Why Bother Remembering Dad?
I was very fond of my father. He’d come into my room at night to read bedtime stories. Kicking my blankets off, I’d crawl out of my bottom bunk and lie down next to him on the rug. I remember how his deep voice made Prince Charming and the seven dwarves come alive for me.
On Sunday nights, when our whole family gathered in the living room after dinner to watch The Ed Sullivan Show, Dad got down on the floor and pretended to be a park bench on a windy beach. I’d perch on his hip while he told the story of a little girl.
“It was a windy day on the beach when a little girl sat down on a bench. The wind blew harder and harder until the bench tipped over and the little girl fell off into the ocean.”
I knew the story by heart, yet rolling back and forth while sitting on his hip made me laugh. Falling into the imaginary ocean gave me a thrill.
Other times, Dad would go outside to the front porch swing to smoke a cigarette, and I’d climb into his lap. He always asked, “Would you like me to blow smoke rings?” Then I’d lean back against his chest and watch the rings appear one after another and float away.
Occasionally, a Midwest summer thunderstorm would roll in, but we stayed put on the swing, under the shelter of the porch roof. As the air chilled and the leaves rustled in the breeze, Dad would tighten his arms around me and press his chin on top of my head as if to say, “It is safe to stay here with me.”
Then we’d watch the performance together. The dusky evening turned black, lit by flashes of lightning for seconds at a time. Next came the low rumble of thunder that sounded as though God was rolling a giant bowling ball across the floor of heaven. The boom that followed, a strike, always made me jump. Finally, splats of rain hit the porch roof and sidewalk, slow at first and then increasing with volume and velocity.
The storm’s intensity never lasted long before it moved on to the next county. Then the air warmed again, the light of dusk returned, and the sounds of crickets replaced the thunder.
My memories of my father are long even though my life with him was short. Just before my thirteenth birthday, he ended his life by his own hand. With any death comes grief. With suicide the question, “why?” suspends itself for the longest time afterward. Eventually though, a person comes to understand the need to gently lay aside what can never be explained. In their own time, they release their demand to know the answer to the unanswerable.
Letting go of the why made more room for me to remember how the richness of Dad’s life impacted mine. He instilled the principle of respect toward others, truthfulness, love of God and nature, and the reward of hard work. Though his death left a question mark, his life left me with timeless treasures.
Why bother remembering Dad? It is worth remembering the ones who do their very best to be their very best, even if it was just for a short amount of time.