Friday, February 17, 2017

Twenty Years

On February 23, Dad will have been dead for twenty years. Twenty years.
Before 9/11.
Before the genocide in the Middle East.
Long before the current Islamophobia.
At the brink of a new century when the future still looked wide-open, it may have been a good time to die.
But it was also before he saw his grandchildren married.
It was before his great-grandchildren ever got the chance to know him.
It was before m first book was published, the first edition of my journal appeared and many of the events that constitute a large part of my identity today had even taken place.
It was another world.

On the very few times occasions Dad’s sons and daughters have had the chance to get together, our memories of him are all from  different vantage points. Rather like looking at a cubist painting, we all see different sides.  We all draw different portraits with the materials we have.  I can remember him in his Navy uniform, khaki for everyday and dress blues for special occasion. Ed can recall times when Dad took him fishing – something I never experienced.  We all have our pieces of the mosaic.

I’d like to hear from all of you who knew him.  Is there a memory that you have of him that you think the rest of us might not have?  Is there some particular recollection that is special to you for some reason.  If we can put some of the pieces together, perhaps we can get a better picture of him, even if it does look a bit Picasso-ish. I’m just going to record a fragment of a memory I have that I don’t think the rest of you do. So I will start off. If you can leave yours in the comments section, I think all of us will find them interesting.

My earliest memory of doing anything with Dad was when we lived in El Sobrante.  I was four years old.  At the time, we had a dog named Toughy – a mongrel, I think. It was not a big dog, but it was aggressive.  It pulled at the clothes on the line when Mom hung them up and chased me around our yard.  I was terrified of it.  Dad was a generally kind person, but he had no room for complainers – whether about there own situation or other people. (One of his favorite expressions was, if you don’t have something good to say about somebody, don’t say anything.)  I reacted like a typical four year old.  Eventually my whining got the best of him, so he told me to get in the car and he took the dog with us.  El Sobrante was in a rural area and we drove down a road along a field until Dad stopped the car and opened the door.  The last I ever saw of Toughy was when he disappeared into the tall grass.

There is one more bit to my memory of Dad and living in El Sobrante, but it is even more fragmentary, so I’ll stop now.

Add yours.


A Pilgrim said...

Most of my memories of dad were from when I was an adult, during the last fifteen years of his life. This is because growing up he was either not around or so busy working that he did not have much individual time for his any of children. This is not to say he did not love us but this was a different generation and we were all loved in more of community setting. Individual time came from mom. I have written a few poems about fishing with dad so I will not repeat those here. But here is a short memory.

When I was as a sophomore in high school, I was fourteen years old and in F.F.A., which is sort of like 4H but in a school setting. I was going to raise a Herford steer as a project and this required me to build or buy a feed box to store my grain, hay and halters and tools I would need to feed and care for my steer. Some of the students purchased or had feed boxes made but dad said he would help me build one. This was a surprise to me because I knew how valuable his time off was. I had no idea how to build one but I got some basic outside dimensions and dad drew up the plans. I had earned the money to pay for the building materials so we went to the lumber or hardware store and brought the supplies we would need which consisted of 1”x 6” boards for the exterior, 2” x4” for the inside frame and some plywood to divide up the interior into compartments and make a lid. We also needed, nails, screws, hinges, hasp and a lock.

We didn’t have any power tools so we cut all the boards by hand. Dad did most of the cutting, I did a little bit and pounded lots of nails. We painted it navy blue and took it up to Orange High School where I used it for three years and then sold it to an incoming student. I don’t remember any specific conversation while building it but it was memorable to be working with my father on this project. It took us a few days to build and I was always grateful for the time we shared working together. As I looked back on it, each time I used the feed box I was participating in the gift of love given to me by my Father. I think I even felt it at the time although as a teenager I was not really very reflective about such things.

EMMLP said...

Hi Ed,

Even though I was away from home when you were in F.F.A, that has an association for me as well. When we moved from Santa Ana to Orange, and I transferred to Orange High, I really wanted to go into the agricultural classes because I had still planned to go into veterinary medicine, but my schedule would not permit it since it took two class periods. What strikes me about your experience with Dad is that he actually worked with you to teach you some things about building. I have always been terrible with my hands (i.e. eye-hand coordination), but I still feel that I would not be so inept today if there had been someone around to actually teach me how to build, work on a car, etc. Because he was in the Navy and rarely home, I never had those experiences. (though, to be sure, he did help me in many other ways.)-

Maya Northen said...

I obviously have a very different perspective, as I knew grandpa only when he was older, and as a grandchild - also, only saw him occassionally, due to location. However, I have three distinct memories. One is of him and grandma (but him particularly) sitting on a bench with us in Fairview on a nice sunny day, with a Mountain dew bottle. I don't know who was drinking the mountain dew, because I was about 4 and I can't imagine us drinking that then, but who knows. I don't remember much else about the day, but for some reason that image sticks in my mind. I remember him and grandma dancing at their 50th wedding anniversary. And I remember him out on the balcony on our trip to the outer banks. What strikes me most about each of these is that none of them involved him talking (at least not in my earshot - he may have been talking to Grandma while dancing, I have no idea). I can recall Grandma's voice easily but I couldn't tell you what his voice sounded like. Granted, I saw Grandma more, at several weddings and on several later visits, but it still strikes me that not only can I not recall his voice, but I actually cannot recall him speaking (which makes me wonder if we have it anywhere on a very old video of sorts)?