I wasn’t fortunate enough to get a lot of time with my Grandfathers. I wish at least once a week that I could have cultivated the type of relationship that some others get with theirs. I think about my Mom a lot and how awful it must have felt to have lost her Dad when she was 36 years old. That is only 5 years older than me now. I cannot imagine being without my Dad at all, much less in the middle of the fray of adulthood, wifedom, motherhood and ownership of one’s life.
One of the first times I saw Mom cry was when she told me the story of how her Father (Pop to me) bought her a camera for her thirteenth birthday. She came down the steps and it was there waiting for her. It seems he was a man of few words. She loved the present. She told the story to me with such tenderness, looking out wistfully towards the field on the back porch of our house. Then she took the dish towel that was in her lap, covered her whole face and audibly wept for a solid minute. That is when I realized, in my frozen horror, that I could not fix this. Mom missed her Dad, Pop to me. And more so, her Dad to her-was like Daddy to me. And I felt so unbelievably sad for her, that when she went inside I went upstairs and pretended to pee before dinner but really I had to cry too, just for a minute.
My Dad has less stories about his own Father, but I have some of my own thankfully. I had him in my life until I was 10. He was a kind man, a funny man, a ladies man to boot. Even my great-grandmother who didn’t care for men in general was charmed by him and although he was jewish, sat down at the piano once Christmas and sang songs from a baptist church. How? We don’t know. He just could. He was Max.
The day we buried him, it snowed. And in the car Daddy told us that when we got home we would get to eat ice cream to toast the good things about Grandpa Max. To mark his passing not only with tears but also with the remembrance of the fun and joyful times. The sweet times.
My first memory of Daddy is not of his face, but of his voice in the dark singing “Kumbayah”. He was rocking me back and forth in the dark. It’s more a sensation memory, something I harken back to when I feel alone. The way it was to cry and then not cry because someone was singing, my lord, kumbayah.
I asked Daddy if he believed in heaven when I was very young. I had a strange, odd, overwhelming obsession with death and looking back it was probably anxiety manifesting itself at an early age. But Daddy didn’t lie when I asked. He said “I don’t know. I hope so!” And then he went on with his day. That was confusing. Something Daddy didn’t know? Uh-uh, impossible.
I asked the same question a few years ago. He had a similar answer. It went like this: “Well, I don’t know. I do know that the smallest particles of everything in this world are striving for balance. They try and find the balance of electrons and protons and neutrons. They are, in the most microscopic sense, aiming for connection and completion. If balance amongst all the chaos of the galaxies and a desire for peace in that balance isn’t God and heaven, that what is?”
That made me feel better. Still does.
My Dad taught me how to play guitar. How to study for a test. How to ask questions when in an uncomfortable position in a business or personal setting. He told me that family comes first. That fighting is not good for the heart or the health. That attitude plus aptitude equals altitude. He told me never to criticize, complain or condemn. He taught me to listen. To be ready for anything with patience. To strive for a 96 on a test when I got a 94 the time before.
He also has taught me how to work in partnership. He’s saved my day many times. Come to my rescue more times than I can count and picked me up from countless rehearsals, shows, boyfriends houses, work and classes.
I write a lot about the women in my life, I am drawn to the energy of the women in my family, it is true. But I never ever forget that the other side of the coin of passion and strength is the goodness and kindness of my Dad. Who loves thrashers fries. Pie. Hiding and eating candy in secret, video games and great sweatsuit (mostly mismatched).
I know not everyone has their Dad today, so I am holding mine extra tight. For you all. And for me too.