My girlfriends loved you. They would come to the house on Maybrook Road, or you would be driving us to the mall as the three or four of us crammed into the backseat, and they would be clammering for you to tell a story – or even better – ask that you tell the story in “double talk.” You were so funny when you performed for an audience.
Summers at the lake. When you taught me how to properly hold a canoe paddle. Oh, the soft, delicate sound it would make gliding through the still water, me trying not to hit the side of the boat. My eyes mesmerized as it made that perfect swirl. When you taught me how to sail the Sunfish – from preparing the boat to proper etiquette. How to tack, how to crew. The Saturday morning you made me crew with an older, very steely single lady who lived on the lake. I fought you, cried even. I did it, hated it, but it was a life lesson, one of many you taught me that made me a better human. When you taught me how to drive our WWII era red Willy’s Jeep. This was EVERYTHING. I was thirteen. You were patient with me (when many times you weren’t – and now I know why). Repeating the lesson. Clutch, shift, balancing the pedals, gaining speed up the hill only to have to stop. And do it again. And again. Stalling. You sitting in the passenger seat, forcing me to do it. Again. Again. Practice. “Do it again.” Then. Oh, the indescribable feeling of gaining traction on the dirt, the wind massaging my face, blowing my eyelashes up against my eyelids (the jeep didn’t have a top, of course, – oh, it was beautiful), gaining speed on the rocky surface, pebbles spitting from the back tires. Hoping my friends would see me but also hoping another car wasn’t coming towards us on the narrow lake road.
You even taught me proper restaurant manners – sounds silly and trite – but we spent a lot of time together, the two of us, during our Saturday lunches when you would pick me up after your dedicated AA meeting. Our conversations were both surfacey and deeper – the latter as I got older and more curious, but it was always a sacred time well spent together. Father and daughter.
As you grew older and you conquered your demons, you led by example. Humble, kind, altruistic, sometimes stern, but always compassionate. You taught me that one can change for the better. One can grow more patient. One can gain a healthier perspective. Especially as you grew older. Significantly, you taught me to learn from your mistakes.
I miss you intensely sometimes – like today. This reminiscence is powerful and especially emotional for me – concentrating on the teaching, learning, and the love between a father and daughter. I’m feel very lucky that Sophie and Jack have a devoted, loving, fun, compassionate relationship. I like to think we’re all connected somehow by a thread, touching each other’s lives.
It is 14 years today that we lost you unexpectedly. I’m hopeful for your visit today at the bird feeder – that bright red plume and beak, cracking those sunflower seeds. I love you, dad.