Looking Back

I’ve had a part III to the day my father died in the draft area for a while.  But I am trying very hard to not dwell on the specifics of his death right now because in a handful of days I will speak at his memorial service about his life.

I have not a fucking clue what I want to say.

My parents have not been an integral part of my life since I was…18?  22?  13?  They had strong feelings that the job of parent meant an independent person as the result.  And they succeeded at this goal.  While my brother has stuck around Chicago a lot more than I, both of us cut the chord pretty quick and easy and young.

I am extremely happy that for the past few years, Tom and I have made the cabin in the north woods a vacation destination and always invited my parents to join us.  One year it was pretty cold and rainy, so we stuck around the cabin more than usual and started working on jigsaw puzzles as something to pass the time.  We’d set them up in the “study”, the only non-bedroom room that wasn’t a straight shot through the main throughfare of the house.  People would come and go throughout the day, drifting in to put a piece or two in place between trips to the kitchen or breaks in chapters of a book.  Then ever since, we always bought at least one new puzzle a year.  It would get the most attention right before dinner – with Dad drifting in between culinary projects and a plate of cheese and crackers on the old typewriter stand that kept the rest of us entertained if the puzzle didn’t.

But I don’t think jigsaw puzzles a euology make.

The reality is, to me my dad just was.  He was an incredibly comfortable person for me to be around (after the dreaded teens).  He loved Star Trek.  He loved to cook.  He never was shy about telling my mom that he could use some backrubs (something I appreciate and model in my own marriage).  He was uniquely clumsy – never tripping much or dropping many dishes, but nearly put out his eye with a posthole digger and sliced open his hand separating frozen veggie burgers.  He was an ex-smoker.  He loved to drink, just beer and wine, and never seemed embarrassed when he’d had a few too many nor ever seemed to feel the effects the next day.  He could play piano by ear and found my sheet music confusing.  He read as if it were a daily vital nutrient – something that is either genetic or enivornmentally absorbed because my brother and I are the same way.  Shy and introverted, he always was a little out of step with normal social rules (another inherited trait), he announced his engagement at his grandmother’s wake because he thought everyone could use some cheering up.  He loved to garden and approached it with a scholarly attitude leaving notebooks of where seeds were ordered, what bloomed when, and a million little plastic sticks littering the house that were to mark the next years plants.  He was messy – almost unsanitary – in the kitchen and the garden, sometimes combining the two because a butcher block is a great place to pot seeds.  He hated to throw things away and in cleaning up I found several bottles of oil/vinegar/spice completely empty yet sitting amongst the collection of viable condiments.  He was kind.  Amazingly kind.  He had the softest heart for animals (except bunnies that ate from his garden).

He was the best.

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