It's hard to believe that thirty years have past since we lost my dad. This year, I am the same age he was in '83 and my youngest child is the same age I was that year. Thirty years apart. I wonder what he would have thought about being a Grandpa?
Time passes in strange ways, hurling one event into the past, while another seems like yesterday. In some ways, a lifetime has transpired since 1983, but some sights, sounds and smells seem less than an arms reach away.
Missing someone close is an odd mix of laughter and pain. At one moment, the thought of my father will make me smile, even giggle, over no event in particular. Another moment will find me tearing up, again, over no particular memory. Memories of a ten year old are foggy and unreliable at the best of times, add in thirty years and most of what I have are more blurry memories than actual events and conversations. I remember some events clearly, odd events, but significant ones.
I remember clearly waiting for a Star Wars Snow speeder or maybe a Tauntaun that we had ordered to come in the mail. I can see the size and shape of the box, I can even see his hands on the box.
I can see him shoveling out the outhouse in the back yard (what an odd memory is that?) but it is a fond one, and I cling to it. I remember hoping that I would grow up to be as strong as him. He seemed to have mastered the use of the same shovel that seemed so big and unwieldy to me.
He spent a lot of time on the screen-porch working clay into tiles and I can still see him clearly through the old warped glass of the big window of the shed out back, working on something or other. Who knows what he was working on, but I am sure that it was important and manly and cool.
I clearly remember getting in trouble for running around without a shirt on, in the chill of late fall or early spring. I was the Hulk and had to have my shirt off when I "hulked out"... dad did not seem to care. That day, the Incredible Hulk had to wear a shirt... how humiliating. I can still hear his voice, though I could not see him, through the trees that covered the front of the house.
I still have his hat, but my head is too big for it, so I bought a new one, black like his. I pluck at his guitar on occasion, but have neither the voice or talent on the strings to make it sound like he did. Songs like Yesterday, Summertime, Amazing Grace still bring a lump to my throat, though most of the time, I don't remember why. He used to walk through the house singing, while playing the guitar.
I remember getting to go to his work and reading Tintin books on the lumpy couches at the Batch. Watching him splice film or the smell of the 8mm projector in the evening. Playing the one Mickey Mouse reel backwards. I remember his film camera in his hand and seeing him dressed up for the AmTrak trip to see Grandma and Grandpa in Chicago. I have a handful of clear memories, not enough, it seems, for a decade worth of living. But good ones. Memories that remind me of who my dad was, at least, who he was to a ten year old boy.
If you are reading this and you knew my dad, you have different memories of the man. You may even have different recollections of the same events. Like the game of telephone, I am sure that my memories have morphed over the years.
My dads hat and guitar are routinely pulled out and the dust removed. The same needs to be done for our memories. And so, here is a moment of dusting for you, dad.
We miss you.