Wednesday, January 18, 2006

on Yoo-hoo's and peanut butter crackers..

No rhyme or reason with this post really, just stream of consciousness writing that was triggered by a bottle of Yoo-Hoo - of all things...

Dad, I remember watching the Thanksgiving day parade with you. And Bugs Bunny cartoons. You standing there, eating a bowl of cereal in front of the TV, in your blue terry cloth robe, while Mom was preparing the turkey. I remember not being able to sleep - at all - on Christmas eve. I remember how wonderful the house looked all decorated. I remember the great dinners, and using the good china and silverware. And Christmas morning - all sparkly and shiny. I remember Easter, and new shoes, and how you helped me put together the coolest bike in the neighborhood. Red tire wheels, red banana seat, and a battery operated real-sounding motor that was mounted on the frame. All of the boys in the neighborhood wanted to try it and make red skid marks. I remember how, when I had to get a test signed, you wrote your name HUGE across the whole entire test. I worried I would get in trouble with the nuns - (you somehow knew I wouldn't.) I remember crying before school every day of first day and remember seeing you peek in through the back door of my classroom - just checking to see that I was okay. But I bet you didn’t know - that I cried after I knew you left...

Grades later, I remember you making me write each multiplication table twelve times - so I would never forget them. It worked. And how you took an evening nap with your glasses on your nose, with the newspaper open on your chest, and your hands interlaced on top. You snored - an open mouth, kinda soft snore. I remember the smell of your pipe. And thinking how tall you were. I remember how you used to wear hats when you went to work. Men should still wear hats. I remember feeling proud that everyone knew who you were - everywhere we went around town. You were well liked and respected in our community, and you made a difference there. I remember walking hand in hand with you.

I remember how you told me one day riding to school- that I shouldn’t be upset - that my pimples would clear up one day - (and here I thought I was having a good day that day) - but I appreciated you trying to make me feel better about myself.

For the record, I still get pimples - but not as many.

I remember the seven of us going to church as a family, and then out for turkey clubs at the Robin Hood Restaurant, and Sunday drives - that sometimes ended up in a fancy restaurant with lemon sorbet to cleanse our palates while dressed in our Sunday best. I remember people coming up to our table to compliment us on being such well behaved kids. I remember swimming with you in January in Bermuda. It wasn't really swimming weather - but you knew we needed to experience it. We had a couple of underwater Barracuda for company.

It was cold.

And it was cool.

Cooler than you sporting that Nehru jacket during the Sunday church collection. Funny, I don’t recall you ever wearing that suit again....

I remember you taking us on our first family cruise to the Carribean - on the SS Marconi. A whole new world opened up for me. I never knew water could be so beautiful, or places, so exotic. You were smart to spend money on us like that. Those memories have never faded for me.

I know the exact sound of how your ankle cracks when you climb a set of steps. I remember you bringing me a perfect cup of coffee and a piece of buttered toast while I readied for work in the morning. I remember how you taught me to change a car tire, the oil, and check the transmission fluid. You said If I wanted to drive, I needed to know how to do these things. You were right.

I remember you pulling out our loose teeth with your white hanky before school in the mornings. And how I used to play with your shaving brush. And walked around when I was little, in your too big shoes.

I have great memories of summering down the shore, I am crystal clear on how you stand while you are piloting a speed boat, and I could pick the pattern of your tanned varicose veins out of any lineup. I still can. I remember every action of how you fish for fish...and how you jig the line. And the intense look that you get, the pause, and how your eyebrow goes up - just a little - when you think you got a bite...I remember watching your hands in motion. You have good hands, Dad. I bet you don’t know that I have your hands.

As well as your damn varicose veins.

I know precisely the tone of a halyard slapping against a mast on a breezy day. I can still hear the flags cracking in the wind. I remember walking over hot pebbles and sandy parking lots, and working in the boatyard - scraping and painting the hull on our old wooden boat. I remember fixing the smoky oily engine with you - and handing you the tools. I remember sailing. And swimming, and beachcombing, and days trips with lunchmeat sandwiches to Ocean City via the back waters. I remember you having to dive off the back and under the boat with a kitchen knife, to free up the prop after cousin Jack had entangled a fishing line in it while we were moving. Even then, you kept your cool. And never scolded Jack for doing that. I knew you would free us, and you did. I remember thinking you could do anything.

“My dad can do anything.” I would tell my friends.

I remember learning to navigate the high seas with you at age four - with a peanut butter cracker, a huge metal steering wheel, a sloshing compass, and a nautical map. You stood to my left and showed me where to point the bow. I knelt on stacks of seat cushions just to see over the dash. I remember sleeping on the Stella Maris - only to wake with a million mosquito bites. But that didn't matter.

I remember how you showed us how to build dribble castles, and moats to keep the water away from the beach blanket. I remember diving off of your shoulders in the ocean surf. And how you taught us to dive under the big waves. I always wanted to swim the same way that you do in the water - slow, methodical, efficient. You could hold your breath underwater forever, it seemed!

I lived for the weekends we would go fishing in the early morning - wearing our old faded bathing suits, armed with nothing but a half can of bug spray, a six pack of Yoo-Hoos, some peanut butter crackers, a few packages of Tasty-Kakes, and an old Maxwell house coffee can filled with frozen squid for bait.

It was there in those morning rays that we sat in the boat all suntanned and salty, drifting with the current, swatting the green-heads off of each other, while being gently rocked by the movement of water. And it never mattered if we ever landed a fish. When we tired, or it got too hot, or too buggy - we hauled in the lines and sped toward the open sea. I remember the wonderful evil smile you would shoot me when we went flying full throttle out of the inlet - slamming through the rough seas. I know how and when and how much I need to adjust my knees to cushion each bounce of the boat going against a swell. I remember you pushing me off of the boat - telling me if I didn't want to wear a life jacket, then I better learn how to swim. Needless to say, I soon became a good swimmer. I can tell the difference with my eyes closed - between the sounds of an outboard, an inboard, and a jetski.

I know inside out - how wonderful it is to be on the open ocean, with not a sliver of land in sight. How the water changes from murky green to crystal blue, and how quiet the world is just 5 miles out. I remember understanding just how big the ocean really is, and just how small people really are out there. I remember feeling very at ease - always in my element there. It is a spiritual place there methinks. I remember thinking that those damn greenheads flies were olympic flyers - following us all that distance too - only to be methodically smashed again a seat cushion at a given first chance. For the record, I do not regret killing any one of those little biting bast*rds, in the least. Later we would go back and pick up Mom and the girls for an leisurely boat ride to wherever.

I was a happy kid Dad - especially those mornings I had you all to myself. My sisters just thought I wanted to get out of cleaning.

Stupid sisters.

They didn't know what they were missing.

Dad is now 82, widowed and remarried, and living a full retirement, active and independent. Summering still at the Jersey Shore, and wintering (where else) along the water somewhere in Florida.

We were a family of seven, once - five girls and our parents. Mom, passed away 19 yrs ago. Dad always said he felt like he lived in a sorority house. (You know he loved it...)


Blogger Nelle said...

I envy you such wonderful times with your father. When I was growing up my Dad was in the NAVY and saw the world while we mostly lived with my grandparents. When he retired we moved to NJ and he worked at Mt. Sinai Hosp in NY. We rarely saw him except as he was going up to bed to sleep. He was a good provider financially but I only remember one family vacation to Niagra Falls. Now he's 83 and retired but too tired to do much. I feel he missed our growing up.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn it A, sniff sniff, you made me mess up my makeup.

Thats our gramps ~ Court

8:53 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

What a fab tribute! Your Dad sounds like a wonderful man and father.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous slac said...

i bounce resolutely 2 read the Good--twas ever thus. These new digs are way cool & i should expand
my our=ward=ness 2 such! Smooches and IMP or e=mail me with good
Instruxns^ WE love our Dads becos they didn't have this Inter=Web!

3:38 PM  
Anonymous cuzsnook said...

This is what they mean about the important things in life are not things..... What a fabulous tribute ... to both of you. You are each so lucky to have each other and all those wonderful memories you've each created for each other! xxxooo

10:13 PM  
Blogger Ayn said...

Ah Florafishie had a champion relationship with your father and the sea, I see. Didn't even know about this! Now I understand the vacation with the family on the cruise ship! You were born to be not a land-lubber. I can spot looking at you carefully how now the safety preserver you wear is made from love and happiness ... you be the girl!!

Always our love,

4:33 AM  
Blogger Ari said...

What a great tribute to your Dad! This is so awesome. Great job, hon. It's so beautifully written.


10:39 AM  
Blogger Two Write Hands said...

How tender. You've reminded me why I'll always be a daddy's girl.

7:31 PM  
Blogger dreaminglily said...

lol Damn it, I've cried enough today, why'd you make me go ruin my mascara? lol

Beautiful entry. Absolutely beautiful.

Your father would be so touched to read that... Any father would.

Thank you for sharing such lovely memories...


12:14 PM  
Blogger Trish said...

Beautiful post Flora. It's obvious that you treasure these (rare) lovely memories. Your relationship with your father is one to cherish. Thank you for sharing.

9:34 AM  
Blogger MyMaracas said...

Oh wow. Just ... wow. What a marvelous post. Thank you so much for sharing it!

I lost my dad a couple of years ago. The ache never fades.

11:52 AM  

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