In my last post I introduced the Ancestor Remembrance Project that I am involved in with the Patheos Pagan channel. My mentor, Jen, wrote a lovely post yesterday about remembering her Nana. I’ve been incredibly busy and haven’t had much time lately to think about this project, but the last couple days I’ve had a few “nudges” that have really gotten me thinking about it. I’m supposed to be meditating, but as I mentioned, there’s a big time issue for me right now. However, Monday night I had a dream in which my Dad contacted me from beyond, and since he loved reading my blog and would ask me regularly when I was going to post again, I decided to multi-task and meditate while I was walking my dogs.
One of the things Jen and I agreed we were going to do for this project is write, whether publicly or privately, by starting with the phrase “I remember” or “I wish I remembered.” I don’t consider myself someone who remembers things very well. In fact, as I was meditating on it last night, I was at first really frustrated with myself because I felt like I didn’t remember much at all about my Dad. This saddened me greatly, because there were initially only a few big memories that stood out. And then of course there was the end, which is a painful memory, even if it is also an important one. As I thought more about it though, I realized I do have plenty of memories of my Dad, and at that point they just flowed. Since Dad came to me in my dream, I think I will start by remembering him.
I remember Dad’s smile—that crooked, contagious grin that could get everyone else around him smiling along with him. I also remember his eyes. They were a lovely blue, and I have always been so happy that I inherited that particular trait from him. His hands were strong and steady, and even at the end, with tubes sticking out of nearly every open space on his body as the machines worked to keep his organs alive, his hands were still his own—strong, calloused hands from years of hard work, but gentle enough to love my Mom and raise two girls. I remember how ticklish his kneecaps were at even the slightest touch, and how my sister and I would try to catch him off guard and tickle his knees.
My Dad worked a lot during my childhood, especially during the summer months. Even though he worked hard, and often 6 days a week, he still managed to find time to spend with the family, even though often he fell asleep in the arm chair in the evenings. I remember playing catch with him in the back yard, taking my first long-distance bike ride to Grandma and Grandpa’s house with him, and playing basketball in the driveway. When we would play H.O.R.S.E., he would always attempt the “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Hook Shot,” and of course when he managed to make a shot I had to do the same.
It drove my Mom crazy, but Dad would let me watch shows like NYPD Blue, ER, and the X-Files before bed time, and of course I would be too scared to go to bed afterwards, but it was our time together and it usually meant I got to stay up just a little bit later to forget about whatever I saw that scared me. He also let me watch The Simpsons, a show my Mom also disliked and thought I was too young to see. Ironically, Dad is also the reason I don’t enjoy watching TV now—it drove me crazy as I got older that he would change the channel during the commercials and would never go back to the original show he was watching. His method meant we never got to see an entire episode of anything!
There are so many good memories I have of my Dad, but it would be impossible not to also remember the times he struggled. You see, my Dad had an accident at 16 and developed an infection from that accident. The infection traveled to his heart, causing the need for a valve replacement at such a young age. A second replacement was needed after only a short time because the infection re-developed. Because of these surgeries and infections, he developed kidney problems and eventually needed a kidney transplant. In the 28 years I had with him, many of those years involved a surgery of some sort or another, including two more valve replacements. The last one is the one that ended his life, after complications from the surgery left him on life support.
While it would be easy to say I want to forget about those more difficult memories and only remember the good things, there are lessons to be learned in remembering the harder times, too. The last several years of Dad’s life were one long battle with his health, and it was hard to watch the strong, steady man I knew as a kid have a hard time doing things like bending over to tie his shoes. Through all of his struggles, and the pain he must have felt throughout his too-short life, day in and day out, he carried his burden well, and often we didn’t know the extent of the pain he felt.
There is so much more I could write about, but it’s so hard for me to organize my thoughts into a cohesive story I’d like to share. For now I’d just like to say that I remember you Dad. I remember your courage and strength to handle whatever was tossed your way, I remember the love you showed to your family, and I remember your smile. You are loved and missed.
This post is part of the Patheos Pagan Ancestor Remembrance Project.