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For Father’s Day I worked on a photo collage of my father. Since he died, I think about him almost every day. My mother and I talk about how she meets people at the pharmacy, bank, and senior center who say they still miss him. He was a light in many people’s average days.

My father drew cartoons his whole life; he carried more than a few in his pocket that he could whip out at any time and show people. He never had them published; he was too busy taking care of his family and living life. At the wake, we displayed a notebook full of them and people lined up to look at them. Since he’s been gone we have found countless poems written on scraps of paper and the backs of envelopes; they were never published. The last few years of his life, he tried writing down his stories; he said he was working on his memoirs. He never finished them.

One of my biggest fears has always been that I would repeat his life, that I would be filled with regret for not doing what I wanted to do and not fulfill my potential. He had his moments — his poems reveal it — when he felt regret and disappointment. Yet my father did a lot during his 84 years. He saved several people’s lives by being at the right place at the right time and not hesitating to act: a neighbor who cut his leg with a chainsaw; an older man who slipped underwater at the gym pool. At his funeral I talked about how he cared for a neighbor’s dog that got hit by a car, and how I remembered his feeding a baby bird with an eye dropper that had fallen out of its nest. Stray animals always seemed to end up at our door; if they didn’t find a home with us, my father would find them a home somewhere else.

He made a lot of people laugh; he was adored by his family. What I have been thinking a lot about lately is that he lived an extraordinary ordinary life. I ponder how many people’s lives the “average” person touches during their lifetime? I wonder how many lives my father touched in his lifetime as an “average” man? How many meaningful interactions does a “lifetime” include? There are so many factors. Some people choose professions that are inherently influential: teachers, nurses, or ministers. My father was an office worker for most of his life, and yet, wherever he went he made friends. He interacted with bank tellers, cashiers, and waitresses; he made their day with his jokes, warmth, and friendliness.

I’m over halfway through my life and I haven’t saved any; I don’t think I have it in me (I’m not rational under pressure). I’ll never live up to him in that way. Although I am family-oriented, I don’t have my own family. I do know I have touched some lives because people have told me (some complete strangers that I did something for without thinking about it, others were acquaintances that I wrote poems for). I’m at an evaluating time in my life: old dreams have died and new dreams seem elusive.

Though I sometimes feel I have more of my father’s faults than his attributes, I now recognize it is worthwhile to aspire to be him and not dread it. We can’t all be movie stars, writers, or teachers, but we can all aspire to live an extraordinary ordinary life.



{April 9, 2012}   Dreaming of Shopping

I used to be interested in dreams. (I had so many strange ones and loved to talk about them, to the chagrin of whoever lived with me at the time: mother, roommate, husband.) This interest resulted in one of my friends giving me a book about interpreting dreams (probably hoping that would shut me up). The book related the meaning of certain common dreams like dreams of losing your teeth, drowning or falling through the air. I have almost never had such dreams; for me, recurring dreams involve being late for school or work and not letting anyone know, or trying to tell someone something and having nothing come out of my mouth.

I also remember reading that dreams are our brain’s way of working out conflicts that occur in our waking life. When I worked full-time, I most often dreamed of my workplace and the people I worked with (after all, I spent 8 hours a day with them). Now that I work part-time at a non-stressful job, dreaming of work is rare. The interesting thing to me is that recently I have had dreams about shopping. How common is that?

My husband and I adopted a frugal lifestyle a few years ago, first out of necessity then out of choice. We have learned to evaluate our purchases before we make them. We buy very little that we don’t need and very few items from the “want” column. It is a healthy permanent change in our values. As an ancillary change, I look at my time differently too. I work out and read a lot to take care of my health. There’s very little time spent wandering in stores browsing.

But lately I’ve noticed a difference in my dreams. I sometimes dream of shopping. I did not do that in the past. I wondered if it means that I have not completely accepted my new life? My conscious mind knows I do not need more books, clothes or music cds, but somewhere inside me there’s someone saying, “Wouldn’t it be fun?”

In my past life, I would spend hours lost in bookstores and come out with a full bag. Last week I tried something new; I allowed myself some time to look at books at a store. It was a nice treat (only ½ hour), and I didn’t buy anything. I think maybe that was all I needed, because I haven’t dreamed of shopping since.



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