tonight about my father.
Wherever he is right now, he would probably want me to apologize that he won’t be getting out with the plow to dig all of you out of this nor’easter we’ve been hit by here in New England, so I’ll get that out of the way right up front.
There are many memories I will carry forward of my Dad, all of them good. He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. He was a great singer. Well, actually, he probably was not, but as a kid riding around with him, I always wondered why he was toiling away in manufacturing when he was obviously born for the Grand Ole Opry. He could sing along with those old 8 tracks like nobody’s business. Johnny Cash wishes he could have sung Ring of Fire like my Dad. And speaking of driving around with Dad, if we happened to stop at a store, we knew two things: 1.) We would have to wait in the car, but 2.) there would be m&ms or a Hershey bar in it for us. Make that three things: Nine times out of ten, Dad would run into someone he knew and stand there talking to them for 20 minutes. I think, cumulatively, about 2 years of my childhood were spent waiting for Dad to finish up a conversation.
There are a couple stories that are always the first to come to mind when I think of him and I’ll share those with you. The first made him my hero; the second convinced me he was omniscient.
When I was really young, we lived in a trailer park. One Christmas Eve we were hit with a bad storm. Sometime in the middle of the night, my parents realized our roof was caving in from the weight of the snow. Now, a young kid’s memory is faulty, but I remember him carrying me out of the trailer, through the snow, and to the safety of our car. In my memory he is barefoot. He was probably upset because Christmas was a BIG deal to my father. I don’t remember feeling upset about Christmas-I just remember thinking that my Dad was a hero. I was very focused, the way little kids can be, on this one idea of him being barefoot, and I kept going back to it, in my mind, and thinking to myself how cold his feet must have been. He probably wasn’t barefoot. I know that now. But he was a hero.
The second story has to do with one of my birthdays. Birthdays were also big in our house. Not as big as Christmas, I don’t think, but important. I was not a kid who lusted after stuff. I was more of a doer than a collector. That particular year, though, I did have a secret desire and it was for a yellow ten-speed bike I saw in a magazine. I started lusting after this beautiful sunshiney bike long before my birthday, and tried to think of the different ways I could earn money to buy it for myself. Well, my birthday came and my Dad said to me, “I heard you wanted a yellow ten-speed, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. Let’s go see if there’s another bike you like”. We went to Western Auto and I chose a maroon ten-speed for my birthday present that year. I loved that bike. But forget the bike-how the hell did he know what I wanted? I didn’t remember telling anyone. And what else did he know? I was a little worried about that because, frankly, I didn’t want my Dad stalking my adolescent mind, ferreting out all of my secrets, and I was now convinced that he could. If he knew about the bike, he might know I had kissed a boy at band camp. Eventually, I remembered that I had told my cousin, who probably told her mom, who told my mom, who told my dad, maybe, but back then I could conceive of no explanation other than the obvious fact that my father was reading my mind. Oh. The. Horror. I’m sure he would agree.
Okay, one more. My father loved the song, “Love me Tender”. At my wedding, he requested this for the father/daughter dance. I kind of brushed him off because I thought of it as a love song and innappropriate for the father/daughter dance. I went with some other song and I can’t even remember now what it was. At the time, I thought he came up with that off the top of his head, but a month later, when my older sister got married, he again requested it and I’m happy to say that she conceded. She made him wear a tuxedo, too, though, which I did not, so I’m gonna call that even, sort of. I do not remember if he requested it for my younger sister’s wedding or not, but he probably did. I got to thinking, what is the deal with this song? And I realized that for him it was probably a lullabye. I listened to it one day. It was a song about a tender love, and what is more tender than your love for your baby? It would have made a great father/daughter dance song.
I’m going to miss you so much, Dad. I didn’t see you often enough but every single day, I thought of you. I’m sorry I didn’t play that song at my wedding-I want a do over. And I wish that I had been with you at the end to carry you barefoot through the snow and safely into heaven. I’m glad your feet will never be cold again. I hope the food where you are is to your liking, but if it is not, remember, there’s not much you can do to ruin a hard-boiled egg:-) You’ll always be my hero.
To quote a Cheryl Wheeler song I’ve always liked, “we’re just bereft, not deserted, Lord knows your rest was deserved”. Rest well, Dad. We love you.