Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reminders of you, Dad

After Mr. B’s iPod broke, he “stole mine”. Since then, I haven’t listened to music on an airplane in a really long time. Yes I have music on my phone, but most of the time I am trying to conserve battery, or reading a book, or flipping through a magazine, or occupying myself enough that I don’t really need the distraction of music. Well, when there is a screaming child 4 rows behind you, you put headphones in.  Even if you don’t have music, you pray the little ear buds help drown out some of the shrills. On this trip, I needed music and a distraction. So in honor of the 4th anniversary since my dad’s passing, I decided to write while I jammed out to Blake Shelton.
 
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It’s hard to believe four years have gone by since I last talked to my dad. In fact, it makes me kind of sad how life just moves on and changes after you lose someone you never imagined your life without.

Big life events have happened since then. Including my sister having her third child in less than two months. She’s nesting and decided a couple weeks ago to clean out and organize her basement in preparation for baby Avery’s arrival. When we talked a few days later she said, “Oh guess what I found when I was cleaning? Dad’s checkbook and license.” I replied, “Wait, you have those things? I’d love to see his license photo. Was he in his heavy or skinny stage then?” She laughed and said, “His heavier stage.” What she said next, I wasn’t expecting, “You’ll never believe what he had inside the checkbook though. It was the Christmas card photo of you and Scott. The one of you in your Penn State jerseys.” I laughed. That was our very first Christmas card, and taken just five months before my dad had passed.

It made me smile that my dad kept that little reminder of us with him.

The funny part is, my dad never kept much. During the final years of his life, he lived a rather simple life in a small, one bedroom apartment. He shopped at the Dollar General Store for his toiletries and Walmart for most of his clothes. He was sentimental, but didn’t need keepsake items - such as books from our childhood, artwork from his grandchildren, or trophies from his own accomplishments - covering his living space or stored under his bed to remember the people and things that he loved. He carried most of his love in his heart and in his memories, which is why I found it shocking that he kept that Christmas photo of Scott and I tucked safely in the pocket of his checkbook.

Like my Dad, I toss nearly everything. I do have a pretty strong sentimental bone in me, but I hate clutter. While going through some of my dads personal items in days following his death, if someone had asked if I wanted to keep his checkbook, I would have said no without thinking twice about it. However, four years later, the idea of tracing his signature on the duplicate check pages with my fingertip, makes me wish I was the one who asked to keep his checkbook. Times like these, I am glad my siblings didn’t get that same “Toss Everything” trait that my dad gave to me. Otherwise, none of us would have anything to remember our Dad.

The conversation with my sister got me thinking though and I realized, I don’t really have very many items of my dad’s.

I did however, go searching for one item I remembered saving. It's kept it in a safe place, inside a little cloth patterned baggie with a drawstring tie. I opened the bag and pulled out a gold pocket watch that I had bought for my dad (with his money) when I was in the second grade at the Secret Santa Workshop. It’s still a shiny bright gold, and engraved with the letters “DAD” on the front. When you press the button to open it, the big hand and little hand are stuck on 8:28, the time it was when the battery died. The most special part of the watch, though, is when you look at the inside cover - it’s another photo of me. I don’t remember if I had put a picture in there before giving it to him, but even if I did, he updated it with a photo of me from my high school graduation.

Based on my Dad’s attitude of “If I don’t use it, I’m not keeping it”, I never imagined my older brother handing me the watch when we were going through our dad’s belongings.  Why else would he have updated the photo, if he didn't use it?
 


Dad, thank you for having reminders of me in your life. It’s funny how the reminders you had of me are now reminders I have of you, in my life. I love you and I miss you.

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There will always be events we wish he was here to share with us. Situations where we wish we had his advice. And days when we just want to hear his voice.

Until we meet again, I write on balloons every anniversary, all of the things he’s missed and release them for the heavens to catch. Most years, I am releasing them next to the mountains. This year, I am releasing them over the ocean. 

 

 
Chip, chip, Cheerio Mate.

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