Friday, June 5, 2009
My father died just before Christmas last year and yesterday I got around to going through his things. It's not something you ever picture yourself doing even though it's a job almost all of us can expect.
My dad and I had a few rough years recently..well a couple of rough decades really. He was Southern, and a drinker, and he had made some very poor life choices that somehow I became responsible for in the end.
I have tried to remember him young and successful, flying airplanes, sailing boats, telling stories, holding everyone enthralled in that rolling honey boil of a voice. I have tried remembering being the apple of his eye and following him on a thousand adventures.
Going through his things there weren't too many reminders of those times we spent together that were good. Mostly I saw evidence of his downward spiral. There was a box of old photos and cards that I had given him and other personal scraps of memories that conjured the bright times...but all in all my father just wasn't there.
Strangely enough, it was an old flannel coat that brought him back to me. A snuggy jacket he had worn on wood cutting expedition's, and fishing trips, and working on my house and in the garden. A coat he had only worn in old age and never in his hey day. But somehow it held the smell of him, the essence of him...woodsmoke and fresh air and Irish Spring soap and tobacco, that I recalled from my early years when he was still my hero.
I tossed it in the dump with most of his other things...but for some reason I couldn't leave it and I scrambled back in and pulled it out and held it pressed to my face. Then with my eyes closed and my nose in old flannel I could remember going to Pleasure Island on the boat and looking for pirates, and watching the thunderstorms roll in together from the safety of the garage, lightening bugs in a jar, learning to sail by starlight, talking late into the night, and being tucked in, and a million other moments.
A large part of being a father, of being a parent, is making mistakes...but hopefully if you do something right, you will be remembered for more than that. You will be greater than the sum of your left overs..
You will linger on in as a scent, an adventure, a gentle touch in the large dark night. You will be remembered.