Human nature is to remember the worst and forget the best. Why we are wired this way is beyond me, but sometimes it makes sense to think back and try to remember all the good times.
I remember every time my old man fixed anything he would sing a cacophonous song of the most crass obscenities I have ever heard. I never imagined that when I became an adult I would sing the same song of frustration whenever any repairs had to be done on my cars.
There was the time he spent the whole day in the basement building something cool. He never told me what it was but I think it was an automatic damper for the woodstove we had that heated the entire house. At the end of the day he proudly showed us “R2D2 and C3P0″two little groupings of electronics that we imagined to be the robots from Star Wars trapped in the wiring of the basement of our house.
Every Monday night we had Family Home Evening (what I now tell Orion is Forced Family Fun). We’d sit around and mostly play boardgames of which my father almost always won. He wouldn’t just win of course, he would grind everyone else into dust. He was a good sport by nature, I had to learn to be. I guess I still have a lot to learn on that front. I think about my son and our love of boardgames and I smile when I think of all our Monday nights together.
On the weekends we would see my father the most. He had a little lawn tractor that he had a love affair with. As the vice president of Citizens Savings bank he drove a car that he paid $300 for while all his contemporaries at the bank had BMW’s and Mercedes. This tractor cost him over $5000. 40 years later he still has it, and it still runs. It was a yellow Cub Cadet and we sung the sing “Riding along on the little yellow tractor” over and over and over again. We would pile onto the trailer that he had built from scratch out of scrap metal and an axle off an old car. We would drag our feet on the grass off the back and sometimes when we hit a bump the pin would pop out and the tractor would flip-up and dump us all on the ground into a great big laughing pile. Oh the adventure of it all.
Cutting down trees in the woods was probably his favorite thing to do. We would all make an exodus to the woods 1/4 mile away on the tractor then we would play in the woods while he felled the trees and cut them up. Then like the dutiful indentured servants we were, we would load all the wood into the trailer to ride back to the house on top of the giant pile of logs. I remember imagining the trailer tipping and getting crushed under hundreds of pounds of logs, but the pin never came out with the trailer fully loaded.
On hot summer nights we would go behind the house with ball mason jars and catch as many fireflies as we could. I remember taking the jars back home and hiding them under the covers and watching them blink away in my own special space. It always seemed like they were trying to talk directly to me, but when I got older I found out they were just trying to get a little action. In the morning the jar would be empty and the fireflies would be freed again.
My father loved to garden and had the greenest thumb of anyone I had ever met. It brought him so much joy to steal plants out of the dumpsters of Plantations at Cornell and then bring them back to life within his own realm. I never got his Green Thumb but I did learn an appreciation for nature that has stayed with me throughout my life. At one point he grew hundreds of trees from seed then planted them all in his garden together and never harvested them. He ended up with rows of solid trees as the trees grew up and grew together the best they could.
I was hyper sensitive as a child and in so many ways I could not relate to my father or anyone else for that matter. I was always happiest when I was by myself reading or playing with Lego. I never really understood what it was like to deal with myself until I had a child of my own and saw how hard it really is to raise such a sensitive child.
My old man is the most stubborn, persistent person I have ever met. He always did things the hard way and delighted at doing the jobs no one else wanted to touch. He never followed the herd and always followed his own path. The most important thing he taught me was to have integrity. He is the glue that has held my family together year after year. Seeing him care for my oldest Brother on his deathbed for 5 long years was quite an inspiration to me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live up to the standards he does, but I will try.
The biggest thing he taught me, was how to love. How to stand by your children no matter what may come. I am grateful for everything he has done to me over the years beyond anything I could ever say. He has always been there for me when I needed him, he’s seen me at my worst and my very best. He drove to NY when our car got stolen and were stuck in a riot with the NYPD. He bailed me out of jail when I got arrested for using a US Postal Service bag (A serious felony). He helped me when things were good, and he helped me when I needed it but couldn’t ask. I am truly blessed to have 50% of his genetic material.