My father has been gone for many years now.
Still, I frequently experience things from his point of view, or experience things I know he would have loved: a pungy schooner under sail in Baltimore Harbor, a bit of rowdy New Orleans jazz on the radio, someone trout fishing in the nearby Yellow Breeches, enjoying the river, or just walking through the smoke of a random Lucky Strike on the sidewalk.
These sensations stir something that seems to respond on a cellular level!
And so, in many ways, I feel as if I am my father, still experiencing life through his senses.
In the early years after his death, I sometimes found myself suddenly jolted into the reality of his passing--no longer here for any of us, and a small part of me simply said, "Enough, I want my Dad back. If this is a test, haven't I passed it? I've struggled through enough time without him, and now I just need him here!"
A small child stamping her foot, demanding his presence, his strength and love, his silly, unpredictable humor, and his own assumption that he was superman and might last forever.
In many ways, my father was superman. He was a "Do-er" and believed he could accomplish anything. Bring a crappy old boat back from a pile of rotting timber? Sure! Pole in his canoe down class 4 rapids just like our guide? No Problem! Trim high tree limbs off the Norwegian Maple with a chain saw and a piece of rope tied to his waist? Hey, we'll save a bundle of money! And while you're in the kitchen, get me another scotch on the rocks!
Certainly to my brothers and I, he was super man, but also a little crazy. We were in turns awed, fearful, excited, comforted and thoroughly entertained in his presence. There really were not many dull moments.
When there were "down times", we thought there was something wrong....
Though he was outgoing and friendly, my father fought some serious demons, many my brothers and I never, ever knew about, because he was not "a talker". He was not comfortable telling personal stories or airing his emotional ups and downs.
Near the end of his life, when I knew he had limited time with us, I hoped he would feel compelled to tell more of the tales of his childhood and early years. Though he had the standard stories to share of college shenanigans and Korean War memories, I think I was looking for more.
I was looking for the memories that carried hidden weight and import, that would help me in some way decode a very complex man, one with unique talents and an intensely creative drive to do, to make, to keep building and re-building, to the point of exhaustion. These were the places where he found his greatest expression and release, but I didn't really understand it at the time.
In fact, I thought everyone's Dad renovated old houses, tied flies for fishing, grew mega-gardens and charted his way by the stars while out sailing.
Didn't everyone's Dad make the grand kids early breakfast so that Mom could sleep in, then smoke his Lucky Strikes at the table as they ate, stubbing his buts out in egg yolk?
As the years have gone by without my Dad, and I've matured and lived almost as much life as he did, I've found more subtle ways of knowing him, of understanding his motivation and intensity, and of appreciating everything about him. Knowing myself better, I understand him better, and I see where my own life picks up where his left off, in one of those remarkable spirals of movement, darkness and grace, as any life fully lived is!
Happy Father's Day!