I spent a good part of today getting reacquainted with my dad.
It began when I had the idea to write a blog entry about the first thing I ever wrote - or at least the earliest piece of writing in my possession. I dug through my memorabilia boxes and came up with a story written when I was eight years old.
I looked at the date and realized I had written it after my dad’s death. I wanted to know just how long afterward, so I dug around in all my family stuff and re-discovered a booklet my mom had made for all us kids years ago. It was filled with documents and letters and pictures - even a short recording of his voice. Of course, most of the booklets contents were familiar to me but there was one detail I had missed on the first reading. Apparently when he was flying planes in the Air Force and radioing with ground control, his code name was ”Whiskey Tango”. I liked that. I liked the feeling of learning something new about him.
How many things can most people remember from their early childhoods? For me there are only a few scattered, vague memories of my dad. One is walking next to him on our way down to the Dime Store. I really only remember his legs from the thigh downward. He had such long legs and I had to take several steps for each one of his. Two steps were not enough, three were too many. So we were out of sync, back in, out of sync, back in . . . I remember games of triple solitaire with him and my sister and how we creamed her every time because she was always trying to keep her cards in neat straight rows. I remember his body being carried down the stairs by two EMTs and my mother trying briefly to stop me from looking. I suspect that the rest of my memories are actually snapshots I am remembering the pictures and not the moments.
What I don’t remember is mourning. I suppose, being eight, I had an easier time of rolling with the punches than my older siblings, yet it strikes me as a bit strange how fast I seemed to do it.
I wrote this story just four weeks after he died.
What follows is Little Miss Efficiency’s Checklist for Dealing with Tragedy.
Point #1: express your greatest fear.
Point#2: come up with a plan in case that happens (don’t want to be caught off-guard a second time).
Point #3: figure out why it happened and who is to blame.
Point #4: deal with it and move on.
Now, 45 years later, I wonder about the quickness of my moving on and find there are things I would still like to know about him. What did he think of me? What were his hopes for all of us? Did he give good hugs? Would he have liked my husband? Played golf with him? How would he have reacted to meeting his granddaughters? . . . And if he were alive today - a man in his eighties - would I talk to him in a slightly patronizing way?