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On Grief: Beacons of Light in the Shadows
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My Father, My First God
Article ID: 15974
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 979
Times Read: 2,847
RSS Views: 7,314
Author: Merideth Allyn
Posted: June 13th. 2016
Times Viewed: 2,847
I am just now getting to know my father for who he really is… what true courage he has and what a strong sense of character he possesses!
I am running out of time. The five arteries in his eighty-seven-year-old heart are blocked, and because of Alzheimer’s disease his memory is fading rapidly. This is especially evident following the death of his wife – his lifelong partner, his best friend and the only woman he ever truly loved.
My father was an attorney. I once peeked into his personal journal and discovered that he had wanted to go into medicine as his father had, but my grandfather – German, stoic, old school – insisted he would make a better lawyer. And, so Dad went to Law School as his Father told him he must.
My father was a gentle but emotionally detached man.
That’s due, I believe, to a horrendous childhood trauma. He and his sister, four and five respectively, were lighting a candle in the basement of their home in Gaithersburg, Maryland when a gust of wind blew in from a small window and caused the candle to spark, igniting his sister’s dress. She caught fire, and Dad ran up the stairs with her, pulling and dragging her outside to a man working nearby. Ultimately, she died of her burns. My grandfather would not allow my father to cry. He made my father sleep in the same room where his sister lay dying.
For a very long time, my father could not speak of this tragedy. He blamed himself. He never cried until my Mother allowed and encouraged him to, and that, he said, was one of the reasons he loved her.
Dad was in World War II, where most of the Baby Boomers’ fathers went, but he did not see any combat; only snakes, of which he is terrified. I pitied the poor garter snake that crossed his path while he tended his beloved roses. He would chop the unsuspecting creature into a million pieces. That fear was incurred, he said, in snake-infested India, where he lived for two years guarding the food supply before traveling around the world. Otherwise, he loved those times.
My father believed that all young adults should go into the military to learn discipline prior to college. None of his children did until after college when one of my younger four siblings signed up. I didn’t have time for my Father or the military.
College afforded me only ten days for spring vacation; I, embracing the hippie movement and the Pagan movement, always took a two or three year break to see the country via thumb.
This annoyed him quite a bit, but I was predisposed to wander lust.
I asked him, after my Mother’s funeral, when the entire extended family was home, if he would ever have sent any of us back. He replied: “Only when you became adults.”
This is all I know of him.
Until recently, I never took the time to ask him any questions about his life, and now it’s too late to get all the information I want.
What were his likes, his dislikes, his wants and needs? What would he have done if he hadn’t had a wife and five children to feed and, later, adult children and grandchildren who kept returning?
I sing the praises of this man I love and could have and should have known better. I heard my Mother say that he was a gifted baseball player and could have played professional ball. I know from personal experience, not much paid attention to at the time, that he loved the birds, the flora and fauna, and everything about nature. He always took time out of his busy schedule to teach me the names of insects, birds, butterflies, the trees and bushes when I was young.
The first trees I remember his teaching me about were the pecans and oaks in our neighborhood. The bushes I loved and that he taught me the names of were japonica and forsythia. He was not overly fond of the mimosa tree in our yard because he said mimosas were messy. He allowed us dogs, cats, fish and rabbits, which he took care of as we, his children, were always so busy with softball, the game he taught his three oldest girls to play so well.
I was the oldest. We all played All-Star ball which befitted his talents. He taught us to play golf, which he played for relaxation until he developed a slice he couldn’t get rid of. Since he played golf for relaxation, he quit when he could not get rid of the slice. He taught us to swim.
His logical mind, pitted against my right brain, was aghast at my inability to do arithmetic and later, math, and my inability, at age sixteen, to stay on the road he was trying to teach me to drive on.
Later, when I would bring boyfriends home from college, I tried his patience sorely by taking his vehicle, with boyfriend in tow, to go to Kentucky Lake to try to find new roads to that body of water, going through fields, only to get his brand new Buick Electra stuck in the woods. I had to call him at midnight when we finally found a phone, to come get us. On the way back, he refused to even look at or speak to me as I sat in the back seat of the car terrified at his anger.
And, at other times, I was always deciding to leave home to go live places that never worked out. Countless were the times he had to bring a U-Haul trailer to pick up my belongings and me.
Once, as I was leaving Florida, the car my grandfather gave me, a Dodge, and one my grandfather kept immaculate and one that I did not, broke down and Dad got so frustrated he just flew me home leaving the car at a garage in Florida. Then there were my hitchhiking days to Colorado then Florida and back and forth again where I got jobs but was still always running out of money and calling home frequently to be bailed out.
The last time I saw him he was looking out the living room picture window. I asked him, “Dad, what do you think about when you look out the window?”
He said, “I am looking and thinking about all of God’s beauty.”
Take time to know your father now. He was the first God you waked to, and he won’t live forever.
*In memory of Rodney Arthur Miller, deceased September 3, 2013 at age 89.
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Location: Jackson, Tennessee
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