Sunday, June 19, 2011
My father was 55 when I was born. My mother was his third wife, and she was 26 years younger. I didn't think of him as an old man. He took me out on the river in our pontoon boat. Took me fishing and on picnics. Took me on special outings without my mother and indulged my love of horses and cowboys by buying me plastic models of Roy Rodgers and Trigger, Dale Evans and Buttermilk. Wyatt Erpp and so many more.The bookshelves in my study still hold these mementoes from my childhood.
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise, he told me. The early bird catches the worm, he said. Birds of a feather flock together. Don't go looking for trouble, trouble will find you.
It did. And he didn't forsake me. You don't look any worse for the wear, he said.
The last time I saw my father, he had already been dead for fifteen years. He came to see my new baby daughter. Just wanted to see what she looked like, he said. I never got to see your son. The power of love can pull us from one world to back to the other. A gift.
My father was too soft-hearted to be a good businessman, my mother said.
But I remember the river. That he pulled me up by my bathing suit straps the day the snakes came at me. That he turned me upside down in our kitchen when I choked on a piece of steak. I remember
that he sat at the head of our dinner table every night. And that afterwards I could find him in his recliner behind The Des Moines Register.
I remember that he drove me three hundred and fifty some miles to college. And that he sent me a cardboard heart full of Valentine's candy that arrived in my dorm room after I came back from his funeral.