Remembering my father on his 75th birthday

My dad would have been 75 today, February 22nd, a birthday he shared with another great man, George Washington.

I’m thankful that in the year or so leading up to my father’s passing, I happened upon an online photo journal by Phillip Toledano, Days With My Father.  It is a beautiful, simple homage to one man’s father that was created over the course of three years.

After seeing that, I knew that if the worst should happen for both my father (and my grandmother, who also passed in 2011 and would have been 95 earlier this month), I would want to have memories such as these.

I only managed to capture a few images of my dad that I really liked over the course of that last year, mostly because he didn’t much feel like having a camera in his face and, living 3,000 miles away, my visits were short and far between.  But even to have those few photos is a bit of a blessing now when I want to remember him like he was, as though I could just reach out and touch him this very moment if I wanted to.  While it is nice to have the official studio type portraits of the ones you love, I find the most powerful photos are the ones that take us back to the real life that was being lived at any given moment.

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I will always remember my father’s hands.  They accomplished so much.  He was an engineer and extremely rational, intelligent man, but he was artistic as well, always creating something with those hands of his.  They were never idle for too long.

I remember him so often in his “workshop”, the entire basement of the house I grew up in, sawing, hammering, saudering, painting, tinkering away for hours creating anything – carved wooden works of art, oil paintings on canvas, birdhouses, the list was limitless.  Oftentimes, he would have a deep gash along a finger or in the palm of his hand or a blackened portion of a fingernail, evidence that something had gone slightly awry during the creative process.

His hands will always be precious to me for all the love that they produced and the evidence they left behind that he was here.

Dad’s chair. It is huge, like a throne.  Amazingly comfortable, he preferred it for sleep over a bed in his final years.  He was a night owl, like me, so his bedtime varried from midnight to two a.m. Often he would get up in the wee hours of the morning and “work” at his computer across from his chair.  He would then sleep in his chair until late afternoon when he would finally stir and start to come alive for the day.

Never far from him were his glasses and I can still hear the click as he opened them to don them for the purpose of investigating whatever issue may be at hand or to read whichever books he was devouring at the moment.  His glasses are something I never realized I associated with him so much until I was cleaning out his desk drawer and came across a couple pairs.  There is no reason to keep them now, but they were so much a part of him, I found myself tucking them into the far back corner of the drawer because . . . because there is no where else for them to go.  They are right where they belong, waiting patiently.

Later in the evenings he sat back in his chair to watch Fox News followed by recorded episodes of How It’s Made. Out came the TV Headphones (what a battle it was to get him to FINALLY admit he couldn’t hear and wear them!) and one of a seemingly endless supply of remote controls.  At this point in the day, my mother joined him in the “Media Room” and you could always find them there together until she retired to bed, turning out the lights as she went.  Eventually, after much dosing throughout the evening, the TV would be turned off, the computer shut down and my father would officially “go to bed” in his big, comfy chair.

I’ve mentioned already the avid reader my dad was.  Books and magazines have always been stacked in every nook and cranny in our homes.  My father was generous with his books, lending them out to anyone who showed any interest.  The amount he read during his lifetime amazes me.  There is a newspaper clipping somewhere showing him in a classroom setting as part of a course on speed reading.  His work at Lockheed required a good deal of reading, but long before that he was voracious about it.  Cleaning out the bookshelves in his bedroom at my grandmother’s house the range of topics were diverse and in depth – how to make your own bullets, how to build your own camera, how to taxidermy, how to paint realistic skin tones; If there was an endeavor and a how to book out there for it, the man had consumed it whole.

My dad, in his chair, enthralled in a book.  Today, on what would have been his 75th birthday, this is how I remember those days with my father.

 

. . . I want you to know

as your feet cross the threshold,

that all the seeds you have planted,

will continue to grow.

I want you to know,

as you move forward on your journey,

how the tears from my heart,

will forever flow.

. . . I want you to know,

in case I haven’t told you before,

that I need you to stay

and help me find my way.

– joy fisher

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