Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Happy Fathers' Day

Father's Day

This day of honor brings an occasional tear and quiet reflection now.
My dad is gone, physically, but spiritually and emotionally my dad is with me in my heart. As with my mother who passed away 33 years ago, he is in my conscious thought every day. So dad, this is for you...

I thank you for the fruit trees you planted all over our front and backyards so that by the time I was 7 or 8, I could fully appreciate the springtime that brought out the scents of orange and lemon blossoms, the apricot tree that I would sit under when the fruit was ripe and eat the fallen ones until I was sick. There were other trees; a purple plum that mom would make jam from, nectarines that filled a bowl of whole milk and sprinkled with sugar , I thank you for planting that one, tiny, struggling Concord grape vine, you know, the one where you never reaped a grape in it's entire age. You can thank me for that one, dad, I found that vine somewhere around the age of springtime and scavenged every single ripe grape that survived insects and fowl. There was also a hybrid tree that produced a fruit called a loquat, something the size of an apricot with a shiny, peach colored skin, a huge double seed in the center and juice that squirted out when you bit into it. Oh that was another one that you used to think didn't produce much, but it sure did, dad.
There are so many stories and so many wonderful memories, along with a little guilt for giving you those troublesome teenage years. How I know now that I didn't even have a clue about life and thought you were the one who didn't know anything. I remember somewhere around mid-teen years when you told me, "Your body is growing faster than your head". "Whatever, dad, what a crazy thing to say, you are so weird". Of course, when I had a teenage daughter that very thought--in your voice, no less--rushed through my mind as well and I received the very same look from mine that I gave to you.
It wasn't until I was old enough for it to not matter anymore when mom told me about the lemon tree. She said you planted it in front of my bedroom window when I was around two so that when I was a teenager it would be a natural barricade. It certainly was a wonderful deterrant; when I would open my window in the spring the aroma would fill my room and by the time I was 12, the lemon tree was roof high and wide enough to shade both bedroom windows! The branches were thick and many twisted into a tough barricade and for some reason, I seem to remember thorns on that tree. I laugh now, dad.
I have childhood friends who tell me how they thought you were so funny, I can appreciate it now, but at 13 I was horrified and mortally embarrassed by some of the things you did. Many of us can remember a show called "The Munsters" with one family character named Uncle Fester. Now, I recall seeing old snapshots of you with curly blonde hair but sometime after the end of WW2 and your return home, you developed alopecia and lost all of your hair, even your eyelashes. To me, you always looked normal because I never saw anything else. I never fully loved your sense of humor until later on in life. I did find it difficult to appreciate it when my friends would knock on the front door and you answered wearing a black turtleneck and a lightbulb stuck in your mouth (something Uncle Fester did on the show...).
Oh you had your quirks and I remember a scenario where you were so fed up with the accumulation of doggy poop in the yard that you wrapped a few collections up in boxes and fancy present wrap. You had caught a few of the neighbors' dogs visiting and depositing in the yard so you graciously returned their pet's gifts, lovingly wrapped and left on the neighbor's front porches.
But dad, you also had your love and your little wisdoms. You stood by me when I needed it the most and didn't give up on me, you protected me when I was young and stupid, when my thinking processes weren't complete. Once, when I was getting ready for a formal dance, you coached me on the placement of the silverware on the table; the salad fork was first and the dinner fork was on the outside and you only cut a few pieces of meat at a time and not the whole steak, Janie. Who knew you knew about that??
I have regrets that I never called you often enough after I left home, but I did write. You were a wonderful correspondant with your family and friends so I learned from you what a treasure it was to recieve a letter in the mailbox.
I know you had regrets rearing your children wishing you had done some things different, but dad, I had the best daddy I could ever have had. Sunday was our day and I remember many outings for breakfast, you would have your "longjohn" and a cup of coffee and I would have my hot cocoa and glazed donut. Maybe we would go for chili dogs and a Coke or stop by the local airport to watch the planes come in, it didn't matter because it was our time. Then there were a few camping trips to the beach or to spend the weekend with grandma and grandpa Heighes up in Grassvalley--I loved it there in the country, I had lots of room to roam and explore, build forts and just imagine...
I am thankful for the last years you were alive, our closeness and bonding and being able to share the joys and pains of parenthood. This was our comraderie. I am thankful that we both had a preparation time for your passing, I am thankful I was able to tell you how much I loved you and how sorry I was for all the pain and trouble I caused. I am thankful that I got to say goodbye.
The night after you passed away, there was an awesome sight in the dark Alaskan sky as the aurora borealis created a wispy circle in the sky instead of the usual flourescent green wave. I just felt you encircling me. The next morning as I looked to the sky again, I watched a flock of Canada geese pointed south and I said, "Goodbye daddy, I love you! I'll miss you! They'll help take you Home..."


  1. janie,

    a great post!

    how well i remember your father "back in the day" - he made me (and every other guy who showed *any* interest in you) quiver in fear... probably the most fearsome father i ever met :) in fact, i remember when we went to a formal dance, though your father didn't say the words, his eyes very clearly said, "anything happens to my daughter, there's no place for you to hide from me." yet, when i met him again decades later, i could see the "upside" of him as you knew him. (i have to say i was glad he didn't remember me from high school ;)

    great post, janie...

    i'm pleased to hear how you've come to more fully appreciate your dad, janie...

    funny how the years

  2. A beautiful tribute to your father! I loved your parents! I do remember he constantly embarrassed you in front of your friends with slightly off color jokes! I don't remember the Uncle Fester, but wow, how funny is that.
    I remember all of the fruit trees at your house. It was like visiting the Garden of Eden ( or maybe the Garden of Eating). I remember your family ate lemons with salt sprinkled on. It was quite different!
    I remember I would have traded my stodgy parents for your adventurous ones. They were very adventurous and fun. And, then came to teen years and they did clamp down!
    Thanks for sharing some wonderful memories. They are the best. How could we know how magical those years were until they were gone??