Needle – SOL Day 2

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Just jammed my new mechanical pencil into the palm of my hand.

I tell my daughter to fetch me a needle and my glasses — I want to take care of this before my palm festers, twinges… something.

She takes awhile to hunt for the sewing case, but I remember the perfect, perfect needle I found when I was cleaning out the junk drawer (the irony isn’t lost on me).  Long and sleek, like the ones my mother used to hem skirts, I didn’t want to bury it away to never be seen again.  I held the needle, new and steely-hard, amazed something that could so easily pierce flesh had the power to mend what was damaged.  Then I turned to the calendar in our kitchen wall, and pinned it to the top corner of the Month of January, just like my mother used to.

Its so strange how the habits of our parents come visit us out of the blue.

For the graphite stuck in my palm, I remembered my Dad removing jagged glass, cactus needles, and wood splinters, all while I was growing up.

He never, ever hesitated — even though he called himself the business man on the planet, him and his world of “problems!  problems!” that he was called to rectify — he always had time for his little girl and her little injuries.  Always.

When Ronnie had something stuck in her foot, he’d drop everything.. everything.. and keep me near him until he gathered the necessary supplies to do his little surgery.

Gently angle the needle against the skin, gently peel, peel every layer of dermis until reaching the culprit, avenge the injury with antibiotic cream and a bandaid.

Do you remember, Dad?

Si, mijita.

Dad’s Tapes – SOL 2016

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Tonight, without any prompting from me, my mother gave me three full boxes of my Dad’s cassette tape recordings.  Some are his original music, some are recordings from various Spanish stations, all of them are memory.

I’ve been given a treasure trove of my father’s memories.

I have access to a part of soul, I can guess what he felt, I can reach for his motivation and thinking — Why did he record this and not this other thing over here?  He was interested in this?  Wow, I didn’t know this!

This is a big deal for me, as my parents have had nothing to do with the Facebook era.  No statii on various posts, no 140-character thoughts.

Dad ebbed into the silence, and now I’ve been given the memory of his voice.   … I’m still processing this.  But I know it’s a magnificent thing.  Thank you, Mom.

***

Why did he record so much?  Was he lonely?

– No, Mom, he was alive.  And making memories for us.

But there’s so much.

– That’s because he had so much to say.  This was his language, a part of his soul.

 

… On Why Recording Your Thoughts is so Important.

 

 

 

Dialogue.

“The house, it’s very good.”

“Yes, Dad, it is.”

“The floor, it’s very solid.”  Dad was pointing to the faded linoleum at his feet and extended his arm, following the ghost of a trail that, ironically, would have ended somewhere near his bedroom, where he was supposed to be.  It was my turn to make sure he made it to bed.

“It’s a very good house.”

“Yes, Dad, I’m very happy for you, you should be very proud.  It’s a solid house for you and Mom to live in, how wonderful.”

“And I have more over there,” he motioned past the back door, toward Elsa, the sister city of Edcouch, Texas where I grew up.  “Something over there and I have it.”

“Yes, Dad, property.  Houses where other people can live in.  You are a very good landlord, so good to the people, Dad.”

“Yes .. this is a very good house.”

We talked this way for about 10-15 minutes.  It may have been circular, it may have extended beyond Dad trying to remember where he lived and that he had something else beyond these four walls he was responsible for.  He may have mentioned the house he owned next door where I grew up, I can’t remember.  But I pray I can remember.  I want to believe I wrote it down somewhere, understanding in that moment, the urgency of Dad’s memory leaving him. It was calling out to me that night as we sat there, I know I sensed something going, saying goodbye.  So, I have to believe I wrote parts of our conversation down somewhere.  Even all those years ago, I carried a notebook. I always carried a notebook.  But to find that notebook, if there is a notebook, that would mean a day-long, even week-long search.  Of all I’ve seen and face, I don’t think I’m ready to find a notebook from that time period and discover nothing in it, so I tease myself into remembering parts of our conversation, believing the rest will come to me.  As long as I have the golden key of the conversation, the rest will come.  The rest will come.

“Dad, it’s time for bed.  Mama wants you in bed, let me take you.”

“Yes, I have to go.”

“Let me help you up… I had fun talking with you, Dad.”

“Si, mijita.”  (that means, yes, my daughter)

I kept a slow pace with him as he slowly made his way on his walker past his recliner, out of the den, and into the kitchen.  At the bar, I stopped to look at the knick-knacks and various religious tchotchkes Mom had hung for him.  One of them was his prayer ring.

“Oh, Dad, this is beautiful, I remember this!”

“You want it, mijita?  Take it, it’s yours.”

“No, Dad, I can’t take your stuff.  You keep it.”

“Ok.. but, anything you want, I’ll give you all this and more.”

My Dad’s last Words of Self to me.  I would see him another day, but those were cursory exchanges, told in the mix of everyone and the day passing with children underfoot.  These, these were for me.  He didn’t say my name at all that night, but in the words he spoke, there was me in his voice.

I will never forget.

I love you, Dad.

 

 

 

 

Dad’s Hands. – SOL Day 5

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About 4 years ago, I had a conversation with my father. It was a 45-minute conversation. It took about 15 minutes to reach a space in my Dad’s reality where we could converse — almost like children. I held him there for about 10, maybe 15.  Then he began to drift.

“You should go to bed, Dad.”

“Yes, maybe I should.”

That was the last conversation I ever had with my father. He’s still alive, but he has Alzheimers.

I’d woken up one morning about a week before, telling my husband I had a dream about my father’s hands. In my dream, we were outside, figures were fuzzy, it was daylight, but I observed my father closing the garden gate. I watched his hands as he enclosed himself behind his fence while I stood on the other side.

We confirmed our arrangements to go down and see my parents that weekend for Easter. As he declined, he had been doing puzzles for the last year.  My sister would bring large books and tactile toys from her 2nd grade classroom for him to read and play.  He could no longer read his favorite magazines and could only focus on a few sentences from short paragraphs that were placed in front of him.  So, throughout the week before my visit, I got ready by collecting things I knew I wanted to reintroduce to him  — things for him to look at, touch and feel.  Here I was, getting ready to explore the world with my father, the Chemistry teacher who gave me my love of Astronomy, all things Science and faith.

[Lead up to the evening we talked.]

[The Conversation]

It was the last “complete” visit we had.  Every morning, I pass by a picture of my Dad caressing a beautiful rock I gave him.  I don’t know if I had my conversation with him that night or the night before the picture was taken.  My mind is in the same place his is when it comes to the order of events — it’s stored safely in the past.

I have faith we’ll be able to talk again one day and sort that one out…