June 19, 2011
Feelin' Kinda Sunday
Dad loved to camp, and dragged my family around Michigan, Canada, the East Coast, and out West, pulling a pop-up camper behind him. All I can say is...bless my mother for going along with that idea. Three sweaty, bratty kids in the backseat pinching and fighting with each other must have underscored every trip. Still, I can picture Dad standing on the edge of a cliff, binoculars focused on some distant mountain (probably wishing he could find a way to escape us and have a real vacation.)
Being a teacher, our vacations had to have some kind of historical value for Dad. We never saw a beach or an amusement park. However, we saw Mount Rushmore, Mount Vernon, Gettysburg, Williamsburg, Quebec; Booth Bay Harbor, Maine (where I got food poisoning for the first of many many times--yes, while camping.) Later in life, his favorite vacation places were Tobemori, Michigan and Corpus Christi, Texas.
Dad was an avid golfer throughout his life. Golf was a major part of our family while growing up. My mom golfed, and subsequently, so did I. Dad shaved down his wooden golf clubs (can you imagine...wood!) to make me my own set when I was about six. I promptly gave my baby sis a black eye when she stood behind me while I swung. I was then sent to Golf Lesson Hell at Burning Tree Golf Club. I have a memory of me and my friend, Karen Baxendale, who was the daughter of my parent's friends, lugging our clubs around the course, grumbling about how we didn't want to golf, but rather play in the pool and eat brownies.
That my dad passed away a couple days before Father's Day, 2009, doesn't sadden me as you would expect. As a Christian, I knew he had gone on to a better life, without physical ailments and heartbreak. And as a Christian, he too knew there was something better coming his way. He didn't fear death, that I know.
I left Michigan shortly after my marriage, went into business for a number of years, and came back for occasional visits, especially around the holidays. But in between there were phone calls and letters. Dad was a journalist, and a letter writer. I have some of his journals, and many of his letters written throughout the years. And then later, his emails when my sisters and I dragged him, kicking and screaming, into the Age of Technology. Dad savored the feel of putting pen to paper. The whole email computer thing felt impersonal to him. In fact, he would write out his emails on a legal pad and then transcribe them into the emails. You might be thinking, awww, he really loved the old-fashioned style of correspondence, but actually I'm thinking he wanted to make sure he had a back up copy of what he wrote to us, just in case he got called on the carpet for some misunderstood word choice.
In those journals and letters, I am able to understand my father far better than I ever was in person, talking to him. Dad was kind of clueless about women in that...he never truly understood my sisters and I. He tried, though. He supported us, and took an active interest in our lives. But he was wired from another time, and that time didn't always jive with the women we had become, especially in light of growing up without a mother to guide us into womanhood. We had to do that with a stepmother or two whose ideas and personalities were at drastic odds with the woman who gave birth to us. But in the end, we all turned out okay. My sisters went on to have families, making our father a grandfather, and I went on to have cats...but that's another story.