Little Memories

I came across a Father’s day post in my Facebook memories this week, and decided it needed to be a blog post. I did some editing and added a few things, stealing yet another post of mine from Facebook to help round it out – I thank my past self for this inspiration today.

I remember:

Dad bringing a whole box of comic books to my moms so I would be more inspired to learn how to read. I remember him making me look up new words in the dictionary periodically and like a teacher, making me write them out so I could learn the spelling and definition, and how to use it correctly in a sentence. I have him to thank for my love of the written word.

Waking up to birds chirping and Dad sitting on the front porch playing Hendrix on his guitar. I remember him teaching me chords on the guitar, and even once helping me tune my guitar over the phone. He introduced me to so many different artists and genres just through his own love for music. Because of him I have my own love for music now, and something to rely on when I have nothing else.

Our vacation to Kentucky.

When I was 10, Dad decided that he wanted to take this camper that he bought and go down to Kentucky. He booked a camp site at the Cumberland Gap, with the idea that he would spend the trip fishing and we would spend it swimming. We arrived at the campground to find that the only access to water is at the bottom of the mountain our campsite was on. And I mean mountain. I can’t describe the height, but I do know that it was ridiculous and the guy running the campground told Dad he was nuts when Dad told him he “came to fish and he was going to fucking fish.” Mountain or no mountain. Dad was born in Kentucky and although he moved to Michigan when he was a small child, he had family there and had spent a lot of time in the mountains. Keep in mind that if I was 10, dad was 40. And the entire time we were there the temperature didn’t drop below 100° during the day. We got to our campsite and set up. I distinctly remember dad crossing the road and staring through the trees, surveying this mountain. I was terrified for him. Because I knew he intended to climb down it to the water below. And that’s just what he did. He loaded up his cooler with beer, grabbed his tackle and fishing rod, and away he went. I remember standing at the top of the mountain, watching him climb down until I couldn’t see him anymore.That evening Dad climbed back up, and I will never forget the look of happiness in his eyes. The only time I remember seeing him that happy afterwards is when my Matthew B was born. “Come here kids, I’ve got something for you.” He opened his cooler and inside were several crazy looking rocks. I could see pieces of shells embedded in one of the rocks, and there were a few that I couldn’t figure out what they were. That’s when dad gave us our lesson on fossilization and how coral became fossilized. He claimed he had no choice but to finish his beer so he could put the fossils in the cooler to carry it up, since he had no other means. Every day for two weeks dad did this. Loaded the cooler up with beer in the morning, climbed down the mountain, drank the beer, loaded it with fossils, and carried it back up in the evening, until he had collected all he could find. We had quite the collection when we left Kentucky. Over the years the collection has diminished due to moving and I’m sure dad gave some away to people he told the story to. When matt first showed an interest in rocks dad told him the story too, and showed him the fossils. He promised Matt that when he was old enough that Matt could have what remained of the collection. I came across them when Aaron and I were packing and moving him to this new apartment, in a box on a shelf in the top of a closet. Now I have them to give to Matt, and Chase if he has an interest, when they’re old enough to take care of them. I talk about what I endure to further my children’s learning. But I can’t say that I lugged heavy fossils up a mountain multiple times for them, like my dad did. But I fully understand why he did now. Because he took the time to teach us, I grew to love to learn and have passed that love down to my own children.

Being in the hospital, in labor with Matthew, and trying like hell to not let anyone know the discomfort and pain I was in; and dad looking at me and saying, “you’re having a contraction, aren’t you?” And knowing then and there that no one on this planet would ever know me as well as my dad did. And then, being wheeled out of recovery towards maternity, and passing the nursery and seeing Matt’s little hand grasping dad’s finger as dad gazed down at his first grandchild. Because at that exact moment I knew what unconditional love meant, seeing the two people I loved most in this world meeting each other for the first time.

I remember when this photo was taken; It was the Thanksgiving after Matthew was born, so he was about four months old. Dad had picked us up from our apartment, as I wasn’t driving yet. We had gone out to Mamaw’s for dinner, and Matt had fallen asleep in his carseat. We had all just made our plates and sat down, when he woke up and began to fuss.

“It never fails,” I laughed, and stood up and picked up my crying baby. I went to the kitchen to make him a bottle, and sat down to feed him, my plate of food in front of me. My child eating came before me eating.

Obviously, dad felt the same. Because he stood up, and taking my fork began to scoop food off my plate and feed it to me.

I’m so glad someone got a photo of the moment; it’s one of my favorites, and speaks volumes about who my father was, and who he raised me to be. I knew my child eating needed to come first, and dad knew his child eating needed to come first.

I woke this morning and drove out to the cemetery – I have seen memories all week of me making the drive to Hillsdale to see him, and now I drive to sit at his headstone and miss him. Angry tears filled my eyes on the drive out, and a realization hit me. Someone told me right after dad died that at some point I would feel anger about his passing, and I dismissed it. I never thought that I would feel anything but sad – what was there to be angry about?

Plenty. There’s plenty to be angry about.

I selfishly want him here so I have someone who understands me and can talk me down off the ledge when I’m teetering. I want someone to help lighten the load I carry every day. I want someone to share new music with that will hear the beauty and strength just as I do. I want someone to celebrate my achievements with who has been there since day one and knows just exactly how far I’ve come. I’m angry because his life was cut short. Some of it was his own doing, but a lot of it was due to the cards life dealt him. I’m angry that such a wonderful individual isn’t here anymore to live the life he should have been able to live.

So today I cry angry tears because goddamnit, it’s just fucking unfair.

But I also honor his memory. I also want people to know that I am who I am because of the man who raised me.

Someday I will be able to write more, as I slowly come through this, as I come to terms with the fact that he is gone. I recognize that he has been gone for a very long time and I’m still grasping at healing, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that I bottle my emotions up. I’m working on that.

The man raised me, helped shape who I am, never gave up on me, showed me when stubborn is good and when its bad, cheered me on, lifted me up, encouraged me, and made me laugh when I wanted to cry. He showed me what strength is, and that anything you want to do you can – as long as you don’t give up. He was the only person who could look at me and know what was in my head, and I’ll always strive to live up to who he was and what he stood for.

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