Monday, August 2nd would have been my Dad’s 100th birthday.
I was the last of his four children, the second of his second family. My brother and I were later in life kids. My dad was just about 2 weeks shy of his 51st birthday when I was born. He only lived for another 5 years after that, dying of cancer at 56. I was 5, so I guess you could say I didn’t know him well. Now, at 49, I can still say that.
Growing up, he was always a mystery to me. A picture on a wall. Whether it’s true or not, I always had the feeling that we weren’t suppose to talk about him. When he would come up in conversation, I felt relief. Maybe someone would say something.. that secret something about him, that I have always wanted to hear. To finally crack the mystery that is there. I never knew what it was, I just felt I would know it when I heard it. Does that make sense at all?
My Dad had two older children. They both were old enough to be raising their own kids while my parents were raising us. My sister is someone I don’t know. She and her family lived out of state and after my dad died, I guess there wasn’t really a connection there. My oldest brother lived near by, but was raising 5 kids of his own. Once his kids got older, and my brother and I did as well, we didn’t see them much. I always thought that sometime I would be able to set down with my oldest brother and maybe he could crack that mystery of my dad for me. Unfortunately he did about 9 yrs ago and so that conversation went unsaid.
Five years ago, after my mom died, our sister sent a condolence card and said to write if we wanted to know more about our dad. So I did. She sent a very nice letter and the one thing she said that stuck with me was that our father didn’t like Jello because it jiggled. That makes me smile. I have no like or dislike of jello, but if I like anything about it, I think it is that it jiggles.
I have old family photos hanging in my hallway. Most are black and white. Hanging there I have a baby picture of my dad that my sister in law gave me after my oldest brother died, and then also a copy of my dad’s graduation picture. I often find myself looking at these pictures, wondering if I see myself in there. Am I in those eyes? Is that my nose? Is there any me in there? Is there any of him in me? Who is this person who for so much of my life has just been a picture on a wall?
I have a picture of myself at about 1 year of age, or so. I look at that. I look at his baby picture and there is no doubt that I am him. He is me. I am part of that mystery. See for yourself:
Maybe I am crazy but those two people seem to have the same forehead. The same eyes. The same weird head shape. Maybe there is a little crack in that mystery after all. And maybe it just adds to the mystery as well.
I still don’t know what his sense of humor was like. Is my dry sarcastic nature from him? Was he an optimist? A pessimist? Or maybe a realist.. as I often claim to be, but probably am not? Did he make friends easily? Could he make small talk easily like my brother, or did he fail at it, by over thinking it, like I do? I’ll never know the answers to those questions, and that’s okay. Maintaining some mystery is okay.
So I am 49. When my dad was 49, he had two grown children with kids of their own. He was married to his second wife, and had a two year old son. In two years he would have a new daughter, and five years after that, he would be dead.
At 49, I am single, have never been married (don’t want to be) and have a brother, two nieces and three cats. In seven years, I will be 56 (!!!!), and as you can tell by the exclamation marks, that doesn’t seem very far away. Seven years. Frankly, I don’t want to be dead in seven years. Suddenly, thinking of all of this, makes it seem much more important to get healthy. In shape. Lose weight. Be more Fit. GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER SUSAN.
I might not always know who I am. I might not have any idea why I am here, but I do know that I want to be here longer than seven more years. That’s the bottom line. I have to get back on task. Back at it. Paying attention. Get it together. I can at least imagine that my dad would want that for me. Maybe it’s him that is saying “GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER”. No, that sounds more like my mom!
Two short notes:
1- Anyone know where the title of this blog post came from?
2- I still have the dress that I am wearing in that picture of me. In fact it is being worn by my Chatty Cathy doll. And to bring it all back to my dad… my Chatty Cathy doll is the only toy I have left from my childhood and it was given to me by my Dad the Christmas before he died. She looks a little crazy and she hasn’t “chatted” for about 44 yrs, but she’s still here!
Thanks Dad. For the doll…and the mystery.