Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Memories Almost Forgotten

Some beautiful writings at Somewhere in NJ inspired me to reflect on my relationship with my Dad. He's in the winter of his life and is fragile right now. Those writings invoked vivid, seemingly insignificant, but lasting memories that I am compelled to put on paper and read to my Dad when I see him again. He might not know me or remember anything I say, but maybe he will, and I will feel comfort in sharing it with him. The timing of this is so coincidental as he took his last ride, perhaps, from the hospital to his nursing home today. My heart is aching as I write this but I need to do it. I'll feel good when it's done.

Dad...my very vivid memories of you:

You never lost the ability to make me laugh through my tears. Not ever.

When I was only about 4 or 5 years old, you took me to the firehouse on your day off so I could sing "You Are My Sunshine" for the firemen while you strung on your guitar. I felt like Shirley Temple on the stage that everyone made for me.

You loved your piano and guitar, and played anything "by ear". You always wanted me to harmonize with you.

Twelve years ago, you took your first piano lesson even though you played very well without reading a note. In the eighties, on some evenings while I was cooking dinner my phone rang... It was you, saying, "Listen to this, Mary!" And I'd hear your piano or electronic keyboard playing a new arrangement and I'd also hear you say, "Ooops." (Giggle) I was the only person you called to let me know you were practicing.

Perhaps the songs you sang to me the most in my life were "Sherry Baby" and "Catch a Falling Star". I haven't heard you sing either of them since 1995. Want to give it a try?

You took me to my first grade registration in a four-room schoolhouse with wooden floors and the school was swarming with bees. Knowing how frightened I was, you held my hand the entire time, and later, you brought me a box of Good 'n Plenties and everything was OK. I remember that sunny day, and you.

You bought me dime store rings that sparkled and we went outside and watched the sun light them up.

We were poor but didn't realize it. We didn't have everything we wanted but we had what we needed. You took Victor (my brother and your son) and I on rides through the worst parts of Baltimore City, and then we knew - just how fortunate we were.

At age 16, on my third attempt at passing my driving test, you watched me drive to the finish line and you were the only person who stood up and clapped and cheered. Three weeks later, I drove your 64 Chevy to the grocery store and an older lady tore the quarter panel off your car. You didn't raise your voice or bat an eyelash about it.

You always sang enthusiastically in Church and was responsible for my totally irrespectful, out-of-control giggling. But did you have to say "Ooops" after you hit a sour note?

You worked three jobs so you could afford my private high school tuition. You were so proud of me.

On the worst of days, when Gina was an infant and sick, you would unexpectedly arrive on my doorstep with loads of "Huggies", baby food, and whatever else you thought I might need.

When Victor and I were in elementary school, one evening after dark, you were driving an 18-wheeler and phoned the house. You asked Mom to let Victor and I listen for you outside because you would be on the highway nearby in 10 minutes. She woke us up and we listened, and heard 7 blows of the horn, interpreted as, "Good Night Ma-ry and Vic-tor."

You'd give Mom a break from "us kids" and took us out on the weekends whenever you were off. We never knew your plans since they were full of surprises. I will always remember the rainy day you pulled into a parking spot at the movie theatre and we saw "Mary Poppins". I could hardly catch my breath with excitement. Once, you showed us quicksand (we all watched from the car...). Double-dip ice creams cones, soda fountain drinks, and you. Treasures.

You made 150 people weep while dancing with me to "Daddy's Little Girl" at my wedding.

You and I liked sitting at the kitchen table and drawing caricatures, sometimes at Mom's expense. We'd laugh until we cried.

When I was a young woman, working in downtown Baltimore on the 31st floor of a high-rise, you rounded the corner in my office area and surprised me..."Dad? What are you doing here?" You had stopped by to check out the fire alarm system and escape route.

I remember you driving that old, convertible, fire pumper - Engine 32, sirens blaring, through the streets of Baltimore. I'd see you and wave, "Hi, Dad!" You didn't see or hear me, though. But I was there.

With this on-line journal, I intended to write about light-hearted subjects. This is a heavy-hearted post, but isn't that what a personal journal is for?


LauraHinNJ said...

This is just wonderful, Mary and I'm sure your Dad will be happy to be reminded of all the ways that he has been special to you.

The tone of what you've written is so sweet, without being sad. Please share it your dad, maybe bring some photos along when you do to help him remember.

During my dad's time in hospice we never talked about the things that mattered - I so wish that we had, that I'd have had the sense to give him that gift of knowing that he'd done so much in little ways, and that I knew it! I was too busy trying to be strong for him, you know.

The NPR piece was wonderful, I think, for just that reason - neither father nor daughter were in denial about what was happening or trying to pretend - they laughed and loved and parted having said what needed saying.

Anyway, I don't want to ramble on anymore.

Would you mind if I posted a link to this particular post - as an update to mine?

Mary said...

Laura, your Dad knew what he meant to you as words aren't always necessary. That NPR piece really shook me and I'm glad you shared it. Of course, you can post a link as an update. Thanks for saying nice things and for being a good listener!

Anonymous said...


I am praying for you and your family. Your memories are a treasure! Thank you for sharing.--Lizard

Anonymous said...

How touching. It is such a wonderful tribute to your Dad. Thoughts and prayers go out. It is dufficult to watch parents decline.Thank you for sharing.

Susan Gets Native said...

This is inspiring me to do the same sort of thing about my Dad. He did have his funny and sweet moments.

dmmgmfm said...

This is one of the most beautiful tributes I have ever seen, Mary. I cried most of the way through it, but they were tears of joy and happiness. Your dad reminds me of my own. We are both very lucky women to have had suck wonderful men in our lives.

Thank you, Mary. For sharing this with me.