One of my strongest, and only, memories of my dad is of the Sunday afternoon trips we used to take together to our town’s library.
It was our Sunday afternoon ritual. I looked forward to this journey into the beautiful world of books with this giant man who was my father. The memories I have are more a like a string of emotions and feelings. I sort of remember the car ride. The walk into the building. Holding hands. Looking up at him. To him. Checking out books. But, the details are fuzzy. Why can’t I remember more?
My dad stood tall reaching almost 7 feet. As a small child of about 4’2 I had a long way to look up when I stood next to him. He was big in everyone’s eyes. But in mine, he was bigger than life. People expected him to have the abilities of an amazing athlete and the personality of a bruiser. He was neither of those things. He was soft spoken and barely ever raised his voice, let alone a hand, to me. When my sister’s hamster died it was my dad who carefully buried it in the backyard. When I was in trouble, it was my mom who punished me. When I dressed up and went out to dinner with him, it was my dad who said I looked beautiful. This is why one of our Sunday trips to the library sticks in my mind to this day.
Our town library had a huge parking lot. It seemed like our car was always parked far away from that beautiful brown building with all the windows. This particular day I was very excited to get inside. I don’t know why. Maybe it was cold outside. Maybe the read aloud was one of my favorites that day. Whatever the reason, I remember darting from the car and jetting across the parking lot to the front door….without holding my dad’s hand……without looking for oncoming cars. That was the first, and last time my dad ever hit me.
I think he was very conscious about using force on me because with one swat he could really hurt me. The sting left behind was not from his hand, but from his words. They left an indelible imprint on my soul. He told me how scared he was when he saw me take off running. He was sure that one of the cars in that lot would hit me. He apologized more than once for spanking me. His voice was trembling. I knew he regretted it the moment after it happened and that he had acted out of pure fear.
I only had 4 more years left with my dad after that. He often told me loved me. Looking back on this memory I realize he was also very good at showing me.
My mom lives in my condo building. Down the hall. I go see her…..visit….almost every day. I try not to use the word” visit”, though, because it feels like she’s in a nursing home where people have to go visit her. I don’t know if she feels that way, or if it’s just me and my hangups. But I very consciously stay away from the word.
It’s hard though. When you can’t drive anymore. When you are sitting on your couch waiting. Waiting for a phone call or a visitor. How different is it from being in a nursing home? It’s the step just before that point. We both know it. But, we don’t voice it. If we do we have turned that corner and made a beautiful, downtown high rise with a breathe taking view, into solitary confinement. A resident at a nursing home. Waiting for a visit.
I’m participating in Five Minute Friday. Write off a word for 5 minutes, share, and comment on others. Join us!
I wish I could see better. As a kid I loved swimming. I still do, but as I get older I get more and more disgusted with not being able to SEE when I’m in the pool. I’ve been on a couple of vacations where the opportunity arose to go snorkeling, but I passed on the chance because I wouldn’t be able to see once I was down there in the deep sea. That makes me sad. I want to be able to see when I’m in the water. I want to see when I’m swimming laps. It’s a terrible feeling to swim back and forth in the water and not have a good sense of when the wall is coming. When I am standing at the edge of the pool, talking with people, looking around, I want to see. When I am swimming deep in the ocean water, I want to see the fish. The beauty. I want to see.
I also want to see when I wake up in the morning. To see the clock. Immediately. I want to get up in the middle of the night without fumbling for my glasses. Knocking the glass of water off the table that sits beside my bed.
When I fly in an airplane I imagine (every single time) what it would be like if the plane went down. The first thing I think of is losing my glasses. I always tell my traveling companion to be aware that this will happen and know that I will not be able to see. I fear not being able to see in a plane crash more than the actual crash.
Of course, we all know that we see in tons of different ways. I think our senses are heightened when one is not as strong. I have the hearing of a dog. I could probably hear those crazy whistles that only they are supposed to hear. I can hear two different things out of each ear. I can be on the phone and hear a conversation outside of my office – and pretty much be able to concentrate on both. When I was a social worker one of the parents called me “Radar Ears”. I guess that says it all.
I can’t believe how long I’ve been thinking about this. I’ve talked with friends, colleagues and combinations of the two. There were many possibilities running through my mind. I kept feeling that the words I’d come up with were too limiting. The last thing I wanted to do was limit myself. 2014 will be all about widening my horizons, not narrowing them!
This leads me to an annoying habit I have. If I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom I automatically pick my phone up on the way. I check all the very important emails that have come in between the hours of 10 p.m. and the wee hours of the morning. You think I’m kidding? Vital messages come through during those hours! Take last night – or early this morning, for instance. 4:30 a.m. illuminated the latest Two Writing Teachers blog from Dana Murphy. Dana revealed her OLW and the process she went through to decide upon this word. I was intrigued. I read it twice. Then I went back to bed and began to think and dream about what my word would be. I needed to choose my word and move forward. To live the word.
I woke up 2 hours later and I had it. Try. This word has many pleasant and important memories for me.
First, my favorite childhood book.; I Can’t Said the Ant. The following line of this book is, “Please try, said the Pie!” This book was about all the obstacles an ant faced in a kitchen full of dangerous appliances and evil foods. The Pie was encouraging and managed to help him get from the floor to the counter top where he could be safe. I smile whenever I think of that book.
Try hard and Be Nice. These were the “rules” in the first school I worked in. I was so excited at the simplicity of them. We were teaching kids the most fundamental skills of life. Two simple things. Trying your best, working hard, and being nice. Be that person and life will be easier for you. Simple. Powerful. I crammed so much learning about how to work with kids and parents and teachers in those (first) five years of my career.
So it is. Try. I will try to listen better. Try to be open to all that is around me. Try to eat better and exercise like I should. Try to read and write more often. Try to help others to try. Life isn’t about perfection. To me -it’s about trying. One who tries is one who believes they can and doesn’t let all the “yeah, buts” get in the way. I want to be around people who say, “I’ll try that!” I want to be that person, as well. I’ll be the one who tries and I’ll be the one who encourages trying. Just like the Pie in my favorite childhood story.