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Posts Tagged ‘Fathers’

Happy Birthday Jane!

Before I left for Maryland I wanted to make sure that I nudged another poem from Dad’s heart.  Dad smiled, picked up pencil and paper and began to write……..

Dad writing Birthday Poem for Jane

Dad writing Birthday Poem for Jane

Dear Jane

Birthdays come

But one day a year

It’s a day to remember, –

A day to cheer.

Especially you, Jane

For you always have smiles, –

And they come from down deep, –

Mile after mile.

That must be why

I always look forward

To seeing and throwing you a kiss

Every once and a while.

Much love,

Dave

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Father’s Day 2013 …. A gorgeous day for a walk with Dad….

Chris and Dad on Father's Day 2013, Leonard J. Buck Gardens, Far Hills, NJ

Chris and Dad on Father’s Day 2013, Leonard J. Buck Gardens, Far Hills, NJ

The frogs croaked loudly, harmonizing with the screaming mating call of the cicadas when I arrived at Chelsea to spend Father’s Day with Dad.  I awoke him from his slumbers.  Forget the shower…. we’re going for a walk on this beautiful day!

oops…… Leonard J. Buck Garden doesn’t open until noon.  No problem.  Dad had missed breakfast. I had whisked him off without even a cup of coffee.

Coconut Truffles for breakfast?

Coconut Truffles for breakfast?

There’s a lovely cafe just up the road from the garden.  While Dad held our table, I ordered breakfast….. double cappuccino, bran muffin, spinach quiche and coconut truffles. Dad was a bit confused by starting the day with coconut truffles while we waited for our quiche to be heated.  Perfect time to write a poem.

Patches of Blue

A table out front

Of a sidewalk cafe

We sit in bright sun

Daughter, Chris and I

The sun shines brightly

Upon the paper I write

The cars roll by

The pedestrians are chattering.

The sun shines so brightly

Upon the paper I’m writing

While Chris waits expectant

For something to be “said”.

But, words seem to delude me

a most common thing

Words are most powerful things

If carefully used.

Watching Dad ponder over his words while the quiche cools.

Watching Dad ponder over his words while the quiche cools.

We returned to Leonard J. Buck Garden, greeted by open gates.

Admiring beauty

Admiring beauty

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to walk the gardens, the paths drenched in the fragrance of blossoms bursting from the wet, spring weather.

Walking without destination

Walking without destination

We tackled one of the steeper paths and rested on a bench when we reached to top of the hill.  Dad commented on the noise of the cicadas.  It was a perfect time for me to pull out the letter I had written for him seventeen years ago.  He listened intently as I read it aloud.

Seventeen Years Ago

Seventeen Years Ago

At the end, he patted my knee and nodded.

The descent

The descent

Climbing up the hill was far easier than descending.  My heart was in my throat most of the time.

“Steady, Dad….. steady.”

He made it down safely.  Stopped, took a deep breath and looked up at the sky.

Reflections

Reflections

We stopped one more time to rest on a bench beside the pond.  We sat in silence for a long time until Dad remarked, “Life is good.”

“Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Yes, life is good.”

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Last week, I finally sorted through several boxes of papers I saved when we cleared out Dad’s house.  Among the papers, I found a letter I wrote to Dad seventeen years ago.  Now, as I retype the letter to share with you on Father’s Day, the seventeen year cicadas are again singing their mating song…… quite loudly!

17 year cicada

17 year cicada

Father’s Day 1996

Out of bed early, as usual, later than a weekday morning, but early nonetheless.  The first alarm sounded at four-thirty…… roused the kids at seven.  both Nicole and Mike had games this morning so the three kids spent Friday night with us instead of their father picking them up last night.

What a pleasant evening we had.  Mike explored the farmer’s fields on his mini bike and then joined the girls in the pool to splash off the day’s heat and to taste the freedom of the weekend.  The sky exploded with the threats of a storm but amounted to nothing more than thunder.  After the sun set we all joined together in the living room to watch a movie Tom had picked up on the way home, Parenthood, in honor of Tom’s first year as a parent.

I left for the ball fields before the rest of the family.  They would follow later in the van.

The morning air blew cool against my bare skin and the sun painted long, shadowed, morning patterns across the fields.  My right leg ached as always.  I have to run on the right side of the road.  The tilt of the left side tortures my aging, damaged body.

Hah!  Aged and damaged.  I felt like a million dollars this morning as I ran past the cornfield that draped the gentle contours of the land like a chenille bedspread across a sleeping body.  Another half mile and my body would find a comfortable rhythm.  Another half mile and perhaps my mind would empty the clutter that raced through it.  Dad always says that a walk clears the head.  Dad always says that a walk is a good time for ideas to flow, to form, for thoughts to sort themselves out and solutions to emerge.  Dad always said that taking car of my health is a priority.

Among the clutter of thoughts that fought for my attention lay the dilemma of a Father’s Day gift for Dad.  For months I’d been thinking about it.  In the past, money was always a factor.  Now, it’s not.  Now it’s even harder to decide on a gift because I have the freedom to choose something very special.  Hmmmmm. No more airplanes, no more kites, no more books, they’re not what I want this time.  Hmmmmmmm.

The screeching drone of the cicadas steals my attention.  I try to think of what they sound like.  What else have I heard in my forty-four years of life that sounds like the deafening sound of cicadas enjoying wild sex after seventeen years underground?  Hmmmm.  I’m a bit like a cicada myself.  I lived buried, in a way, for seventeen years, too.  Now I’m out of the ground having great sex.  But I’m luckier than the cicada.  I get to stick around for a while.  Ah!  I know the sound.  Every Halloween, stores stock a noisemaker for children, an oval-shaped tin box that revolves around a short stick held in a child’s hand.  With a whipping, circular motion, the child can get it going.  If amplified a hundred fold, it might sound like the mating of horny cicadas.

Whew!  Glad I figured that one out.

I turn right, onto Woodglen Road.  The fragrance of the wild roses saturates the air.  With each deep breath my mouth is coated with another layer of sweetness.

I feel strong.  My body is tan.  My legs are showing muscles that have lay hidden for too many years.  Running is good for me.  Running has always been good for me.  I started running a long time ago.

there I was this morning, running to a ball park.  Thirty years ago, I started running in a parking lot next to a ball park where Howard played.  Dad and I decided to try out something new called Aerobics.  Around and around we ran.  We ran together that night and we ran together for the next few years.  We awoke early.  We watched the sun rise together.  We turned the last bend together calling out “Home stretch!” and we ate breakfast together after showering (not together).  Dad went off to work and I went off to high school.  I liked the feeling of already having done something worthwhile before I even stepped up into the giant yellow school bus.

I was the only girl that ran in my high school.  I often skipped lunch to run.  Students and teachers couldn’t figure out what made me do it.  I didn’t care … it cleared my head.  It made me feel strong.

Thirty years later, I have a new partner to run with, Alexis.  I smile, knowing that in thirty years she will still hold precious the memories of our morning runs together as i hold precious the memory of runs with Dad.

Dad and I didn’t really care how fast we ran.  We wanted to be side by side to share a favorite tree, to smell the same smells, to share ideas.  I learned how to spit while running as well as how to blow snot out of my nose without getting it on my face.  Dad taught me those useful skills.

…. A jeep passed, leaving me in a vacuum, a void, robbed of all smells and sensations.  Gradually the void filled once again with life.  I checked my body…. legs fine …. lungs fine.  Hmmmm. Still no brilliant idea for a Father’s Day gift.

I ran past a garden filled with peonies in full bloom.  Mine didn’t bloom this year.  I moved them.  Maybe the ants couldn’t find them.  If the ants don’t eat away the covering of the bud, the peony won’t bloom.  Hmmmm. I wonder if I could make a picture book based on the relationship between ants and peonies.  Illustrations exploded inside my head.  I began to think of a possible storyline.  Dad would think of a good one, I’m sure.  Dad is so incredibly good at making up short stories that teach simple, and sometimes not so simple, lessons.  I wish I had his ability to tell stories.  Hmmmmm. Stories…… Writing.

Not only did Dad play a major part in my physical well-being by getting me on the road to running, he played a major role in my life as a writer.  Mom, too.  both Mom and Dad read to us all the time.  Dad and Mom are a good team.  they are honorable.  They are honest, They are caring and loving.

I arrive at the ball field.  Only on Dad and his daughter are there before me.  Within the next twenty minutes, the field behind the school fills with children and parents.  Four games are beginning, two softball and two baseball.  Michael’s game is first, at nine, then Nicole’s at eleven.

Tom Donelly umps Michael’s games.  He’s a perfect ump.  I met him fifteen years ago.  He owns Autumn Harvest, the health food store in Scotch Plains.  He lives near the Bunnvale Library.  His son, Joel, goes to school with Michael.  They play baseball together.  Tom looks like he stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting, his baggy pants, his cap on backwards, his slight build, the dusty rose rag that hangs from his right pocket, the stance, the movements.  And, he is fair.  he is incredibly fair, never showing favoritism.  Dad was like that when he coached Howard;s team.  A lot of parents didn’t like Dad’s fairness because it meant losing games sometimes.  But Dad doesn’t know how to live life any other way.  I think some of that fairness rubbed off on me.

I haven’t always played life fairly, but I’ve tried to.  When push came to shove I played fair because I didn’t know any other way, either…. just like Dad.

As I sat at the ballgame watching Michael play, watching Nicole take photographs of interesting things (Dad also got me interested in photography and helped me with my first darkroom that Mom was kind enough to allow me to set up in the kitchen after the sun went down), I decided that the best gift I could give Dad is my shared thoughts and reflections of our times together and the influence, the incredibly powerful influence he has had on my life….. and I am grateful.

Thanks, Dad.  I love you.  Happy Father’s Day!

Love,

Chris

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May 30, 2013

It’s difficult to predict how many more walks my father and I will take together.  It could be a hundred …. and it could be only one. Dementia of any kind is such a puzzle, and totally unpredictable.

Do I really need both?

Do I really need both?

Dad appeared to be in another world today, distant, unengaged.  Though he had a great deal of difficulty getting out of his chair.  Once he was on his feet, he moved slowly……. very s-l-o-w-ly, but well-balanced and cautious. His standard remarks were left unsaid.  He didn’t glance at the sky until I mentioned it to him.  He didn’t ask about my family, or how I’ve been, or where we were going. He voiced only one concern.

“I don’t need both of those, do I?”

The opportunity to ask that same question came up at least six times before we headed to the herb garden at Lord Stirling Park.  I continued to simplify my answer until I ended up with.

“Either both or a walker, Dad.”

He surprised me the last time by saying, “Oh, I pulled you down, didn’t I?”

Months ago I had stopped mentioning the episode of his falling and yanking me down beside him on the ground.  It had only distressed him to think that he might have hurt me.  Perhaps memories continue to be made, only to be called into action at random.

I handed Dad his green sketchbook and pencil as we sat side by side in the herb garden.  As usual, he began reading his previous poems.  I assumed that he was avoiding writing something new.  Because of his extreme silence and lack of response to anything we passed on the way to the park, I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t remind him to write a new poem.  I began to draw….

Birdhouse beside the pond, Lord Stirling Park, NJ

Birdhouse by the pond, Lord Stirling Park

No more than five minutes passed before Dad settled in and put pencil to paper!  He didn’t even glance around at his surroundings.  He bent his head and focused on the words that poured from his pencil.  I suppose he doesn’t need to look around anymore to know what he would see. He feels the air on his cheeks and he knows he is outdoors.

Dad writing a poem

Dad writing a poem

On a Bench in the Park, Chris and Dad

The solid blue sky

Hovers overhead

While one tiny bird

Chirps a nice tune

The song of the bird

Is the only sound.

The leaves wave

But no breeze is heard.

That’s about all

There is to be said.

Enjoy the quietness

There is to be had.

I checked for the date

But my computer is dead.

So we’ll enjoy the silence

That is to be had.

June 30, 2014

When Dad’s phone appeared to be dead, he asked me the date.  I told him it was June 30th (my mistake…. it was still May).  For more than a year now he has thought it is 2014.  I was puzzled by his phone being dead since he had unplugged it from the charger right before we left Chelsea.  His phone was charged.  He just forgot how to turn it on.

Fortunately the bugs are not out yet at Lord Stirling Park.  We had a lovely, silent, s-l-o-w walk along the somewhat soggy paths.  Dad watched his feet the whole time, never looking up to the sky or out into the marshes.  It appeared that moving one foot in front of the other demanded all of his attention.  I’m glad I captured him square dancing a couple of weeks ago.

We took a short path, but not the shortest.  I spotted a bench and asked if he wanted to rest.  He shook his head and kept walking.  The day had grown quite warm and I feared Dad might overheat.  He had refused to change into his shorts, insisting that he would be fine in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

“Big sips, Dad, not tiny mouth sips.”

Each time Dad handed the water bottle back to me the water level looked about the same.

The trail brought us back to the herb garden where I found a bench in the shade of a grove of trees.  Out came the green sketchbook and pencil.  Again Dad read a few of his previous poems, and then set his mind to writing …. without any coaxing or coercing from me!

At a Later Date, Another Stroll in the Park

It’s quite warm.

Sweat runs down my right cheek.

Tiny birds flitter by.

A spider crawls across the page.

Tree’s leaves

Block the rays

Making it cool

To sit on the park bench

Resting the legs, —

Soothing the soul.

Nibbled Leaf

Nibbled Leaf

On occasion I’m asked why I draw rusty pipes, run-down shacks, lopsided trees and eaten leaves.  Why not draw lovely, new houses and perfectly shaped trees and leaves?

“Because real life is never perfect, except in its imperfectness, in its struggle and celebration of survival.”

I remember my first job, picking strawberries at Johnson’s Farm when I was fourteen.  I ended up being hired to work at the fruit stand where I sold the berries picked fresh each morning.  Most people wanted the large, perfectly shaped strawberries.  I sold them the big, beautiful berries wearing a smile on my face. They were practically tasteless, beauty without flavor.  I knew that the most delicious berries, the odd-looking little runts called “Sparkles” were the sweetest, most delicious of all the varieties and they would be the ones that hadn’t sold at the end of the day.  The Johnsons and I would be feasting on Sparkles for dessert after supper.  Some of the best moments are disguised by imperfections.

In the end, my walks with Dad will be among the many highlights of my life.  Fast or s-l-o-w, we walk together, sometimes talking, sometimes not.  Each step is so precious.

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Just a quick photo post…… I have two wonderful new poems to post tomorrow!  A trip to Lord Stirling Park seems to inspire the words to flow….. Check back tomorrow!

Dad and Jane, Prom Sweethearts!

Dad and Jane, Prom Sweethearts!

Dad fancied up with a different sort of Gramps’ tie.  A string tie wasn’t quite right for the event.  Never to0 old for a prom!

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May 14, 2013

Dad has been having trouble with his balance.  Walking is sometimes difficult even on level ground.  I’ve wondered why he hasn’t fallen when square dancing with Jane.  I decided to see for myself….. and here it is!  Amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFzq4DrZRjE&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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Last week, Thursday, February 7, 2013 in preparation for Valentine’s Day

Without hesitation, Dad began to write ……

Dad writing love poem for Jane

Dad writing love poem for Jane

A poem seems fitting

This Valentine;s Day

For someone I love

Who’s name, I say

Is Jane

Whenever I think of her

I picture a smile

For, it is there,

All the while

It’s her style!

Focused on love

Focused on love

Dad has forgotten so many things, so many people, so many years of his life.  What he has not forgotten are the children of the world  and the loved ones who bring so much joy to his life.

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