unnamed-3On this day in 2004, my father died. Each year, the day is, for me, one of reflection and reverence. A journey back through memories.

My father had a scar on his thumb, a dent really, from a childhood accident. His brother Moon was using the ax outside their small house to chop firewood. My father reached for something as the ax came down and a chunk of his thumb was lost. Ever the optimist, his telling of the story concluded with his belief that he was very lucky — he could, after all, have lost his thumb. In the last years of my father’s life, as he lay bedridden, I would look at his hands — much thinner, frail by then, almost delicate — and the sight of his scarred thumb would take me back to a childhood of reaching for his hand as we trudged up a hill to go kite-flying, or relying on his hands to tighten the girth on my horse’s saddle so I wouldn’t fall off. His hands gripped tools to do ranch work, and held paint brushes and glue to help me with science projects. In his last years, they lay gently on white sheets. They didn’t have any jobs to do anymore.

When I was young, my father would toss me above his head in the swimming pool while I tucked my legs up so I could make a huge splash when I came down into the water. His shoulders were tan and strong and I believed he could lift five times my weight if he needed to. I would watch his shoulders from behind when we went horseback riding; I always rode behind him and I could read his communication with his horse through the set of his shoulders. If they were wide and firm, he was exerting control. If they relaxed, he was giving his horse her head and they were in sinc on how they should be walking along the trail.

Once, when he was deep into Alzheimer’s, I looked at the back of his neck and I almost started crying. It looked so vulnerable to me, so much older. I realized that for so much of my life, I’d assumed that my father would always be vital and strong, that nothing would fell him or conquer him. Time works on all of us but sometimes our eyes don’t catch up to what our brains know.

This is how we remember people, I think — in the prism of memory, choosing the shiniest images from the stream of time, and letting them brush up against the inevitable sorrows that rest in the shadows of loss and regret. I would like to think that my father moves a little closer to me on this day, a day I mark in my heart. I would like to believe that the force of my thoughts and the resonance of my memories reach him through the mysterious distance between this world and the next.

One afternoon, when we climbed up the hill behind our house to fly kites, I let go of my father’s hand and stretched mine up toward the sky. “How high do I have to reach to touch God?” I asked him. “You don’t need to reach up at all,” he told me. “God’s always with you. He’s never far away.” On many days, but on this day particularly, I hope that’s true about my father as well.



19 Responses to PIECES OF MY FATHER

  1. Joan robbins says:

    Lovely, just lovely…

    • Jeff Kamen says:

      Elegant and graceful as well as generous and authentic.
      Thanks, Patti!
      It is no surprise that you are the ultimate class act.
      All the best!
      -Jeff Kamen

  2. Kathleen Conlon says:

    I lost my beloved mother just over a year ago to Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinson’s. The final years were brutal. I’ve taken comfort over the years through your publications. Thank you for sharing your grief with the public.

  3. Patricia Webb says:

    Beautiful. I have similar feelings every June 6th.

  4. Kimothy Cruse says:

    Thank you, Patty. Beautiful words of memories locked in your heart forever.

  5. Simply beautiful
    Thank you Patti

  6. Eric Vollmer says:

    Crystal clear and thought-provoking, Patti. I see my own dad shrinking more and more every day as his mind reaches back towards memories of his own youth to sustain him.

  7. Seeing a father become frail is heartbreaking because we can’t fix them. When my Dad had brain cancer I used to have to push the recliner from the back so he could get up. I remember in the hospital he asked me to look at a sore on his buttocks. When he moved the gown I thought I would die from the horror of how a man that used to be 178 pounds was now a mere 120.
    Like you Dad said Patti, God is always near and I believe your Dad is also (((hugs and love))).

  8. Anson Williams says:

    You captured the bonding love of father and daughter.

  9. Norm Cherry says:

    It is so obvious that you loved your dad very much. My mom passed away on the day that your father did, back in 2004. So, their anniversaries are forever connected with me. Good job Patti, your dad would be so proud of you !!

  10. Robyn Ringler says:

    Patti, Thank you for sharing your moving memories of your father. Thank you for your beautiful writing.

  11. tom slocum says:

    Your Dad Was Correct. “God Is Always With You”…..
    A Beautiful Piece…Namaste

  12. Edward Jenny says:

    Wonderful words and guidance from your father and we are glad you watched and listened as you did to pass along to us, the many facets of his being. Be well, Peace.

  13. Megan Hall says:

    Beautiful and deeply touching. Thanks for sharing. xoxo

  14. Kathlean Gahagan says:

    What a blessing for a daughter to have a loving, present dad. What a blessing for a dad to have such an adoring, erudite and demonstrative daughter.

  15. Rodney Wilson says:

    Beautiful memories. Inspiring moments.

  16. Ciaran Ryan says:

    I remember you writing that the scar on your father’s hand was something that you were drawn to as a child, because it made him more ‘real’ to you. Thank you for sharing this, with the detail that Moon was responsible for it: I didn’t know that!

  17. Kevin Berry says:

    I am a new fan morphing into a devotee. This is a beautiful piece. Would that all kids could have that close a relationship with dads and/or moms.

  18. Alexander Leon says:

    Indeed, you don’t have to reach towards the sky, Patti. Came across the 3/19/19 article/interview of you in Huffingon Post and that brought me here. I’m actually writing about your dad too. I appreciate you wished you’d been more compliant back when but I’m glad you weren’t and remained true to yourself. My dad, much like yours, was a good man too—we were lucky. However, much like yours, mine too was a conservative and traditional man, with much to disagree with there as well. Even if we, the children, did not have the answers then or even have them now, the search for them must go on, generation to generation. I’m grateful that we were allowed to question and make our own way rather than follow exactly the same old footsteps, which sadly can’t be said for the current family in the White House.

    Keep doing what you’re doing.

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