Friday, June 30, 2006

With Abandon

With abandon I go
Into the Sweet Night
Feeling my way along
Trusting the Dark
Tasting its fruit
Waiting for Dawn to break
And fill me with Light

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day, Daddy

The little boy in the above photo is my Daddy when he was about five years old. I am telling on him today. I have every reason to believe that he is going to get a chuckle, too, out of my telling on him. He loved to laugh.

Daddy was about five years old when he set the chicken coop on fire on the family farm. He was probably standing right there next to that very tree as his father passed by him going back and forth bringing pails of water to the chicken coop in an effort to put out the fire. According to the story, every time Grandpa passed by Daddy, he mumbled some choice words to him which I am reluctant to put in writing. But a mumbled tongue lashing was no doubt the extent of Daddy's punishment for setting the chicken coop on fire, because he was an only child and I think Grandma and Grandpa sort of spoiled him. In other words they spared the rod.

I don't think he ever received a spanking even though he probably deserved a few. In spite of being spoiled, he turned out to be a decent man and never again did he set a chicken coop on fire.

Daddy passed away from cancer in October, 2000. When I think of him I remember how much he loved to laugh. He was always full of jokes. Every time I visited him either in person or on the phone, he had a joke or two to tell me. They weren't good jokes either, in his opinion, unless they were slightly off color.

But the thing that really sticks in my mind about Daddy is how real he was. When he died, a friend of his said to me, "Your dad was a genuine article." I began to think about it and I realized that what the friend meant was that Daddy was real and human. There was nothing fake about him. He was honest in every way. He was not given to pretense. He was outspoken. If he had an opinion, you learned about it. He did not try to hide his emotions. He was unable to do that. If he was sad, you knew it. If he was happy, you knew it. If he was angry, you knew that too.

There was one time in particular when Daddy got angry during dinner. My sister and I still laugh about. It had to do with butter and its proper place on the dinner table. As it happened, my sister and I were in the habit of reaching for the butter dish, taking a slice of it for our bread, then keeping the butter dish right next to our plate. Well, Daddy got fed up with having to hunt down the butter dish each time he wanted some and, so, one day he blurted out angrily, "PUT THE BUTTER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TABLE!" Immediately, we all burst into laughter including Daddy.

Daddy was not a deep thinker who wrestled with philosophical problems. I remember trying to engage him in conversation one time about the Holy Eucharist and whether or not it really was the body and blood of our Lord as the Catholic church claims. Daddy's response more or less was, "I have never been a very good Catholic." End of discussion.

Since Daddy was so obvious with his emotions, I learned from him how to get angry and then get over it. I learned that it was okay to get angry sometimes...even about butter. I learned that you were not a big sinner for getting angry. His anger was short lived. The sun never set on his anger. This kept him out of a lot of trouble. If in that emotional state, he ended up saying something hurtful, there was a flood of apologies that followed in short order. So, I learned that I could say sorry when I hurt someone with my words. I learned I could ask for forgiveness, and all of that was good.

Daddy had a rich emotional life I think because he allowed his emotions to flow. He did not try to bottle them up. Consequently, he was able to empathize and feel what the other person was feeling. This made him compassionate. One time after my boyfriend broke up with me, I was feeling a lot of emotional pain and was crying my heart out to Daddy about the break-up. There wasn't anything that Daddy could do to mend the situation. He knew that. But he did the most compassionate thing a person can do when trying to comfort another in pain. He sat down on the sofa next to me and placed his arm around my shoulder. Then he cried with me. We both sat there for the longest time crying together. I will never forget that tender moment.

Daddy was a family man who insisted that we adhere to certain rules of conduct as a family. For instance, he was a stickler about everyone sitting down to eat dinner at the same time. You were not allowed to dilly-dally in front of the TV, or in earlier times listen to your favorite radio program, and be late for dinner. No one was allowed to start eating till everyone was there. And dinner had to be served promptly at...well, I have forgotten the exact time it had to be served. And, of course, the butter had to be kept in the middle of the table.

I could tell you so much more about this lovely man who in his prime resembled Dean Martin only Daddy was much more handsome.

Daddy loved his family. He loved Mother. He adored Mother. He fought with Mother. But that was because he had a rich emotional life. He loved my sister and me, too. He loved all his grandchildren. When he died, almost all of us were there crowded around his bed in his small bedroom at the moment of his death.

There was an aura about that Sunday afternoon when he died. You sensed the presence of his parents coming to bring their only child over to the other side. You sensed the presence of something supernatural, something rare and unearthly. You sensed the Divine, the Christ. You sensed the spirit of God in that room, in that house by the river's edge.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!