August 20, 2008

"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was." - Anne Sexton


About a week ago, I started thinking about today's post. I knew it had to be poignant; one cannot pass by a day like this and not write something meaningful. I also knew I didn't want it to be a tearjerker. I've cried a great many tears over this date and in the years to come, I'll probably cry more. Plus, I have so much to be thankful for, I'd rather celebrate than grieve.

So in homage to the 12th anniversary of my dad's passing, I'll simply share a few memories I have of him, memories that always bring a smile to my face.

I remember going everywhere with my dad. We'd go to my grandparents house in Linesville (and, if she was home, getting a visit in with my cousin who was only 18 months my senior), we'd go to Montgomery Wards to visit his old co-workers Bill & Donnie, we'd visit mom at work at MMC, or we'd just drive to the pharmacy in town. Most kids living in Conneautville today wouldn't believe there used to be a real pharmacy in town; in the last 15 years it's been two or three pizza "parlors" or just an empty building. But it was a genuine, old-school, one-pharmacist show: you could pick up your prescriptions, buy an overpriced comb, a greeting card, some P.O.S. toy for the kid and get your lottery tickets all in one place. Really neat. Every time we'd go there, dad would buy a lottery scratcher for me to scratch off, or a Slush Puppie, or even a .Ronnie Milsap tape that I just had to have. You can't put a price on Ronnie Milsap.

I remember going Christmas shopping with him for mom. His gifts for her were as predictable as the "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke. A Hanes Her Way sweatshirt - in a color unlike any that she already head - and possibly a new pair of slippers. Or a bathrobe. Boring, but safe gifts that were utilitarian in application and given with love. However, after about 14 years of this, I think she let him know that if she got another sweatshirt, her head might start spinning Linda Regan-style. The next year, he bought her a rocker-recliner. It wasn't the prettiest thing but he bought it with the idea of getting a chair for her that reclined. One year, he bought her a pair of 18K gold earrings. They were heart-shaped and had some sort of viney design in them. She only wore them for special occasions but she loved the hell out of them and still has them.

I remember him letting me drive down my grandparents road when I turned 14. They lived on an old, pothole extravaganza of a road with a lot of loose gravel. It was a farm road, no need for pavement! I thought I was hot stuff, operating that 1989 Ford Tempo down a straight-of-way going all of 25 miles per hour (at best)! I thought my dad was the coolest person EVER that day. I did the same favor for my best friend when she first got her learners permit. I let her drive down Center Road and she was so busy waving and beeping at Shaffers house she nearly ran us off the road. That ruined me from teaching anyone to drive ever again. Thanks, D.

I remember all the softball practices he attended and helped with even though he wasn't an official coach. He'd hit pop-flies for us in the outfield or help the odd-girl-out warm up her arm before practice. He taught me how to score and play by watching the Pirates on TV and taking me to two games down at Three Rivers Stadium. He'd always buy me packets of baseball cards and with every card I'd pull out and inspect, seeing if I recognized the player, I'd ask him if that card was worth anything. Have I always been worried about money? Was it bred into me?

And this might sound odd, but I think my favorite memory is one I'm not even really part of. I remember laying in bed at night while my parents were still awake downstairs. I knew they were watching shows that I was either too young to watch or couldn't stay up late enough for. I couldn't see it, but I could hear a different side of my parents, a side I never really saw. They were laughing their asses off at whatever they were watching and it was a real comfort. It's not like I needed the comfort; more often than not, my childhood was uneventful and secure until I was a teenager. But my mom rarely showed affection towards my dad in front of me and to hear them laugh let me know that all was well with the world.

Since my dad passed away, although a lot has changed and I'm in a really good place in my life, there's always been - and always will be - a big void. He didn't see me go to prom, graduate high school or college, or get married and have babies. He won't meet his grandchildren. He won't know his son-in-law who, by my estimation, is a lot like my dad.

But I think if I keep writing about him and talking about him that his memory will never die and my kids will know him through me. I'm sure my dad had his flaws, everyone does. And it's not that I don't want to remember his flaws - it's that I choose not to. So what Anne Sexton said is absolutely true: It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.

4 comments:

Denise said...

Awwww that is so touching! :) And even if your dad didn't physically meet your husband or children...I have no doubt in my mind he sees them and is around them!

Minxy Mimi said...

Its always sad when people in our lives pass on and dont get to meet the people who become so important to us. My grandmother died just after her 90th B-day and she never got to meet Max (my youngest) but like Denise said, I feel like she is around anyways... I am not a believer of many things, but I do believe in the soul or spirit.
You are correct, to keep talking about him, keeps him alive in some way!
((Hugs))

diana said...

i wasn't waving at the shaffer's house...i was waving at eric...who was mowing the lawn... :D

the one thing i remember most about your dad was the road trips he took us on when we were kids, especially the trip to Ohio, hahahaha!

Valeta said...

This is such a touching post. You are so lucky to have such good memories of your dad. Kevin and his younger brother have no memories of their mom because she died when they were so young(4 and 2). Even though my dad is alive and well, I never spent more then a few weeks with him so I have no real memories of him either. I haven't seen him in 4 years either.

The only person close to me that has died was my cousin, but I cherish every memory of him because that is all I have now that he is gone.

*hug*

 
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