Today was the 34th anniversary of my father’s death … a dubious thing to commemorate. I was ten when he died so I don’t have an abundance of memories of him, and some of the ones I do have are not very positive. But I do have a couple of very pleasant memories so I think I’ll choose those for today.
There was a summer in the early seventies when my mother took us away from Boston to spend the summer in Little Rock, Arkansas with her family … my father never went with us on those trips. We spent a long time there and I remember being very excited about getting back home. When we pulled up in front of the house I was the first one out of the cab and up the front steps, the first to ring the doorbell. Joe (we always called our parents by their first names) looked out of the window in the front door and his face lit up when he saw me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful smile … and it was all for me.
I used to be one of those guys whose inner child was always whining about how his father never told him he loved him. This memory dispels that myth. He didn’t say the words, but he couldn’t have delivered the message any louder or clearer.
Another great memory … I was in the first grade and Joe was walking me to school. It had snowed a day or so before and the trampled down snow had now frozen into a sheet of ice. I had lost my gloves and we were a little bit late so I was trotting along on the ice with my hands shoved in my pockets. “Van, don’t run with your hands in your pockets,” Joe said to me. “Why not?” Almost before I could get the words out I lost my footing and started to fall. With no hands to catch myself, I landed face first on the ice. Joe helped me up. “That’s why.” Object lesson to all you kiddies out there (Brother Man and Sister Baby take note!!!) when Dad says chill you better just chill first and ask questions later.
Anyway, I’m a little sad today. I barely knew the man even in the limited way a boy knows his Dad … sure would be nice if he was still around for me to know man to man. Dude was, after all, the original Daddy-O!