In Memoriam

January 9th is always a strange day for me; it is my father's birthday. Though he has been dead for 30 years now, this day never goes by without some sort of reflection or emotion of some kind.

As a child, this was the day we took down the Christmas tree. We never had a real tree, like I insist upon now; instead a plastic one that I can still smell at the mere drop of a memory. It was a bittersweet day; I loved Christmas because of the magic it conjured up for me, and the lights, the colors, the glitz. I still love it, and nothing thrills me more than riding around in the car looking at the lights and images of over decorating, and being a voyeur into other's homes to see their trees in the front window.

My father had a lot of power, much of it he abused. He that giveth could just as easily taketh away, as witnessed by the ceremonial destruction of the tree. It was like going to a funeral.

A chance conversation with a friend this afternoon got me thinking about all the things that I did to try and please my father. I think he was greatly disappointed that the one child who had passion and guts was a girl, and I was always trying to prove that I could play football and baseball, shoot, and fish as well as any other boy, and far better than my brother who cared nothing for the outdoors or boy games. For years I subconsiously tried to win him over, long after his death. I picked up his hobbies, and became a truck driver and mechanic. I could do the job of a man. I was smart,I could paint, AND I could write.

When it came time for college, he refused to send me unless I became a secretary or a teacher. I wanted to be an artist; it was an aspiration I had since I was in elementary school. I severed my connection with the family, put myself though college on scholarships and hard work, and majored in fine arts. My second semester, my father got cancer and died within three months. Only on his deathbed did he see a painting I did of "our woods". He finally admitted that I had made a beautiful work.

I still have that painting to this day, a soft, sad,lonely rendition of my childhood haunt, a small patch of woods that I found refuge in and wrote and painted. I am sure time has erased much of the landscape much as it has dulled the pain of an abused and neglected child. Each year it gets easier to understand, easier to forgive and someday, I can put it all to rest.

This is a photo from 1957. My mom, my dad, and me, as an infant. For the first time in my life tonight, I saw where I got my slightly crooked smile.



Popular Posts