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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day 2014

I'm not sure what to say, because I just wrote a memorium for him a few days ago.  Yet, that was mostly about his life, not so much about our Father/Son relationship.  I'll think about that...

Dad was absent in most family photos.  I don't mean the formal family pictures where some else took the picture, but the everyday ones.  That's because Dad was taking all the pictures.  He just doesn't show up in the pictures of us kids much; they were of "Mom and Kids". 

But I have memories. 

1.  Every Summer we spent a week with each set of Grandparents (who lived in New England).  The trip was easy when we still lived in Massachussetts, but became longer as promotions brought us to Maryland and Virginia.  And there were few highways back then.  So we got in the habit of stopping at the same motel overnight on the way.  It was kept clean and there was a swimming pool.  Well, I hate cold water and one day I was standing at the edge reluctant to jump in.  Dad walked behind me and gave me the slightest shove that sent me in! 

Later, while Dad was watching my young sister, I walked behind him.  And with the confidence that comes of "growing up" (I may have been 11/12).  He fell in.  Frantically waving the towel he was holding.  It was the last dry towel we had.  Well, not after he fell in!

2.  At about the same age, Dad taught me golf.  I'm sure he mostly wanted me to learn the game that both he and Mom loved, but he also wanted a caddy.  I of course wasn't good enough at the game to actually play with his group (Dad was a scratch golfer in those days), but I could pull his cart.  Well, I wasn't much of a prankster, but I had my moments (and still do - and learned it from Dad - see #1 above). 

I had found a fake golf ball (made of chalk but with a plastic coating and label that made it LOOK real) at a store.  I kept it with me each week and waited, and waited and waited.  FINALLY, he had a bad drive and had to hit a provisional ball (used in case the first ball could not be found).

Dad asked me to toss him a ball from his bag.  He set it on his tee, swung, and the ball turned into a cloud of dust!!!  He stood there in complete shocked silence for about 10 full seconds before I, then a playing partner, then the other 2 collapsed in fits of laughter.  And Dad STILL looked around confused for a moment before he realized what I had done.  THE BEST TRICK I EVER PULLED ON ANYONE MY ENTIRE LIFE! 

But you know what?  He never ever mentioned it in my presence. 

3.  Dad HAD a sense of humor.  He had one of the first battery powered electric shavers.  I didn't know about that of course, Dad shaved in private and my parent's bedroom suite was as foreign to us kids as the Taj Mahal.  So when he was one on the adults chaperoning us Boy Scouts on Operation Icicle 1966 (Operation Icicle is when we camped out on the coldest weekend of the year, usually in snow, and it got down to -5F that year.

So the first morning, Dad got up and stuck the plug of his electric razor into tree bark and proceeded to shave!!!  We were all stunned.  To our astonished questions, Dad just replied "Its all about understanding how to use electricity".  Which was true, of course, but none of us kids knew about rechargeable batteries in 1966.

4.  This memory involves both my Dad AND his brother.  We visited New England one year and my uncle brought us to a lake he knew well.  Uncle Allan was a professional fishing guide, so anyplace he brought us was sure to be successful.  Basically, we trolled around the perimeter of the lake with trout flies on weighted lines (technical details on request, but its too long for here).

Well every time we passed a particular spot, I caught a fish.  And the 2 "better" fishermen didn't.  After it was 3-0-0, Dad asked to use my rod, same setup.  No luck.  So Uncle Allan tried it too.  No luck.  When I had the rod back, I caught another at the same spot.  It is a mystery to this day.  I think I just had the "right touch" of twitching the fly that one day. 

5.  This one is a bit indirect, so bear with me.  I have been tearing up my 25 year old raised framed garden beds and the stuff I set between them to avoid muddy paths for 2 months.  Today I started hauling out the cut up chunks of old carpet, synthetic burlap and black plastic sheeting, and dumping them in my hauling trailer.

The brother of a neighbor came by and mentioned he had landscaping work skills and wondered if I needed paid help cheap as a cash side job.  I was tempted.  I feel worn out by this garden renovation project.  At 64, I can't do wht I did here at 36.  I could hire people to do this while I watched.  But doing it myself is a point of pride.  I got that from my paternal Grampa and my Dad.  They both taught me that you do any work you can until you are exhausted then you rest a while and go back at it.

So the neighbor guy's offer of below-standard-pay help was very tempting, but I declined.  It won't mean anything if I don't do it myself. 

Dad did heavy work when he was older than I am now.  I honor his work ethic by continuing to do as much as I can for as long as I can.  Like Father Like Son...

As many differences as we had, we had that in common.  There are many things I have learned to do in my life that Dad had no part of.  But there are many more things I have learned that Dad taught my very deliberately. 

For those things Dad taught me, I thank him.  For those things I learned on my own, I thank him for that too, because he taught me to learn new things.

6.  I will no longer be making birthday and Father's Day cards for Dad.  I will no longer be arguing with him in my mind (tell me you never "argued" with a parent in your mind). 

But on this Father's Day, for the first time, I do not have a living father (and Mom died in 2010).  And it is feeling strange...  Not mournful, Dad was 92, and died of general old age.  Its a sense of absence of elders I suppose.  I'm now the eldest of my immediate family, and that feels VERY odd.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Great stories, Mark. Thanks for taking the time and investing the thought to share them.

Sydney, Australia