For father’s day I will tell a tale,
of the man who tries hard without fail.
He has an artist flare and a linguist tongue,
he cures the back and is a proprietor for fun.
His father left when he was ten,
a father’s love that never began.
That father dropped by once, out of the blue,
no one knows why and why we never knew.
He worries a lot and pisses off a few,
some friends for life but only those who’ve paid their dues.
So much to do when he was young,
but there was always time to camp, and fish and run.
He has a hearty laugh and can tell a tale,
he knows everyone in town and can make a sale.
He can build a house and a make a home,
just never ask about the unfinished zone.
He has traveled far and near
enjoys his food and likes a Stella beer.
Always a friend to sweets,
tiramisu is a favorite treat.
A day with dad I’ll always remember,
we fished all day at the rivers edge one cold September.
No work for him, no school for me,
a lovely memory it will forever be.
I was recently waiting for my plane to board at the Omaha airport and overheard a little boy who was maybe 7 or 8 speaking to his mother on the phone while he and his dad were waiting for their flight to depart.
He spoke to his mom about the usual things; “We saw a boat,” “We drove really far,” “Dad bought me a toy” and “We just ate a cheese burger and fries.” But then he asked his mom about his dog, Cooper, was his name. “Where is Cooper?” he asked. Then he asked the cutest thing; “Mom can you put the phone near him so that he could hear him snore“. He was quite for a few moments, apparently listening to his dog snore, and then he spoke again; “It’s nice to know I’ve got a dog waiting for me at home” “He’s going to jump all over me“. He giggled a little and then said “Okay, bye” and hung up the phone.
It was so touching to hear his voice change when he spoke about his beloved Cooper; getting a little bit quiet with a giant smile on his face. I don’t know what kind of dog Cooper is, but in my mind he is a frenchie like my Maddie(pictured above) because there is no sweeter sound than her happy resting snore and no one I am happier to come home too(well besides my husband, of course).
Fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers,
the unchosen companions not available to others.
Love and laughter, disappointment and tears,
still driving you nuts after all these years.
They know us at our worst and at our best,
and so often put our patience to the test.
Sometimes we hate, yell and can’t relate,
and always regret that wretched date.
The for better or worse choice was mine,
still it came with a judgment and a diatribe.
We all can get lost in lovers, jobs and friends,
but with luck and love they will be there at the end.
Shared memories and momentous fights,
often taken for granted and at times a blight.
Affections tested and a trust that can not abate,
a bond that if not tended sometimes breaks.
Quickly forgiven, but never forgotten,
we gode and complain and sometimes are rotten.
We defend with a vengeance and chide and deride,
those unchosen companions on lifes crazy ride.
I was lucky enough to have 4 amazing women in my life, both of my parents mothers and two of my parents grandmothers(besides my mother of course) that helped make me the woman I am today. I learned many things from each of the women;
From my great-grandmother Kate (my mother’s grandmother) I gained an appreciation for music and dancing from watching hours of the Lawrence Welk show with her in her big white leather recliner. My first memory of being empathetic to someone comes from her as well. I was spending the night with her and she was up on the end of the bed coughing, I got up and put my bathrobe around her shoulders and patted her back. I was maybe 4 at the time.
From my great-grandmother Anne (my dads grandmother) who I unfortunately knew for the shortest period of time I gained a love of shortbread cookies, admiration for hard work(she worked in our families plumbing business until well into her 80’s) and a giggle inside whenever I hear someone refer to a child as a wee one, because she always laughed and smiled when her wee ones visited her at her home or in later years in the rest home.
From my grandmother Jean (my dad’s mom), who was one of the most elegant and beautiful women I have ever met; I learned to play chinese checkers, love green peppers and received my first bottle of perfume(Charlie by Revlon).
From my grandmother Buddy (my mom’s mom) who I was so lucky to have in my life the longest I learned; to play Gin Rummy and Cribbage, to pour a drink, to make potato salad and love blue cheese. I flew on my first airplane with her and my rode on my first train. She helped me with my golf game, worried about my love life and always rode my ass about things I was doing wrong.
I really wish I could ask them so many questions, but here are ten I would love ask:
1.) What brought you the most joy in life?
2.) Who was the love of your life?
3.) What regrets do you have if any?
4.) When and where were you the happiest?
5.) What did you enjoy most and least about your occupations? (All of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers had jobs outside the home at one time or another)
6.) What advice would you give me now to live a happier and fuller life?
7.) What would you tell me to quit worrying about?
8.) Who was your first boyfriend, your first lover, your first kiss?
9.) How do you make this dish? (each of them had a specialty and unfortunately I only have a couple of the recipes)
10.) What part of you do you see in me?
If you have special people in your life, ask the questions now don’t wait until it’s too late.
If you have lost someone special in your life, are there questions you wish you had asked?
Do you ever beat yourself up for things you have said or done? I do, all of the time. It’s usually because of a smart ass comment I’ve made in a meeting that I meant to be funny and people did laugh. But then, afterward, I worry, was someone offended? When the joke isn’t at my own expense, I hope I picked a target with a sense of humor and a willingness to play along. But still, sometimes it nags at me and I feel like I should track the person down and apologize.
I am a smart-ass from way back. I think, quite possibly, I came out of the womb with a raised eyebrow at my mother asking what took her so long. When I came out of my shell, in junior highschool, I might have been considered one of the class clowns; always popping off with something to get a laugh or reaction.
I also constantly use humor, self-depreciation or a silly comment to try to deflect from a difficult situation or when conflict arises between other people or when god-forbid someone gives me a compliment. I think it stems from spending my formative years in a house with a lot of conflict, with parents that spelled swear words at each other. I’m not sure if their thinking was that it would protect my vocabulary because they spelled out F-U-C-K-E-R at each other rather than said the word. But, fucker is actually one of the first words I learned to spell. I spelled it out for my grandpa’s neighbor, Mr. Fox, he was not impressed. I was immediately marched home and exposed. My grandmother laughed when he told her what I was spelling and I was told to go outside and play.
An environmental impact from my youth that continues to afflict me today!
Are you afflicted with anything?
The changes to places, I don’t really mind.
But the changes to faces, oh I really do mind.
Lost are the theater, the restaurant and the park,
but not those who’ve touched my heart.
Faces change with lines and crinkles,
everyone faces the inevitable wrinkle.
But the soul of youth remains,
no matter how many things change.
Our bodies pop, creak and slow down,
some mornings are sore to the bone.
My mind says young, but my back says old,
never more than when I’m on my own.
The playgrounds of youth are a subdivision,
the grade school unrecognizable with my vision.
But the friends who’ve known me at my worst,
are still the friends who love me without derision.
Yes, the changes to places are fine,
but the changes to faces are so unkind.
To those I’ve lost or who’ve left me behind,
you’ll always live on in love in my mind.
A friend of mine was recently in the hospital and is now home recovering for a few weeks. She posted a request on Facebook for some suggested reads while she recovers and this got me thinking about some of my favorite books. So I looked through my library to pick out a few to recommend to my friend and thought I would start sharing some of them on my blog as well.
It was very difficult to pick my first one, there are so many favorites and then there are always the classics on everyones top 100 list. I picked the first one I recommended to my friend, A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel.
I first read this book riding the commuter bus back and forth from Everett, Washington to downtown Seattle while I was working for one of the Big 5 consulting firms. I was laughing out loud on the bus at some of the passages and a couple times holding back tears. I loaned my copy to at least 4 of my fellow riders and have since purchased at least a half dozen as gifts for my girlfriends.
Ms. Kimmels memoir about growing up in a small town in Indiana is full of some of the funniest stories of childhood. Some of them that felt like they were from my own childhood diary.
“Besides having my hair problem and my face problem and teeth too big, and besides being always the tallest, skinniest girl in my class, I had what my sister called ” the unfortunate situation” of being deformed. Most clothes that we bought in a store came in sets, and if the shirt fit me even reasonably well, the pants were too short. We had tried buying the sets with the pants the right length, which meant my mom had to take in the waist, and the shirt fell right off my shoulders. I was thinking maybe the solution would be to find the girl who was deformed exactly the opposite of me, and we could share. ”
And this passage about having to get up and get dressed to go to an Easter service cracked me up;
“I grumbled out of bed and stood shivering next to the coal stove. I was instantly cold in the way that causes the spine to shrink up. In desperation, I put my forehead against the black enamel stove and burned it, just a little. Then I tried to straighten up, but failed, I scrunched over again, put my forehead against the stove, and burned it. After I did it the third time I had no choice but to look at my father.
“You want to just open the door and stick your head inside?” he said, with his harms till crossed.
“Daddy. Are you going to get me out of this, yes or no.”
There are just so many great little stories that will definitely resonate with you if you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s like me. I can’t say enough wonderful things about “A Girl Named Zippy” – just read it!
What’s one of your favorite books?
Over the years I have had varying opinions of my father. The fun weekend dad who bought me a toy, took me to dinner at McDonalds and drove me fast in his old Corvette. But other times I thought of him as a self-centered little boy who acted like the world owed him something and he owed no one anything.
He was both smart and dumb, lazy and a hard worker, fun and an asshole.
I didn’t speak to him for the last three years of his life – we’d had a dispute over how he was living his life, how he had treated my grandmother before her passing, he was mad that I had not visited him while he was in jail(tax stuff- nothing hard-core) and mostly about money he felt I owed him from the estate of my grandmother. Nothing really that should have stopped a normal father-daughter relationship, but nothing normal here.
I was 27 when he died. That seems like a fairly mature age, but until I did the math I actually had it in my head that I was 24 when he died, I remember feeling way too young to have a dad pass away, but he was young to die. He was only 46.
The night he died I lived in the house my grandparents had owned when they were young in Clear Lake. My little brother was 24 and newly married. I got a call from my dads latest girlfriend who, of course, I had never met. He had collapsed at dinner, he was at the hospital in Arlington, could we come. I threw on my coat, drove to pick up my brother and his wife and headed out. It took us about 30 minutes to get there. We were too late, he’d had a massive heart attack and they could not save him.
Did we want to see him? Did we want to donate his eyes or skin to the organ bank? Did we have a funeral home to call? Did he have a will? Were the barrage of questions coming at me that night.
Then at his memorial service a week later It was a strange mix. A small amount of family including my brother, a great-aunt, and two second cousins once removed and a cousin of my dads who I sort of remembered who was near my mother’s age. Then my dads old hippy, high-school friends who I remembered from my childhood. My parents married when my mom was 16 and my dad was 18 and I came out not too much later. Then there were his tax protester and jail house buddies; needless to say I didn’t mix much with them. And there were a few of his pipe fitter friends from work, he had recently gotten back into the pipe fitters union and was working and building a house with his new lady friend.
At the reception after the service a man said hi to my little brother, who is the spitting image of my dad, and then asked who I was and said that “I looked like someone from the family“. I said I was Dave’s daughter. He said “Oh, I didn’t know Dave had a daughter” I was tempted to respond ” Well, I didn’t know I had a father” but came up with some lame response and he went back to talking to my brother.
My dad was cremated like his parents, my grandparents, were and would be spread somewhere special. I kept my dad on my fireplace mantle for almost 2 years before we decided where to spread his ashes.
Kind of ironic the daughter he didn’t speak to or even seem to mention took care of his final arrangements, picked him up from the funeral home and took care of him for the next two years. Oh and paid for all of it too. I guess he got his money back in the end. But I am glad I did, it gave me a chance to tell him a few things I wish I had had the chance to talk to him about while he was here.
Regret gets you no where, but on a constant playback of your mistakes. I have tried to learn from mine and try to never let something go un-said, never at least attempt to mend that fence and always tell the ones I love how much they mean to me.
And most days I remember only the fun happy things about my father. Happy Birthday Dad!
Any regrets you need to let go of or take care of before it’s too late?
I was so lucky to have such an amazing teacher, who was tough but fun and really seemed to enjoy teaching. He was one of those teachers that kept you motivated, made you want to perform well and make him proud.
If it wasn’t for the 3 or 4 music classes I had at school everyday I probably would have skipped a lot more school. That is one of the reasons I choose to support “Save The Music” as one of the places I send my charity dollars. They are dedicated to restoring music programs in public schools. From their website.
“The benefits of music education are astounding, and studies have consistently exposed the tremendously positive effect music education has on a child’s academic performance, sense of community, self-expression and self-esteem.
But as schools across the nation increasingly face budget cuts and pressures, music is often one of the first subject areas to be cut.
At VH1 Save The Music Foundation, we develop strategic partnerships with school districts to build sustainable instrumental music programs by providing grants of brand-new musical instruments to public elementary and middle schools.”
Having access to a musical education changed my life for the better and if I can help a few children get that same chance, I will be happy. Consider making a donation yourself if you feel music is important to a well rounded child.
And band camp is as fun as it is in the movies, although I never knew a girl that put her flute in her lady area ala American Pie. But there were weekend flings, healthy competition, a few beers and just a lot of hanging out with “my people”. Hanging out with people who get you and like some of the same things you like and are open to your “geekiness” is pretty rare as you get older. You have to have that whole professional persona going on once you are out in the work world and it usually does’t allow you to let your freak flag fly and be you.
Music is something from my youth that I dearly miss; it was such a huge part of my growing up. I played at least 5 days a week, 9 plus months out of the year for nearly 8 years. It is one of those passions I want to add back into my life somehow. I have no professional ambitions, just would like to find some of my people again and jam.
Is there something you did a lot when you were young that you miss now as an adult?
So much has changed about the beautiful area where I was lucky enough to grow up. But parts of it have stayed very close to the same, like the sleepy little town where my grandfather still lives, Clear Lake, Washington, current population 1,002. There is still one tavern, one tiny grocery store, one gas station, the post office, the grade school and the church. And one of my favorite memories from my child hood the local swimming spot on the lake. The entrance has been fixed up, in my day it was a little wooden hut that you passed through and paid your quarter to swim for the day. Now it is a cinderblock building with a fancy sign. I have no idea what the fee for the day is – $5 bucks? But kids still swim in the lake for now, play in the sand and eat popsicle to cool off.
My grandfathers shake mill is still standing, well most of it is still standing, but it is now a small industrial park with a couple of mechanical and welding shops. It doesn’t have the wonderful sweet smell of cedar chips that used to fill the air as you drove by, just the humming of machines. Whenever I smell cedar I always think of my grandfather.
Mr. Parker, the old owner of the Clear Lake Market, has retired now. So all the fresh meat and fish that he either butchered himself or had brought in from local fishermen has been replaced by a little cold bin with a few plastic wrapped packages of ground beef, sad little steaks and some chicken pieces and a huge selection of beer and wine. There are bars on the front windows now too. That makes me sad. I remember my grandparents going on vacation for three weeks each spring and never bothering locking the doors to the place. Now my grandfather locks it up tight and has the neighbor keep an eye on the place when ever he is out of town.
But the tiny grade-school is still there where I attended first grade. It still has a funny two story building with the cafeteria on the first floor and the gym on the second floor. Parents still watch their children play sports or perform in plays and adults still use the basketball court in the evenings to keep fit.
The first home I ever owned is in the town too on School Drive. That house was also the first home my grandparents ever owned as well. There were three other owners and nearly 40 years between us, but still a funny coincidence I think.
Clear Lake still has a volunteer fire department that responds to residence in need for fires, health concerns, car wrecks and other emergencies. Almost every home with an able bodied adult used to have a scanner/radio in their home so they could respond to calls for help. I hope that is still true today.
I had some of the best times of my life in this tiny town; swimming at the lake, Christmas parties filled with gifts and treats, yummy salmon bar-b-q’s on the 4th of July and other family celebrations. I learned to ride a horse, swim, mail my first letter, ride a bike, play cribbage and gin and to mix my first gin and tonic too.
Some of the biggest losses of my life have come here too. The passing of my beloved great-grandmother Kate who taught me to enjoy music and dancing and who always had a little sweet treat for me. My dad passed away at a very young age while I was living in this town. I lost my grandma here too after she and my grandfather moved back to the farm after living by the golf course for nearly 20 years. And not too long ago I lost my sweet uncle who lived here too.
A tiny place with a very big influence on my life. I am so thankful that it is still here and that so many people I love are here still too!
Is there a place that has had a big impact on your life?