Tag Archives: memories of father

The Day After Christmas

I usually post on Mondays, but this week’s Monday being Christmas and today being my father’s birthday, I wanted to post today. My father didn’t like having a birthday the day after Christmas. He felt he was shortchanged and overlooked. Maybe being a twin accentuated that feeling since he had to share a birthday not only (almost) with baby Jesus, but with a brother he shared his life with.

My father grew up quite poor with his twin, his older sister, and his single mother. I doubt there was too much hoorah for his birthday, although I’m sure Grandma would have tried to give them a good Christmas on Christmas Eve, in the German tradition. I imagine she made clothes for Christmas for all three children.

When I was a kid, my mother liked to make Dad feel better by celebrating his half-birthday on June 26.  We would go to Sears or Robert Hall and buy him a shirt and tie or something equally unimaginative and wrap it up in birthday paper. Mom usually made a cake, too, from a Duncan Hines box mix. (By the way, I just looked up Duncan Hines for the heck of it, and did you know he was a real man? Very interesting story on Wikipedia).

My father’s birthday always seemed a touch sad and anti-climactic, whether it was on December 26 or on June 26. An emptiness inside him wasn’t filled by whatever we did, and my mother was not one to prepare an exciting celebration. There were many wonderful birthday parties in their lives, but they were always planned by my extroverted father for my introverted mother.

I do think his favorite birthday gift was the year I made him a videotape of his life for his 80th birthday. The quality was appalling as I didn’t have the proper software or equipment. So much easier today to make a video! To make it, I had to watch hours and hours and hours of old videotapes (those hardcover book-sized videos) and digitize what I needed. It was painstaking work that took so many hours I wouldn’t want to try to count them up. This was pre-blogging days, needless to say.

The only thing that I didn’t get on the video that he would have liked was his bungee jump at age sixty as I couldn’t find a photo at the time. I always planned to add it in and edit the video when easier software became available, but I never got around to it before he died. Now it seems pointless.

Of course, when I went to look for the photo to post it here, it’s lost again. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Here’s an idea of how crummy the video was: this is the first 20 seconds. The reason that I chose this music is because my father used to put on a fake opera voice–much deeper than his speaking voice–to sing. He would sing “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Proud Mary.” This version of “Happy Birthday” reminded me of my father’s singing ;). Also, every year on my birthday (that we lived in different states), he would sing me happy birthday over the phone.

Very important: notice the post-it note next to the cake pan in the second photograph. That is my mother’s handwriting.

My father was always the one behind the camera, so it wasn’t easy finding him on video (which is why I had to use a lot of photos as in the sample above. When I watched him seeing the video for the first and second times, I noticed that he seemed happy and quizzical. The latter emotion was shared after the second viewing when he said, “I didn’t know I was so LOUD!”

Yes, he was. Dad was loud. And he loved a party. I’m just glad I made that video so that for once he had a really good birthday.

 

My father in his best role, Grandpa

At his favorite place, the lake (where he had to be quiet)

 

 

 

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

New Year’s Eve with My Dad

I first published this post last New Year’s Eve.  I’ve added an update at the end.

Although I rarely go to New Year’s Eve parties any more (cue: one big whine and then a hefty sigh of relief), when I was growing up NYE always meant parties.  My parents went to one or hosted one every year.

In the sixties, my parents held their parties in the basement of our house.  Mom draped a paper tablecloth over the ping-pong table and Dad stocked the bar he’d built in the corner.  He set up table games and placed ashtrays on every available surface.  When he dragged out the box with the hats and noisemakers and boas I scrambled to help.  My favorite was the noisemaker blow out.  When I blew on the pipe end, the little roll of paper unfurled with a sputtery raspberry.  The tin drums which spun on wind-up stems sounded a raucous blare, so Dad would grab one of those and twirl it.

In the kitchen, my mother made canapés and Chex Mix.  She refrigerated 7-Up and washed the “frosted” highball glasses. Gold leaves, which I was sure were 24k gold leaf, decorated the crystal.

These plastic clips identified which drink to refill: rum and Coke, Seven and Seven, etc.

These plastic clips identified which drink to refill: Rum-and-Coke, Seven-and-seven, Gin-and-tonic, Scotch-and-soda.

I’m not saying I was a snoop, but I could hear everything.  I could even see a flash of the neighbor’s shiny bald head or Dad’s hand dealing cards through the register in the floor right near my bed.  I sat on the floor for hours with my legs cramped up underneath me.

While I didn’t hear anything of particular interest, the social interactions between the adults—their jokes, the vibrations in their voices, the sudden bursts of laughter– kept me straining my hearing.  Dad’s loud, excited voice rose above the others.  Everyone else faded into a background buzz in comparison with him.  Dad was the life of the party.

For his 80th birthday I made him a video of his life, and when Dad saw himself on video, he said, “I didn’t know I was so obnoxious!”  I had to laugh to myself at that because it isn’t as if nobody has told him that over the years.  Mostly, though, his enthusiasm for having a good time has been infectious.  At eighty-four he still likes to stir things up.  I suspect he’ll be wearing a hat and sounding his noisemaker at midnight tonight in Michigan.

Dad is ready for the party!

Dad is ready for the party!

###

This year Dad is, of course, 85. I will be seeing my parents the day after tomorrow, so I can ring in the New Year with them just a tad late.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

New Year’s Eve with My Dad

Although I rarely go to New Year’s Eve parties any more (cue: one big whine and then a hefty sigh of relief), when I was growing up NYE always meant parties.  My parents went to one or hosted one every year.

In the sixties, my parents held their parties in the basement of our house.  Mom draped a paper tablecloth over the ping-pong table and Dad stocked the bar he’d built in the corner.  He set up table games and placed ashtrays on every available surface.  When he dragged out the box with the hats and noisemakers and boas I scrambled to help.  My favorite was the noisemaker blow out.  When I blew on the pipe end, the little roll of paper unfurled with a sputtery raspberry.  The tin drums which spun on wind-up stems sounded a raucous blare, so Dad would grab one of those and twirl it.

In the kitchen, my mother made canapés and Chex Mix.  She refrigerated 7-Up and washed the “frosted” highball glasses. Gold leaves, which I was sure were 24k gold leaf, decorated the crystal.

These plastic clips identified which drink to refill: rum and Coke, Seven and Seven, etc.

These plastic clips identified which drink to refill: Rum-and-Coke, Seven-and-seven, Gin-and-tonic, Scotch-and-soda.

I’m not saying I was a snoop, but I could hear everything.  I could even see a flash of the neighbor’s shiny bald head or Dad’s hand dealing cards through the register in the floor right near my bed.  I sat on the floor for hours with my legs cramped up underneath me.

While I didn’t hear anything of particular interest, the social interactions between the adults—their jokes, the vibrations in their voices, the sudden bursts of laughter– kept me straining my hearing.  Dad’s loud, excited voice rose above the others.  Everyone else faded into a background buzz in comparison with him.  Dad was the life of the party.

For his 80th birthday I made him a video of his life, and when Dad saw himself on video, he said, “I didn’t know I was so obnoxious!”  I had to laugh to myself at that because it isn’t as if nobody has told him that over the years.  Mostly, though, his enthusiasm for having a good time has been infectious.  At eighty-four he still likes to stir things up.  I suspect he’ll be wearing a hat and sounding his noisemaker at midnight tonight in Michigan.

Dad is ready for the party!

Dad is ready for the party!

I live in the Southwest, but I almost wish I could be there, listening through the register.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir