Today is my Dad’s birthday. My mother used to say about him, “A creaking door never dies.” Not quite sure what that means, but at eighty-one he has outlived most of his family. My mother, his brothers and sister, his parents, and quite a few of his friends. The doctors said that his recent head injury should have killed him. That head? He’s a former pro soccer player and his head was one of his best weapons. I’ve actually seen him use it more than once during the endless games of my childhood. My mother would dress my sisters and I alike, the four little dolls that she grew up without, and we would have to sit in a row and watch “Daddy” play. I’ve also seen him use that head off the field, fortunately for me only once, unfortunately for the guy who received it in the jaw. Dad saw a guy in a bar slap a woman. I don’t remember any more about it than that, I was only around eleven or twelve, (Yes, I was in a tavern, not unheard of in the Irish crowd of my youth. Your parents friends were all there, and you just went along). He went outside with the guy, words were exchanged, the guy raised his hands, and then the head, right to the jaw. It burst like a fountain, and the argument was over. He was also a track star, and now he can barely walk. Age and a really bad knee cap replacement have taken their toll. The last few days have been enlightening in a number of ways. To begin with I feel saddened by seeing him in the forgetful condition he is in now. The head injury may not have killed him but it definitely had an effect. It also troubles me to see how he has given up. He is lonely, and bored, but no matter how many suggestions we make the answer is always, “I can’t”. That is disappointing for me because I know the man he used to be. And finally, the most enlightening of all was a glimpse of my parent’s life as a couple. I told my sisters that while I was here I would begin the enormous job of cleaning out some of the stuff that has accumulated in both the basement and the garage. My Dad had EVERY greeting card he and my mother had ever received or given each other. They were married for fifty years. Boxes and boxes of cards. I decided to sort them by daughter, a box for each of us, cards we gave them or our children gave them, and then two boxes for my Dad, one for cards from my Mom, one for cards that he gave her. As I sorted through them I found little terms of endearment, expressions of love, gratitude, and even a little humor. I’m sure you might not find that to be unusual, but if you had been around my parents the last few years you would have to wonder. They were always fighting,at least it seemed that way to me. When Mom died I overheard my Dad saying that they never had an argument. I remember thinking, “What? All they did was fight, where was he?”, but no one knows what goes on inside a marriage. It was a very pleasant surprise to read those cards. I learned something else in the last few days, I’m throwing crap out when I get home. When I look at the overwhelming task that awaits my sisters and I, I refuse to do that to my kids. You’re welcome Jessica and Brian.
I’ve been hanging on by a thread to my project this week. Tonight isn’t much better. We took Dad to an Irish Pub for dinner. You may know the type, prefabricated Irish pubs are opening all over the place, complete with Irish knick-knacks and artwork. I saw photo on the wall that caught my eye. As always a sketch pad and pen. A little bit of the old sod as my Dad would say, reflected in the water.