Friday, April 17, 2009

I remember

My dad celebrated his 86th birthday this past Monday. He was born in 1923. It was the roaring twenties. It was a time when life in the United States began to return to normal in the wake of World War I.

He would have been starting school the year the Stock Market crashed in 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression.

He was 16 when World War II broke out. He eventually joined the Navy and that War. He was 21 when he floated on a watercraft in the English Channel on D-Day.

Warren G. Harding was President of the United States the day my dad was born. Calvin Coolidge got the job a little later that same year. Dad has lived to see 14 more Presidents get elected since then.

He was in his late 30’s when he lost one and a half fingers in a lawn mower accident.

I don’t remember any of that.

What I do remember is that he used to smoke a pipe. That is, until he had a heart attack at 53. He missed my sister’s high school graduation because he was in the hospital recovering from that heart attack. He also missed that same sister’s wedding six years later when he was in the hospital recovering from prostate cancer surgery. Four (or is it 5? I can’t remember now!) Years ago, he and my mom sold our old homestead in Florida and moved to Georgia to be close to that sister.

He was in his sixties when he had open heart surgery.

He was able to be there for my high school and college graduations and to walk me down the aisle at my wedding.

Both of my sisters and I were able to be there for his birthday party this past Monday. It’s not often that our immediate family all gets to be together, but it certainly is interesting when we do. We talked about memories of growing up together. It’s funny how totally differently we each remember the same incident. And how prominent one memory is for one of us and for others there is absolutely no recollection of it at all.

And we each have our favorite memories; stories that we repeat over and over every time we get together.

My brother-in-law always tells the story about me crying when he and my sister told me they were getting married. I was in the back seat of my sister’s car; they were in the front seat. It was the first time I had ever met him. I remember the tears, but certainly not for the same reason he remembers them.

Sister #1 always tells on Sister #2. When Sister#2 was about 3 or 4 years old, she sensed my mom was in peril because the car was out of gas. She wanted to help out so she took the water hose and filled the gas tank up. With water. I don’t really remember that one, but I believe it.

My Dad tells a story about me of which I have absolutely no recollection. Apparently there was some concert I was dying to go to and he agreed to take me. I had some sort of hissy fit in the car on the way there because an accident had traffic at a standstill and threatened my actual attendance at the concert. Apparently we did make it to the concert without my dad having to take me to the hospital. I don’t remember that at all. I don’t even remember who was playing at the auditorium.

My oldest sister graduated from high school the same year I finished the third grade. She went off to college, and then got married right after that. I only have a couple of memories of her being at home when I was young. We both remember one summer she was home from college. It was just her and I at home during the day. She had the ironing board set up in the living room and was working diligently on all the wrinkled clothes. I had had the hiccups all morning. When I totally was NOT expecting it, she finally screamed at me and scared me so badly that I no longer had the hiccups, but then we both couldn’t stop laughing about it.

We don’t realize when they are happening that we are actually writing these stories. The fact that we each remember the same incidents so differently is proof to me of just how individual and different we all are; how we each are uniquely made by God and serve a very specific, individual purpose.

All the things I remember are the things that only I remember. While we may share some, no one else has exactly the same collection of memories. I realize that even more so when I think about what memories an 86 year old man might have. Some of them are things I can only read about in history books yet they are very personal for him. Given the course of his life and his time in history on this earth, he has so many memories. Some of them include me. And I thank God for that.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16


Margie said...

That definitely sums it up.

Only Daughter said...

Hi, I just found your blog. Happy Birthday to your precious Daddy. So sweet that you have the memories.