One year ago today, my father died. He was ninety years old.
A post by Rachel Coyne reminded me of when my dad taught me to ride a bicycle without training wheels. He had watched me teeter back and forth on those stabilizing tires, never really gliding free from them. So for a while, Dad dutifully mowed the front lawn, but for some odd reason let the back yard grow. Soon, to my chagrin, the grass was a foot high. Not having a great deal of self confidence at the time, I was embarrassed at the sight. One sunny Saturday, Dad called me out to the backyard, and there he stood with my bike, sans training wheels. "Come on, let's ride. Trust me," he said. I got up on the bike, and that dear man ran through the thick grass beside me as it held me up; I rode around the yard pumping for all I was worth, and when he channeled me out into the front yard into the short grass I slid, glided, soared down the street laughing and hollering. It was so simple. I would give anything to have seen his face as I rode away.
I wanted to say some things about my dad today, but after I spent a while with pictures of him, mostly from his younger years, they seemed to want to speak for themselves. Here, he's one.
This is dad at 19 with his first car.
Apparently he was quite a catch while studying to be a teacher in college.
"Betty Bishel? seems attracted to hardware...especially a Hammer" and "Barnum's comes to town--Harry Smith, Don Hammer, and John Vargo earned their passes by watering the elephants." Can't wait to share that with my book group--we read "Water for Elephants" this summer.
As a youngster, he learned to fly, and left college to join the war effort in 1942.
Probably taken around the same time, this photo I think reveals the gentleness inside a sometimes gruff exterior.
He married my mom...
and he played with my sister while they waited for me to be born.
He was quite the character...
even as he got older...
and older still.
(My mother looks like Sweet Baby Jane or something. She's never looked like this a day in her life.)
This afternoon I visited him.
I changed out his flowers for a sparkly Christmasy thing--complete with my mom's passport photo when we returned from the Philippines after my birth. (She's holding both my sister and me, though I think I've been laundered off---it went through the wash in his wallet too many times to count.) I brought Krispy Kreme chocolate covered donuts. He loved donuts.
My sister called while I was there. She tearily told me that she and I will be together for a very long time. All these crazy blackbirds were squawking in a tree, maybe 200 of them. It was cold and damp, but I felt loved and alive.
(By the way, my sister's way more beautiful than this photo reveals.)
I ate a couple donuts and talked to dad a while; then I left a donut for him and came home.