Thursday, January 04, 2007

As time goes on

the lens of time does refocus things. Dad was my nemesis when I was a kid, and that’s the way of the world. I wanted to make nitroglycerine, he put the kibosh on that. I wanted to nair several of the neighborhood cats- even saved the money and bought the nair- no dice. I wanted to give the dog a mowhawk- OK, I DID give the dog a mowhawk, but I got my ass whipped for it… Anyway, the point is, I look at al the shit I wanted to do, tried to do, tried to get away with, and all the times dad thwarted me. he seemed to have a sixth sense about the type of trouble I would get into, up to and including collecting shot and rock salt in disagreements over the ownership of produce. Sometimes the shot got dug out. Sometimes the rock salt sat there and dissolved, and was a long term painful reminder as to why I shouldn’t have been coveting the watermelons in that specific field in the first place.
Anyway, as time goes on, I look back at those moments and think less and less about the asswhippings,etc., because I have now well and truly learned the lessons they taught. I can think of them as much needed reinforcements. On the extra hand, I can think more clearly of the good moments, which I do, a great deal.
One such moment happened on a cool afternoon like today, not long after I got my driver’s license. Dad had just come out of one of his many surgeries, and he was sitting around the house grousing because he couldn’t drive. “Where do you want to go anyway?” I asked him. ‘hell, i don’t know. Maybe I’d like to go fishing” so I said hell, let’s do it. We hopped in his truck, me driving, drove down to lake shaffer in Monticello Indiana, a couple hours drive. I was off for a couple days, we both had valid licenses. Dad had just had surgery on his left arm- he’d had an infection in the bone marrow that after scraping it al out had left his humerus eggshell thin. He couldn’t do much besides reel in with it, and since he had a baitcasting reel I loaned him a spinner. That way he could cast with his right arm and just reel with his left, not put too much strain on it.
We stood on dry stones below the dam and cast out into the river. We didn’t catch a lot of fish, but we caught a few, and we sat on the shore frying them in a pan over a little primus stove. Pop had a beer, though he wasn’t suposed to, and I drank a Doctor pepper from a bottle. We hardly talked the whole time. The image of dad standing on those rocks, his pipe bit in his mouth and the aroma of fivestar surrounding him, ballcap on his head,reeling in palm sized bluegills and rebaiting his hook… The memories that count, the true memories, the real memories; they come shining through at the moments we least expect.
I try hard not to be as absent as Dad was, he had a job schedule and a private life that excluded him from being home very much. Most of the time when we were together we were working together, fixing someone’s car, fence, roof, remodeling the school dorms, etc. The moments we had together just he and I have been lost a long time. Now, the history of my misspent youth fades and those times snap into focus- the day’s stubble of his beard, the smell of that pipe, the way he struck a kitchen match on the seam of his Dickies. i can see them now, more clearly than ever before. Sometimes I can even write about those things without going insane with the pain of having lost him. I also am more aware of the times I don’t spend with the oglet, and try to stretch them.
Last week I had another of those moments, and when i did, I got in my car and drove over to mom’s to give her a big hug. I think she thought i was nuts. I’m glad these memories are coming back now, when i can try to write them with some level of eloquence. I’m glad I have these moments to remind me to appreciate those i have yet.
On the way home, dad slept with his head up against the corner of ther truck’s cab. I took the pipe out of his hand lest he burn himself, and as it was darkening, I could see it had a cherry there yet, I put it to my lips and drew a big deep draw, pulled the rough smoke into my lungs, held it there a bit, exhaled it slowly through my nose to catch every nuance of the aroma. I put the pipe in the ashtray and drove the rest of the way home.