May 2 is but one the 365 days per year, another block on the calendar, but also it is World Tuna Day. Who knew?
Skip on by if you, rare reader, are looking for something difference for me recycling family memories. It’s my blog!
This day for me is the marking of my Dad’s birthday, the last one I celebrated with him was the last he celebrated in 2001. His cake was given in the hospital where his present was the cancer diagnosis that took him from us in less than 4 months.
I spotted my usual memory objects, one of which is an ancient long wooden level that once resided in his basement tool corner of the family home in Baltimore. I feel the worn indents where his hands might have held the tool, the nicks, trying for any sense of life presence, which of course is not there.
He’d not want me being sad on his behalf, he’d want some “hello Junior” “hello senior” conversation on the phone.
I just try to keep the memory of his throaty voice in my head, it seem so far away and faint. As a kid, as a young adult, you do not foresee having to construct the memories, as my parent’s presence was as solid as the ground I stood on. Maybe it’s not practical, maybe I should have thought more of being without him. I never sat down and recorded his stories. And no one is left to fill them in. All I have is my memory and the sensations.
Hello memories of our regular family summers at the beach in Ocean City, MD. Dad’s smiles were the biggest, broadest, most radiant there. He’d emerge from the surf with “that grin.”
One memorable summer we were there in the tail end of a hurricane, I believe it was Hurricane Agnes in 1972 (?). One day was too dangerous to even be outside, we huddled safely in our small apartment. The surf the next day was too rough for the kids to swim, but the beach was open. Dad went out three times in the surfm each time using his toes to pick up and bring back a conch shell. It was heroic to me.
My Mom still had them when we cleaned out her house.
Yesterday, as the bonus part of my birthday the week before (my birthday 5 days before dad). Cori and Jessy Lee took me on a sightseeing adventure to visit, learn about, and take photos at Batoche National Historic Site. The park was not open but we had obtained permission to walk in, we had the whole place to ourselves.
It was time to take in the scenery, but also the impact and resonance of the 1885 battle that squashed the Métis resistance, but also gave light to the ways of life that had been established there before this. I spotted a reminder in the cemetery.
And we then start talking the ins and outs of taking photos of markers, but agreeing that it’s part of memory sustaining. What do we have without our memories and the things that can summon them?
Out on the river trail, Cori pointed me to the snowberries (Symphoricarpos what grand Genus naming), and how her own Dad explained to hear that being in one of those patches was the place for us to have conversations with those that have passed. I took some time to just stand here, and summon up the words I might say to Dad.
That conversation is just between me and him, but it helped in a way to tune into the time echoes, like rocks skipping across the lack of forever of past conversations.
Whether you believe in the power of talking from the snowberries or not, it’s more about just stopping and being with the ones you can no longer talk to. They are only gone if they are forgotten.
And shortly there after, the stormy clouds and coldness of the wind lifted. And the light emerged.
Sure, just a coincidence. Some suspension of belief helps.
Happy birthday always, Dad. I shall always mark this day.
Featured Image: A photo of dad’s level taken today with personal photo of him in maybe 1994 superimposed on top. It’s my image, but like all, I release my stuff into the breeze of public domain using Creative Commons CC0.
That’s beautifully written Alan. A great reminder to “time into the echoes.” Thanks for sharing your memories of your father.
Hey Eric! Thanks for dropping by the blog. And speaking of echoes, I am reminded I owe you a message.
I remember when he found those shells! I don’t think it was hurricane Agnes. We were home then and homes were under water near Aunt Eve’s house. I do remember the hurricane at OC.
Looking at that Ocean City picture brings back so many memories of the happy times that we spent there as a family. It truly was dad’s happy place! I remember those shells at our house on Campfield Road and at their house in Florida. I have one or two of them. I think Harriet kept one. I hope that you have one! Your words are so special as are your thoughts of dad. I talk to him often, especially this time of year. I know he would not like the dandelions in my yard but I have gone organic so they roam free! Lots of love to you, little brother!
On reading your post and the memories recalled in the comments I see how much your Dad comes alive through your words. You even grant him a chance to be met by more rare readers like me. A deathless story.
As usual, your voice takes me to my own inner world, with Dad memories this time. The passport line that takes me there is “maybe I should have thought more of being without him”.
You had barely a few months to see it coming. I had almost three decades seeing the chronic, slowly progressing thing unfolding. I lost count of the times I left family home on Monday to go to my working week in Buenos Aires thinking maybe it was the last time I had spent a weekend with him. A part of me was there sharing a face to face conversation; a part of me was always thinking “one day I will want this moment back”. I took photos.
I lived those moments to the fullest. I may have enjoyed them more intensely and mindfully sometimes. Granted. But overdoing it is something one day I had to learn to stop completely and just live.
And no amount of photos seem enough. I wish I had taken more.
I also get a strange sense of company when I grab Dad’s wooden tool handles, some of them made by his own hands. Strangely, I cannot say I miss him. He continues to be. Inside. That’s inexpressibly magic enough.
Yet I get what you mean. I can relate.
May I leave you with a poem? 😉 Just part one and two. Another Spanish clever guy called Jorge Manrique here translated into English.
Thank you so much for what your post does to me, my friend.
Thank you so much for connecting these memories. I wave continuously if the time span was in some way a benefit to not play out the suffering or cruel for not leaving enough time. I have settle into both and neither.
A poem is welcome! And to be more wise than staking a future on what soon is over. Soon, there being relative.