IN MY OPINION
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"You Didn't Quite
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I REMEMBER... A FATHER'S DAY MEMOIR
17 June 2007
I love Tim Russert. Perhaps he's the new Walter Cronkite. He doesn't have the "aura" of Cronkite but he's probably the newsman I most trust in the media these days. His simple eloquence has often moved me.
But perhaps the thing of Russert's that has most affected me in the past few years is his passion for and love of his father, which led to his writing the book "Big Russ and Me," where he talked about the wonderful relationship he had (and continues to have) with his father.
Reaction to the book was, he says, overwhelming and it led to the publication of his second book, "Wisdom of our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons," which is a collection of the letters he received in response to his first book.
Everyone, it seems, wanted to tell the story of their wonderful relationship with their fathers, the beautiful lessons they have carried forward into adulthood, and the special moments they will never forget.
I'm thinking of the very first memory I have of my father and the very last.
The very first was before I entered school. We had gone to a little neighborhood park and there was a kind of a cave in there. Daddy and I went into the cave and I was pretending to be the Mommy and cooking dinner for him. It was a sweet moment, but didn't last long, as he soon tired of the game.
Another memory of my father was a day when I was playing at the home of some neighbor children. Big Kids. Big to me. I was probably four at the time. I remember so clearly that they had a playhouse or a slide or something. It was something that was covered with rough sand-papery stuff and they made me take off my panties and slide down the slide, though I was crying and crying because it hurt. My father showed up--I don't know how soon--and I remember him grabbing me by the arm and kind of dragging me home. I felt like I'd done something bad.
I remember how he'd go into a rage if you touched his shoes (which he shined to a high gloss) or his glasses, about which he was fastidious.
I remember when I went on a television show with my sister. A puppet show it was, as I recall. I was terribly nervous and gave the wrong response to a simple question I was asked and how my father laughed and laughed at my embarrassment and made me feel like shit.
I remember laughing a lot, but always wary because I was never sure when I'd do something wrong and he'd go off in a tantrum again.
I remember the days...weeks of silence. Silence that was so loud it covered everything in the house. It blanketed the house and we all crept around afraid of noticing the silence for fear it would make it worse.
I remember the bedroom door being slammed shut, leaving me in darkness because I was old enough to sleep with the door closed. I remember screaming about the snakes under my bed.
I remember fixing my coffee the way I fixed it every morning, with sugar and cream and the tantrum about how if I was goddamn going to drink coffee I'd goddamn drink it black like he did.
I remember seeing him sitting, night after night, in the living room, all the lights turned off, and the only thing visible the glowing tip of his cigarette.
I remember his excitement when he was building something for the house, and his fury when it didn't work or didn't fit or look the way he expected it to. Then the silence came again. And I knew I should have been able to fix it.
I remember that his job required that he sleep during the day and how furious he would get if there was any noise in the house, like the phone ringing or someone knocking or children playing. If he was disturbed, the silence would come.
I remember my mother telling me, years later, that following my sister's death she "couldn't stand it any more" and had to cry, so she went outside where he wouldn't see her. Karen's death was his private grief. We were shut out. It was not permitted for us to grieve.
I remember the day he killed the love in the toddler Ned's eyes because Ned tried to climb in his lap and Grandpa yelled at him because, at age 2, he was too old for stuff like that. I never forgave him for hurting Ned like that. He and Ned went on to have a relationship, but never the adoration that was there when Ned was 2.
And I remember his parting gift to me, trying to cut me out of his will, posting terrible things on the wall of his house for his neighbors to read, and in the end the thing that I was most comfortable with all my life: the silence.
Father's day is always difficult for me
because of all the wonderful stories of children and their beautiful
relationships with their fathers. My only consolation is that my kids
had it SO much better--and still do.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is entry #2636