A tree in autumn
Gold leaves sashay in the breeze
If the tree reminded me of my father, the leaves brought to mind all of the memories my family has of our time with him. For his 87th birthday in May, my siblings and I gave him a box filled with some of those memories.
Here are a few “golden leaves”–notes I wrote to my dad to add to his box:
One afternoon, when I was a young teenager, I’d just finished cleaning the kitchen. You came in, looked around and asked, “Can you tell yourself you did the best you could do?”
I, of course, knew inside that I had not done the best job I could do. Although I hardly enjoyed cleaning the kitchen, just asking myself that question made me want to do better, and I found all kinds of things I had “missed.”
When I finished the job, doing “the best I could do,” I remember feeling proud. It’s a question that has remained in my “Little Voice Library” ever since.
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Some of my happiest memories are of watching you and mom dance together. It was like a magical antidote to the turmoil that was sometimes in our lives.
I remember hoping I might dance like that with someone someday.
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I’ve always been amazed, and perhaps, a little envious, of your ability to play the piano and guitar by ear. Some of my favorite memories are of you playing at family reunions when I was a child, and, as an adult, listening to you and Christiane play. The music brings me joy, but even more, I love the pleasure I always saw in your face.
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Remember the terrible knee aches I used to get as a little girl? They hurt so badly, I used to wake up crying in the night.
You called them “growing pains,” and I remember how you’d come into my room and sit beside me. I don’t know what felt better. The warmth of your hand as you rubbed my knee, or that you cared enough to get up in the middle of the night to try to make me feel better.
Looking back, I guess you probably knew what those growing pains felt like!
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I remember when I was a little girl, we’d go to visit our uncles and aunties in Sacramento or San Francisco. At the time, it seemed like such a long way away from Fairfield, but it was only about 45 minutes.
So, on the way home at night I’d usually fall asleep. Though once we pulled into the driveway, I almost always woke, I pretended to be asleep for the pleasure of having you pick me up and carry me to my bed.
Looking back, I wonder if Cyn, Kim, Tami and Chuck were really asleep, or if they, like me, pretended to be asleep, too. No matter, you always proceeded to carry each of us to our beds.
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One of my recent and most treasured memories is of a walk you, Christiane and I took in a small village in Austria last year. You were in the beginnings of the terrible pains brought by prostate cancer, or, at least the pain you could no longer hide from us.
I could tell you no longer had the stamina that, even well into your 80s, often surpassed my own stamina, so I appreciated and no longer took for granted being able to take a walk with you.
But what I remember most about that day is this. As you and Christiane walked in front of me, often hand-in-hand, every once in a while, you turned and checked to see that I hadn’t fallen too far behind. Sometimes, you waited to let me pass, I suppose in case I started to feel left out.
Once again, I became your little girl, even as I’m in my 60s. It was a poignant moment for me—the feeling of being taken care of, even as an adult, as a mom with grown children, as a grandma. Now that Mom is gone, you are the only one in the world who can make me feel that kind of love and care.
I’ll always treasure and remember that feeling.
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Thank you, Dad, for being the best father I could have asked for. You taught me goodness, by example. Most of all, you taught me the difference between goodness and perfection.
I love you.