Sued51's Blog

{June 16, 2013}   Father’s Day

I’ve written about my father a lot on this blog.  No need to go further.

I will always love you, Dad. You will always be my version of Superman.

Dad after his prom

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.

{October 1, 2011}   Finding Comfort

The hospice association is having a memorial service this weekend for relatives of their deceased patients.  My father will be one of the people honored.  It is creeping on to almost one year since we lost him and we are all finding comfort in our own ways.

My father left me his artwork.  There were 5 pieces that he had framed for an art show when he was young and had very little money. Their plain document frames were chipped, and their glass dirty and, in one case, broken.  I wanted to put them on the wall, but they would need some reclamation.

Dad's Artwork before Reclamation

I began the project by removing all the frames and wiping them down. When I took them apart I found that the paper used for the artwork was thin, and the ones with mats were taped; I didn’t want to take the chance of trying to remove the mats and damaging the drawings, so I left the ones with mats as is.  I scanned the artwork for my siblings. I laid out all the frames in the garage and spray painted them with flat black paint.  I cleaned all the pieces of glass and stole a piece of glass from an unused frame I had in the house to replace the broken one.

After the paint dried I put them all back together and my husband arranged and hung them on the wall at the bottom of the stairs.  Now I see them every morning when I get up and go to the kitchen.  It makes me smile; I know my father would be pleased to have them displayed, and it makes me feel he is still close and watching over me.

{January 3, 2011}   The Worst is Over…Now What?

The title of this blog refers to a lot of different things for me.  It initially came to me in the context of dealing with my father’s death and burial just before Christmas.  It was mentioned over and over at the wake, funeral service and burial what a bad time of year it was to deal with such a thing, but when is it a better time?  A year was coming to an end; a decade was coming to an end; a special person’s life had come to an end.

That unforgettable week was a whirlwind of activity and emotions, and brought me more-than-I-could-have-hoped-for support and sympathy from a lot of people.  But now that the most obvious emotional part is over, there is still so much to be done and worked through — for my mother most of all, but also for my family and myself.

Talking with my husband about our plans and goals moving forward (as we all must), I realized the title could mean so many things: economists and the media have said the recession is over, now what?  Now that one of the reasons I was working part-time has resolved itself (my father’s deteriorating health), now what?  Now that my wonderful father’s life has been summed up, what does that mean to me?

At my father’s wake, we set out a notebook containing a fraction of his extensive artwork and cartoons—it was something he wanted.  There were constant lines at the notebook; so many people had never seen his work—even I have never seen it all (but that’s another blog).  A couple of people he knew from the senior center were talking to me about how every time my father would show them one of his cartoons they would ask why he didn’t send it out to a newspaper and he would just shrug.  Family always came first for my father; he was long past having the required time and energy to publish his material.

Initially, my father’s death left me feeling no desire to move on; I felt lost and empty. But a strange thing happened as I watched people looking at his cartoons and artwork.  I felt like…I’ve got to DO something about that. I’m not sure what, but I’ve got some ideas, and somehow I feel like he is giving me a new strength, and new determination.

I also said to myself, “That’s not going to happen to me.”  At one point, I tried to do with my poems what my father did with his cartoons: I tried to put most of the poems I have written in a notebook in chronological order.  I didn’t realize what a daunting task it was —I am a disorganized writer; most of the poems had no dates and there were too many versions of the same thing.  I was never finished, always tweaking, and sometimes the initial off-the-cuff version was the best.  I realized it’s impossible to sum up a life in one notebook.

I’ve got some projects in front of me that are important to me emotionally, and I am looking forward to working on them.  It won’t happen overnight; I need to plan.  It could take me the next decade, but I feel ready to go.  Thanks, Dad.

{February 22, 2010}   My Father My Hero

Today is my father’s 84th birthday.  He was telling me how he sets short goals for “still being around”.  Now that he has made it to his birthday, he’ll be looking forward to making it to Father’s Day.  I decided in honor of his birthday to post an essay that I wrote and submitted to an essay book about fathers and daughters.  It wasn’t accepted, but I’m glad I wrote it.

Ready to march in the Memorial Day parade

My Father, My Hero

My father told me when I was born, he went house-to-house, knocking on doors proclaiming, “I have a girl!” Four boys were born before me; my parents tried again after I was born, and I had two more brothers and no sisters.

I have been known to say as an adult that I am my father’s favorite son. I share his interest in gardening, animals, watching baseball, and history. When I was a child, I would follow him around his vegetable garden, watching how he tended his plants, amazed that they produced food. Later he would find me and my friend sitting in the dirt between the rows, devouring his snow peas, pods and all. He said, “Get outta there!”, but I also saw him smile. To this day, none of my brothers garden; I have gone from only growing vegetables, to being interested in herbs and flowers.

Another experience my father and I shared, was marching in the Memorial Day parades in our town: there were five of them, one for each graveyard, every hour on the hour starting at 8:00 am. My father was a proud veteran; I was in the junior auxiliary. My mother would make us a big breakfast and we would set off; he in his uniform, and me in my junior auxiliary hat and cape. My brothers attended later with my mother to watch us march in the final parade at noon. I marched proudly, waving my miniature flag, feeling proud to be an American and proud of the veterans like my father. I still buy a poppy every Memorial Day.

My mother was partial to dogs; my father loved all animals; I don’t think there was a moment in my childhood when we didn’t have a pet, or my father wasn’t trying to save a baby bird or stray animal. When a stray cat showed up at our door one November, my mother said, “We’re not keeping it.” My father and I secretly fed it and kept in the back porch as we moved farther into winter, until my mother realized she was beaten, and said she could stay. We smiled at each other knowingly. Only one of my brothers has a pet; I can’t live without one.

I remember my father calling me to sit down and watch Armstrong walk on the moon. I remember his excitement when he said to me, “You’re watching history!” Talk about history…when the Red Sox made it to the World Series in 1975; I sent away for two tickets through the mail and miraculously received two tickets for Game 2. I could have taken any of my friends–everyone was dying to go, but I took my father. We huddled under an umbrella in the rain at the top of the bleachers, and my father said, “I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime.” The Red Sox lost the game, but my father stayed in a good mood, happy that we could share this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So what did all this mean as I grew up; how did it affect my relationship to the men in my life? I always expected them to appreciate my mind. It didn’t occur to me that they were interested in my looks; I didn’t spend a lot of time painting my fingernails or dressing in the latest fashion. I felt more comfortable talking to men than women. Some people might be tempted to dismiss me as a tomboy because I grew up with so many brothers and without any sisters, but that would be simplifying things. My interests were my father’s, not my brother’s. As an older sister, I took my younger brothers to baseball games and the movies. My mother told me my youngest brother bragged about his big sister; I recently bumped into a friend of his who remembered me taking them to a baseball game. It would be easy to think growing up with so many brothers was the reason for my tendency to have male friends in my late twenties and early thirties, and to feel less comfortable with women than with men. I spent many a lunch hour being the only woman playing cribbage with the male engineers I worked with; my grandfather taught me to play when I was a child. My grandmother tried to teach me to knit, but I had no patience for it.

Also, these anecdotes may lead one to believe I’m not close to my mother, which is not true. My mother is one of my best friends; we talk at least once a week. As I’ve grown older I’ve found her in me more and more, in our love of food and crafts (I actually love to crochet now), and in something as simple as people telling me our voices sound the same on the telephone. My mother has been there for me through broken relationships and to talk me through all the disappointments in my life, (especially in my early twenties when I was clueless that guys might just want my body).

And yet…when I was a child and would sometimes get up in middle of the night panicking because I was having trouble breathing, it was my father who would get out of bed and turn on the shower, put me in the steam and calm me down. Later when I had a corneal ulcer in my eye, it was my father who got up every hour to put eye drops in it, until we found out the next day it wasn’t bacterial. My father was, and still is, at 83, my hero.

A fortune teller once told me that the man I would marry would come at an unexpected time; he would ride up on a white horse like a hero. I was 34 when I met my husband, thinking at that point that I might never marry. Since the beginning of our relationship I have teased my husband, when he helps me with something mechanical or technological saying, “You’re my hero.” When the time came to choose someone to marry; I chose someone with a sense of humor like my father. We share a love of watching baseball, history, and music. We adore our twenty-year old cat; and he adores my father. He told me recently, “I aspire to be like your father; he is my hero.” It can’t get more perfect than that.

et cetera
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