Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Fifty-seven

That's how old he would be today. He, being my father. It's been over 16 years since his death. Odd, since sometimes I can remember him as clearly as it was yesterday.

When I am slicing a potato and I choose one piece and salt it and pop it in my mouth it reminds me of my dad making potato soup in the kitchen. He would share a whole potato with me while he stirred the pot on the antique teal gas stove.

When I drive the gravel road west of my mom's place and see the trees I think of cutting wood with my dad. He used to drive the little white datsun and I would take my sled and fill it up with the wood and pull it to the pickup.

Faintly, I remember him holding by my arms and swinging me and feeling the rough scrub of his whiskers on my face.

Teaching me to drive the datsun in the driveway is a vivid memory. I drove it right into the telephone pole. I still cannot figure out a stick shift. He still let me take it out on the road, though. He used to say look as far as you can into the horizon and just keep the car in the center.

Visiting dad on the job site was a treat. Watching him walk on his stilts with ease...it was amazing. I used to think he was magic. Once, he wore stilts in the homecoming parade.

I remember the sound of the saw. The smell of the sawdust. My dad's fingers smoothing the piece of wood and blowing the dust away. Sometimes I can still smell him. He was always building something. The barn was his workshop. We would swing from the long ropes into the piles of hay bales while he worked.

I remember his stories about going to high school in Los Angeles with famous people. I remember him telling me how much he loved to sneak in after school and run around the track until his sides hurt and then he would lift his arms and keep running until the pain went away. Now, as I type this, I wonder why my father spent so much time running at the track instead of going home.

I remember the first time I saw him cry. It was at his mom's funeral. We were in the middle of nowhere. I remember the dark parlour and the casket, I was too small to see in it. I remember him sobbing in my mom's embrace. I remember driving for a long time to see his step father.

Lots of memories. I remember him telling me"two fingers" while I poured the canadian whiskey into the glass and then added the coke and later in his life the pepsi. This was our morning ritual. As soon as I was old enough to reach the liquor cabinet I was hired as bartender. At the time it was a great honor, looking back it is sad.

I remember late at night lying on the floor listening through the vents to mom and dad fighting about money and his drinking.

I remember the year he got his big promotion and we got blue cross blue shield. Dad worked away from home for three weeks and then he was home for a few days. He was building a shopping malls. He even built some stores in the empire mall in Sioux Falls. It was wonderful to see my mom happy about being able to pay some debt and get some of us to the dentist and the eye doctor. I can't believe I never thought about how lonely it would be for her. I am lonely when my husband has three 12 hour shifts in a row.

Later as his addiction worsened the memories become dark and sad. I don't like thinking about those.

There is so much that I would love to share with my dad. My wedding, my first home purchase, little projects he and Ryan could have worked on together. The birth of my children. I wonder what his relationship with my kids could be like... if he had stopped drinking.

I watched him once, pour a whole cup of hot coffee in his lap. He thought he was drinking it. I watched his eyes turn yellow and his skin shrivel up. At forty something years old he looked like he was eighty. Yucky, awful memories I don't want to think about.

Every September 8th I am reminded of his life. Regardless of the choices he made he was my father. I would not be who I am without him. Happy Birthday Daddy! I can hardly wait to see you again.
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