I can just imagine it: the way his usually rigid jaw and tight lips would soften in a half-smile. When told, he would query quietly, “Am I?” His blue eyes would twinkle and he’d pause just a second then say, “Well, I guess I am,” and chuckle softly. He was not a man to wallow in his accomplishments but this is something he wanted for so long. He would have turned 100.
You would have never guessed his age. His appearance, like the rest of him, was both an open book and an enigma. Stripes and plaids, a copper bracelet, a belt of twisted cable, the watch he wore upside-down. Though he offered no pretense, you never knew him well until you read between the lines. He did not waste words but neither did he mince them. A single glance spoke volumes. He did not lavish praise but conveyed his love unfailingly.
Memorial Day. For many, the words conjure up a weekend to party, back yard barbecues and get togethers and marks nothing more significant than the brilliant start of the summer season. For me, and for my family and for millions of others, it is a more solemn occasion. It runs much deeper than red, white and blue table decorations, plastic cups and burgers and dogs. It is truly a day to honor the fallen, those who died while defending our nation.
I learned early to appreciate the significance of the day. My father served at Guadalcanal and, later, in Washington DC. He had a distinguished career in the Army Reserves. But Memorial Day, he reminded his children, is not for the living–it is for the dead. Those who left to serve and didn’t return. It affected my father deeply and, in turn, the solemnity of the occasion was made clear to us, his flock of nine offspring.
My mother likes to explain that, when her brood was young (long before Monday holidays rearranged our calendars), many of us thought that Washington’s birthday was a holiday only because is was my father’s birthday–and therefore a holiday just for him. If it were up to me, we’d still be celebrating my father’s birthday every year as a national holiday. As a matter of fact, we’d celebrate in grand style. There would be pageantry: dancing girls and horses with plumes, in the way he once requested. He’d get quite a kick out of it, I know. Particularly those dancing girls.
Posted in A Bridge Between, A Glimpse of the 8th Child, Fathers and Daughters, On Aging Parents, The Story of 'A Bridge Between'
Tagged #aBridgeBetween, adult children of aging parents, aging parents, children and care of aging parents, eldercare, fathers and daughters, loss of parent
In a very timely visit, my sister Jan has been touring Yellowstone National Park this week. The park was one of the more spectacular venues my family visited on our 11,000-mile cross-country adventure in 1963. For me, seeing it when I was only six years old, Yellowstone left an indelible impression. I have also revisited the park in the past and hope to go again someday. For now, I will enjoy it through my sister’s recent pictures and this except from A Bridge Between which may help explain why both the park and my father hold a special place in my heart.
A Bridge Between(Original verse written 1967 October 22 by Carlo A. Pola. Notations by the 8th child.)
A word, a laugh, a tearIn those final hours, we gathered and chatted and smiled and cried.
A way back when
He was there for us, always,
A helping hand now and thenand as he’d cared for us, so did we for him.
An attentive ear to youth’s hopes and fearI spoke softly to him, stroked his hair and held his hand.
A father’s yes to a child’s requestNo questions left to answer, God’s will alone would rule.