Here in the U.S. today is Father’s Day. I was lucky. I had two dads, Patrick and John.
I lost John in 1990. I still grieve for him, look at his self-portrait and the things he gave me, and ask questions that he can no longer answer, but that loss has lost the harsh edges, worn down and smoothed by liquid time.
Today it was announced during the Winter Park High School (WPHS) commencement ceremony that Patrick (class of 1953) was inducted into the WPHS Circle of Distinction. This is a small, elite group of alumni, recognized because they “… realized distinctive achievements in their personal life or in their chosen field(s) that includes such areas as business, education, science, public service, community service, military, industry or arts.”
This is especially touching and appropriate because it was thanks to his high school principal and band teacher that he was able to secure scholarships for Florida State University, which set him firmly down the road on his lifelong pursuit of music.
I extend special thanks to Lee Liming, who put forward the nomination, and Ed Wycoff, who helped shepherd the nomination through the approval process. I also thank those on the selection committee for their efforts and support.
My father never said it publicly, but you could sense he worried that his accomplishments in music, widely and highly regarded in Europe, would go unnoticed in the States. Were he alive today he would be honored and delighted to have been selected. Thank you to everyone involved.
In the kitchen preparing breakfast I have bacon on medium heat, abiding by Steinbeck’s advice to cook it slowly, a couple of eggs at the ready, abiding by my own rule never to put eggs in the refrigerator, and humming to myself to cover the absence of anyone to share the morning, I hear noises up behind the house. For a moment my subconscious believes it is the person I jokingly call my bitter half, finishing her meditation, my signal to start the toast, but it takes only a second to remember that can’t be so, she having departed the earth a while ago.
It is over a year since I have taken the hatchet and saw to the brush and brambles blocking the way to the water deposits and beyond those, Continue reading “Ashes”
John the barber clicked off the clippers, winked at Skeets in the mirror, and grinned between the two bare-breasted broads on the King Koal calendars from way back when: 1951 and 1952.
“Here comes Wick. Might be some fun.”
“You don’t know Wick? Eddie Wickline, Viola’s brother? He left Letdown some time ago, maybe before your time. Been back a couple of years now.” John pulled away the tissue paper collar and dusted his neck with a talcum brush. Then he pumped the chair down. “Wick claims he worked on a spaceship the last years. He’s been away.” Away was pronounced with a certain tone of voice.
He stuffed the ten-dollar bill Skeets handed him into the register. “Why don’t you have a seat, Skeets. I’ll duck in to advise the boys in the pool hall, in case they want to sit in.”
Outside past the striped pole and the word Barber spelled backwards, you could see a tall thin man striding toward the shop, cutting diagonally across the concrete street. He wore a gray suit with purple pin stripes and a gray fedora.
One year ago today, at this race track, in this tower, with these cars on course, I lost my father.
Now, snug in his undershirt, carrying his satchel, with his ring on my finger and his love in my heart, while stewarding the Red run group, I think about all that has transpired since that first flurry of phone calls.
This morning during our flag team meeting, I thanked my racing friends for their support, beginning a year ago and continuing through today.
Here I thank the rest of you.
There’s no denying that this has been an emotional, difficult year, and the practical and family complications have only added to the strain.
However, because of all of you I’m able to enjoy the view from high above the track, overlooking the kind of mountains he loved, beneath a brilliant sun that so nourished Stephanie’s gardens, with my eyes dry and my focus mostly centered on the cars circulating at speed.
Because of those family members that understood Patrick and his final wishes, his amazing collection of friends, and my own support group, I’m functioning as a regular human being, not a quivering heap of grief, though I still grieve deeply.
I am sorry Patrick is gone, but I am thankful he was here. What more can one hope for a life well lived?
Years ago Gretchen gave Patrick a small ring, red and silver, which he wore often. When he passed away she asked me to send it back to her, which I did.
A week or two ago I was surprised to see it in my mailbox. She sent it to me, hoping that I’d wear it.
This I am doing, even here at the race track where a year ago (minus two days) I received the news of his end. Like the other little things of his that I keep close, it provides comfort–a wee bit of comfort–for the sadness.