The upcoming Father's Day weekend lends itself well to memories; my father passed away in 1996. I think about him often ... Daddy was, in many ways, unique. While I was growing up, most of my time was spent away from home with my mother, who took me hither and yon to do music performances. So I had a kind of "double life" :) An interesting couple, my mother and my father were from different worlds ... she was a city girl and he was a country boy. In those days "country" meant where there were few vehicles and mostly woods and ponds and swamps (real swamps with skunk cabbages growing).
Every day when Daddy would get home from work he would go outdoors and busy himself with his garden, which was more like a mini farm. He loved trees and could identify every tree; he spent many hours building and remodeling bird houses to hang in some of the trees. In wintertime, he would be shoveling snow, putting down ashes or sand to make the walkways safe. When he did get to spend time with me, he would tell me about Nature and things like putting mud on insect bites and bee stings so they would stop hurting. He delighted in making little jokes about some of my mother's visiting relatives; the jokes would be little rhymes usually. He was not the warm and fuzzy type of father (no hugs) but he put much effort into teaching me ... conveying Native American lore and he knew a lot about animals, both wild and domestic. He would go out of his way to help an injured or lost dog or cat. We went hiking often. There were, at that time, ponds and creeks that lent themselves to his obvious respect and reverence. He could predict the weather with uncanny accuracy.
A few years ago while going through some very old photographs, I came across one of him, sitting on the back steps of what was then his parents' house (ours was next door and the properties were connected into one huge area of land). In the photograph, he was carefully holding a baby on his lap. The baby, who was dressed in a knitted outfit complete with ruffled cap, was about seven or eight months. On the back of the picture he had written "This is me holding MY baby -- this is the only baby I've ever held". When I read that I felt very touched by the image of this young man with his thick, unruly hair, holding what was, perhaps in his mind, the most fragile thing he had ever held.
He was a very talented hockey player and could ice skate so swiftly and well, it was fascinating to me. He had also been a softball player and a saxophone player before getting married. Active always, he could run up the hill leading to our house in the middle of winter when it was slick with ice; his philosophy was that if he kept running, his pace would propel him too fast to slip and fall. I remember hearing him say that many times to people who would be struggling up the hill (either on foot or with their cars). "Just run" he would sometimes call out to them. They would be in disbelief seeing him glide by :) To me it seemed to be a lesson in perseverance and rising to the challenge.
These are nice memories to recall. Thank you, Daddy.
And happy Father's Day to all dads.