Wednesday, June 11, 2008
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..."
Monday, June 9, 2008
It is early summer here in central Oregon
and I am finally catching some much appreciated time off. The weather
has been mostly overcast with intermittent rain, of which I am not
complaining like most residents here because I know what's coming. I
call them "Death Valley Days", when the heat is searing and the
humidity does seem high (at least to me) come August. The leaves of the
trees seem brighter and greener, the dust is down, my allergies have
abated somewhat, the newly-popped blossoms of lilacs and fruit trees
permeate the air. Fresh air!
A few days ago Sara asked me if I
would like to join her on one of her hikes around Bend and I heartily
agreed to do so. She said this hike was about five miles and that
moment there was a spike in my heart rate. Five miles?? Jeez , I
haven't hiked five straight miles in a few years but hey, with what I
do at work I was pretty sure I could handle this. I walk a lot in my
work and there is a considerable amount of lifting so I was pretty sure
that the ol' mean, Granny machine could produce the muscle and stamina right to the finish line.
"Mom, do you have walking shoes? How about shorts or something like
sweats so you don't chafe? Do you have a hooded sweatshirt and a
headband so your ears won't get cold?". This brought memories of the
days when it was me throwing out those questions when the family would
go camping. I scrounged up some comfy pants to wear, an old sweatshirt
complete with hood, my headband, sunglasses, cell phone (not like
anyone calls) and my camera.
We did diaper changes and got bottles ready, changed The Boyz
and grabbed the blankets and of course, Teddy. Teddy is Evan's stuffed
buddy and goes everywhere Evan goes. We didn't have to worry about a
buddy for Eric since he's not quite formed that kind of buddy
attachment yet. Out to the garage where Sara loaded Evan and Eric in
the bike trailer, tucked them in and zipped them up and we were ready
to go. There was sunshine and not a cloud in the sky, a good breeze was
going so we could work up a sweat and still be cool. Off we
strode at a fairly brisk pace and Sara says, "Can ya keep up, Mom?".
Hey, I can do this, ya know.
Two blocks into the walk, I start to think. Thinking is not always good. "Do I back out now while it's still early? Ah jeez,
I'm gonna feel this tomorrow and the next day and the next. No no no,
I'm going to do this because it's good for me, it's time with Sara and
my grandsons and I get to see and smell wonderful aromas and work a few muscles that
don't usually get it." Sara had a good pace going as she was pushing
the bike trailer, the boys were settled in the tiny cab like sardines
in a can and I was changing my thoughts from "Can I? to I can do this!". It
took us a few more blocks to get our rhythm and we settled in. It truly was a great day for this jaunt, in between various silences we chatted about previous walks Sara had made, newsy tidbits with the occasional "How are ya doin'?" inquiries.
We passed quaint little houses with lovely flower gardens and 'natural'
landscaping, little shops and stores I had never seen before that pass
by so quickly when you are in a car. There was a tiny little park by
the DeSchutes River that sidelined us for a few moments, we enjoyed the
scenery while I took some photos of Sara with Eric and Evan in their
Another place that sidelined us was a strip mall with Macy's and T.J. Maxx, good
thing we left most of our money at home as we grabbed a cup of coffee
at a drive-up coffee shop before hitting the stores. Macy's was a bit
of a disappointment, we seem to get some sort of attitude from the
clerks every time we go in there. Next stop was T.J. Maxx , it was fun
and relaxing to peruse the decorating items they have and I succumbed
to a huge bar of soap with the most wonderful fragrance of jasmine. By
this time the boys were getting antsy, Evan wanted to stretch his legs.
We let him out so he could walk while holding onto Grandma's hand but
oh no, he wasn't going to have much of that. After some gentle coaxing
he just wasn't going to go with this so he plopped down on the floor
with a little tantrum. I swooped him up in a flash and as I was going
through the exit door I remarked to Sara, "Well, been there and done
that before, ha ha!". We stuffed and packaged them back into their trailer and took off for the second half of our trek.
Sara had warned me that the uphill climb on Mt. Washington was a real
workout so I mentally prepped myself and off we went. But really, the
worst part of the whole hike was attempting to go through a four second
pedestrian crosswalk! Our allotted four seconds were taken up by
drivers that never saw us or ignored us because they just had to get
past us first! I would say that Mt. Washington was at least a half-mile
climb, I don't know the grade but if we were going downhill and were to
let go of the bike trailer , it would definitely race down at a pretty
good speed. Pushing the trailer uphill with two babies in it increased
the heart rate pretty good. At one point, Sara took Eric out because he
simply wanted to be held, so while she trudged up the hill carrying
Eric (who probably weighs about 18 pounds) I was pushing Evan in the bike trailer.
We finally made it to the top after a few stops for me, which by this
time I was just a bit winded but still holding my own pretty good. The
view from the top was worth the hike; it was a 360 degree scene of Bend
in a bowl! The mountains were in clear view, a nice breeze to keep us
cool and full sunshine. The rest was literally all downhill. Upon our arrival
back home, Sara asked me if would be willing to do this again and I said sure I would, just not tomorrow.
I wouldn't have passed this day up unless I was literally bed-ridden. A
lovely day with my daughter and grandsons. Definitely food for the soul.
Now, two days later I am feeling fairly great, the long walk didn't do nearly
as much damage as I thought it would and I am ready for another one. Next week.