Dear faithful readers,
Due to financial challenges, these columns will be updated bi-monthly rather than monthly. Thank you for your loyalty and input. And be sure to read the Mental Pause P.S. for a better explanation.
Ode to Daddy
White sloops unfurl their rainbow spinnakers as the wind fills them like a capricious kid blowing air into balloons. Tourists are climbing like crabs all over the rocks, narrowly escaping white explosions of water as waves collide with stone.
It’s Father’s Day and I’m sitting at a turnout along the drive near Point Pinos in Pacific Grove. I remember the time I took my father down here to see the whales. He had come alone from San Luis Obispo to see me. Our first visit alone, it was both thrilling and frightening.
Dad was a man of few words unless he was spinning out a yarn about his childhood, life and its vicissitudes. But there really was no need for words that day, just the “aha!” of a spotted leviathan spy hopping or flipping its gleaming tail as it sounded into the depths of the frigid sea.
It’s been just under 16 years since my father died and I still don’t know what to make of him. He was so many things to me and others: savior, judge, prison guard, genius, good humor man . . . I feel uncomfortable trying to sum up his life in any way because it somehow reduces him to my opinions and memories.
As time goes by I try to open my mind more to his kaleidoscopic being and purpose on this plane. “Husband, father, physician, WWII vet,” it says on his headstone, which tells absolutely nothing.
I can still feel the crisp white shirt I embraced and the mascara I left on it while crying. The meaty-bodied hugs when he was rotund, around the time of his first heart attack; and the slip of bones that characterized his ailing, aging body near life’s end.
I can smell his shaving cream and the foot powder he used; the brandy on his breath when he was imbibing, which was too often and, no doubt, led to his demise.
When the wind ruffles the trees and I see tomatoes ripening on the vine, I hear him lecturing about how to grow the perfect cherry tomato or cymbidium orchid. Each night that I go outside and look up at the stars I see and hear him say, “Luke dat! Da big Dipper!” He so loved to affect his Southern drawl.
I thank God for the reverence for nature that he instilled in me; am thankful for the passion I inherited and a poetic way with words.
I could write a book about his life and it might bear no resemblance to the man my family or his friends knew. My scraps of memory belong to me alone.
And while there is ache and relief at his passing, angst and love remembered, I do very definitely have an ongoing relationship with my father. And this is a good thing . . .