As a kid, I remember weekends with my dad. I say “with” my dad and not “at” my dad’s, because it was never the same place for long. Sometimes it was the spare bedroom of a friend that worked at the body shop. Sometimes it was house shared with a current girlfriend. Or the hotel with the constant sound of police sirens echoing outside the window . Wherever it was, it was always home. I remember the pallet of blankets he’d set up on the floor for us. I think he felt guilty about not having beds for us girls. He’d stack 3 or 4 comforters over top of the layer of the foam mattress topper bought from K-mart, and my sister and I would cozy up there for the night. It was never uncomfortable. We were never disappointed to come and have to sleep on the floor. We never complained. Because it was home.
As a kid, I remember the late nights waking to the sound of my dad’s silver spoon hitting his glass cereal bowl at 3AM. We’d sit in the darkness, watching repeats of Seinfeld we’d seen a thousand times. He’d recite every line. “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” I remember The animated way he laughed when he chewed, the way milk would linger in his beard until he fell asleep and he never seemed to notice.
As a kid I remember driving in the red Firebird. Windows down, driving the country roads. Purposefully speeding up and down the hills so it’d “catch our bellies”. We’d drive into the sunset, giggling, and then drifting into sleep to the sound of a lullaby drum solo played on the dashboard. The dream catcher hanging from the rear view mirror kept us safe from our nightmares. Our worries were as far away as the car could drive us.
As a kid I remember days spent at the lake. Building sand castles in the makeshift Ohio beaches. By night we’d be Catching fireflies and making s’mores around the camp fire, counting the stars and pointing which ones were the brightest. Knowing that the next day we’d return to our mom’s, and the only thing we’d have connecting us were those bright stars in the distance.
As an adult, I remember him changing. I saw him age as his dark hair sprouted gray, and his beard began to resemble salt and pepper. His belly grew larger, as his hair grew longer. The aviators he used to always wear were replaced with reading glasses, to small for his round cheeks. The old firebird was replaced by a work truck. He no longer smelled of paint thinner and gasoline. His hands were no longer stained black by the oil of cars.
As an adult, I remember him disappearing. I forgot the way it sounded to hear him laugh. I forgot the way he’d assure me over and over, that it was never goodbye forever, only for a little while. I forgot the way it sounded, to hear his “dashboard symphonies”. I forgot why he even left at all.
As an adult, I remember the day. I remember the day I got the call. The call that reminded me of every thing I loved about him most. . .
The box of Marlboro’s always in his flannel pocket. The best hidden parks he could find. The stories of all the trouble he’d cause growing up. The scoffing laughter toward his own sarcasm. The bear hugs that never lasted long enough. The tears after being reunited after far too long. The creeks we explored. The trails we traveled with homemade walking sticks. The cicadas he chased us with, or looking for the blue eyed cicada worth $5,000. The rollercoasters we screamed on. The dippin’ dots we shared. The homemade spaghetti paired with the best Kroger salad. The games of Rummy, when he’d never cut us any slack just because we were kids. We had to learn, and we had to be good at it. The way he called everyone “babe”, or the pack of “bubs”. How even at 26, as I wiped the sweat from from his forehead, while he lay in his hospital bed I was Still his “babygirl.”
As an adult, I will remember him. For every seemingly insignificant detail that made up his true heart.
Tonight has kept we wide awake as storms of memories fill my mind and poured deep into my soul. I relive every moment I can, grasping on to every memory, trying to recall every detail. Scared I got it wrong, scared I’ve forgotten. When people leave this earth, all you have left are pieces of memories. I now know to Cherish them. To Remember the sounds, the smells, the feelings. And to cling to those as long as i can. It will eventually be what causes him to continuing living on.