Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Flying With Dad
I "flew with Mom" in my dreams just days before she died on December 4, 2014. Besides really doing that, I had jotted down on paper all those places, all those memories, to later post on this blog.
At bedtime on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, I decided to "fly with Dad". Unlike with Mom in December, I was not trying to guide my dreams. I just wanted to document for later. So I jotted those memories down on paper, the same paper I had used for memories with Mom. It was of course very emotional, and I felt the same deep sorrow mixed with happiness as I had when I flew with Mom.
* Dad, there we are. You're holding me, singing all those songs you always sang, "Home On The Range", "Mares'y Dotes & Does'y Dotes" to name just two.
* Your knee is the best place to ride. "This is the way the lady rides, trot, trot, trot. This the way the gentleman rides, gallop, gallop, gallop. This is the way the farmer rides, hobledee hoy, hobledee hoy."
* If it's not a ride, then it's a trap. I always get out of your traps, Dad. But your brothers made "cry uncle".
* We're having a family picnic way up into the Coast Range. Could it be the north fork of the Siuslaw River? Or the middle fork? (See me chuckle… fork… spoon, knife; words are fun). You walk into a deep pool created by a small waterfall. You sink, sink until you are up to your neck. You are a head floating on the water. You ask me if I want to ride on your shoulders. I love you and trust you Dad, but I am scared something could happen. So I say "no", emphatically. Richard, ever the adventurer, takes the ride and returns to tell about it.
* Remember that bike I got Christmas in (I think) first grade? The training wheels are off and you are helping me ride by holding the back of the seat from the side and behind. "Don't let go, OK Dad?" I implore you. We did this a few times and you held on. We try again. I ride about 20-30 feet then stop and look back. Yup, you had let go and I ride by myself.
* The Belt. It wasn't just for holding up your pants. The Belt is so wide it has its own time zone. Mom has The Wooden Spoon, you have The Belt. Together, you and Mom play a pretty good game of "good cop, bad cop". I wonder if she knew. Sometimes you were the strict disciplinarian. "This is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you," you say gravely to Richard and me. The Belt glides swiftly through the loops and does its duty. Of course we say…"huh Dad? how could that hurts you more?" But other times you soften things for us when Mom is being the extreme disciplinarian. There we are, you with the same grave voice, yet tinged with a smile and a smirk. "This is going to hurt me…", as you close the bedroom door. The Belt whips through the loops and then makes a deafening "crack" sound as you fold it in half, hold the ends, and snap the two parts together in the middle. As instructed, after every "CRACK" we yell "OOOWWWW!" I wonder if Mom knew.
* Dad, I think I'm like you. When we go hunting or fishing, It's not the actual hunting or fishing I love. Rather it's being out in nature, walking and exploring. There we are in the Coast Range hills near Florence, you toting a rifle. It must be about October and I'm maybe 7 or 8 years old. Richard's too young and not there. You think you see a deer and take a shot. Nothing. You let me hold the gun, and with your help, we shoot a tree.
* 1960's Florence is a bit cut off from the larger outside world. But there you are, Dad, talking to the world via your HAM radio. You talk about "stuff" - seems pretty boring to us - but then you trade HAM radio "cards" with those other HAM's around the world. The cards are kind of like post cards. Your card, of course, was special. There we are on the dune behind our house. You have placed a 20+ foot radio antenna into the sand. You are climbing up with a wire in your hand to make that final connection. Suddenly, you and the tower begin the lean and then fall to the sand. You land with a thud. Richard and I don't know what to do. But Mom runs to your aid. You are stunned but OK. This particular event led to Grandpa Rogers (artist, photographer, inventor, everything) designing your HAM card. Your card depicts you on the tower with Mom holding the wire connected to the tower, pulling you and tower down. I wish I could find one of your HAM cards.
* There we are at the dinner table in Florence and you are saying grace. Richard and I snicker during one part of your standard blessing. "Stoweduponus! Ha, ha! What's that?" we say when you're done. This was a magical word, a word that seemed a glimpse into grown-up world, a word that sounded funny to us. Of course we figure it out later. You always included the phrase, "May your blessings be stowed upon us." Yes, words are fun.
* Dad, this is my absolute favorite story, partly because I revealed the truth to you 45 years after it happened. In your eyes, your eyes in front of your brain that was descending into dementia, I could see that you understood and that that understanding hurt you. I hope you forgave us. It's a quiet summer day in Florence and Richard and I have nothing to do (except get into trouble). There we are on the dune behind our house, the one overlooking Rhododendron Drive as it winds its way - sort of - along the Siuslaw River on the way to north jetty and the ocean. Besides the sandy dunes all around Florence, there's a lot of sandstone from ancient beaches and dunes. We called these broken pieces of sandstone "dirt clods". So there we are… on top of that dune throwing dirt clods at cars passing on the highway below. We score a few near misses. But then we get a direct hit through the open passenger window of a car heading toward the beach. The car screeches to a stop and begins to turn around. We skedaddle (yes, we used that word in the '60's) back over the dune and down to home. Inside, just as we catch our breath, a knock comes at the door. "Your boys are throwing rocks at cars and they hit us!" Dad, you turned and looked at us. "No, we're not doing that!" we said. Dad, you said, "if my boys say they're not doing that, then they're not doing that." You shut the door. Your eyes, your dementia eyes could still show disappointment. I'm sorry Dad.
* It's a Saturday morning and you have work to at the high school. While you work, I'm in the gym with a basketball. As I dribble, spin, stop, jump, shoot, I imagine that I am Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robinson, Jerry West, and any number of 60's NBA stars. I dream big. During some of those sessions I visit the staff lounge. As a teacher now, Dad, I know staff lounges. The 60's high school staff lounge REAKED of cigarette smoke. And I'm talking on a Saturday when there were no teachers to be seen (except you, Dad). You and your colleagues left ash trays behind on Friday afternoons, heaping with butts! Teachers today only leave scum in the microwave and old food in the fridge. By the way, as of 2015, the old Siuslaw high school building has been torn down and the football field is for sale.
* Richard and I must be old enough to be asking you and Mom about where babies come from. Maybe we're talking family talk about new sisters, or something. You are telling us that the dad gives the mom a seed and that makes a baby. So we implore you to give Mom a seed! I know, what a coincidence: we just happen to enjoying blackberry pie for dessert. So, with a smirk on your face, from your plate to Mom's, you give her a seed. Clever, Dad.
* Family trips. It doesn't matter if it was just to Grandpa and Grandma's house in the ritzy neighborhood of Eastmoreland in Portland, or Grandma's house in the working-class mill town of Toledo, or anywhere else, you are the driver while Mom is the navigator and peace keeper. Richard and I are the annoying twits in the backseat. "Do I have to come back there?" you shout. "Do I have to turn this car around?" you add next.
* In that regard, what an accomplishment. You drive us about 3000 miles across the country in a U-Haul truck from Oregon to Virginia. You couldn't "come back there" because we all sat together on the same bench seat. You wouldn't "turn this [U-Haul] around"… just because we would not do that.
* Dad, in Virginia you're not the high school teacher that must maintain… appearances. (Remember, Mom had to maintain "appearances", too, which is why we had to move from John Day, Oregon, to Florence, Oregon). Therefore… the pipe. And the beard. You are (were) the quintessential 60's-70's college professor. You keep the beard well beyond its stylish'y statement and purpose. In your later years and months the beard appears and disappears, like your memories.
* In Virginia, Richard has decided to run away. Rather than dictate that, "NO, you CAN'T do that", you accommodate him by asking where and when he would like to go. It's dark and the three of us pile into the car. Mom stays behind to take care of baby Nanci. We drive around Norfolk and eventually find a somewhat rural location with a field and a barn. You ask Richard is this place OK? He says yes. So Richard gets out with his few belongings and heads across the dark field. You and I wait in the car. We drive around a bit. After awhile, we stop and wait. Richard comes back and you ask, "are you ready to go home?" So we go home. Dad, this shows your special character and fatherly patience. You allowed the lesson to play out - safely, without possibility of danger or disaster.
* There we are - you, me, Richard - at a TV repair shop in Agana, Guam. The proprietor is a middle-aged Filipino gentleman. We come in behind another customer, a middle-aged Caucasian man, possibly military. The customer is absolutely "ripping a new one" on the proprietor. He is cussing and shouting. He is calling racist names, like "gook". The proprietor, embarrassed, can't say a word. We just watch. Dad, you always knew when it was time to speak up and take a stand vs. when it was best to just let it go. You chose to let it go and not add to the scene. The customer left. I'm sure I wanted to apologize to the proprietor, but I don't remember what happened next.
* Dad, I loved and still love our vacations. Whether it was a quick trip to diverse points in Oregon. Or others around the west and northwest - 1962 Seattle World's Fair, California Redwoods - we had fun and the memories are forever-lasting. Then there were the vacations with Guam as the home base - Saipan, The States, Japan. There was that one vacation to Hong Kong which Richard and I were not included. (Staying behind to keep the house in Dean's Circle, etc.). But Japan during Christmas 1970 was the best! The cultural and esthetic adventures were beyond the pale. When it was all said and done, I announce that I will marry a Japanese girl. I would not. But the natural beauty and culture would have a profound impact on me. Kyoto was and is an amazing place. It remains a shame that the 1960's Bullet Train in Japan has not been replicated here.
At about 6:00 AM the next morning, January 7, 2015, the phone rang with a call from a nurse at the Manor. Dad had passed away early that morning. You can draw your own conclusions, but I think that when Dad and I flew, he knew it was time to go to Mom.