Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tender Mercies

I have been missing my father lately. What to tell you about my father? He was larger than life, not particularly tall, strikingly handsome though and full of personality. When you wished he'd tone it down that's when he turned it up. I woke up this morning and my throat was aching and I thought about my father. When we were children my father took care of us when we were sick. When I was 11 or so we took a summer trip to Missouri to visit family. Notice I didn't use the word vacation because nothing in Missouri ever felt like vacation. We caught frogs, went to Nascar like things and my cousins shot turtles off logs. My brother was sickly when he was little but I seldom got sick. I had broken bones mind you because I was out of balance and careless then but never really sick. So on the way home from MO in the back of the pick up truck with the cap on the top, sitting on lawn chairs that tilted to the side when my father would turn (yes, this was not a vacation) I was ill. My father took me directly to the hospital and I had tonsilitis.

For my mother to take time away from work was difficult as she ran the show and when my father took time off it was usually to work another job so we would have money put away for a vacation or a new car or something of that sort because my father didn't believe in running up credit. He made me paranoid about it also as I never have a running credit balance. As kids we had a Sears card that my mother would pull out if the washer broke or we needed new school jackets.

So my father elected to stay home and take care of me. This was so rare my brother was sure we were doing something secret and I wasn't sick at all. I can't help but smile thinking my brother will call me every day now just so we can laugh together for a few minutes. Soon he's going to be a father. Well, he's not bringing a child into the world. He and the pretty younger girlfriend are adopting an English Bull Dog named Mr. Smoochums (can you imagine what they will name a child?). You have no idea the preparation that has gone into bring this puppy home. I didn't prepare like this when we carted Richie home from the hospital. My brother who never emails me emailed me photos of the puppy, like someone sends out ultrasound photos. The first day this dog chews up an expensive pair of their shoes, the first time it craps in his arms while he's carrying it down the 5,000 stairs to their place it won't all be so cute.

In the rare moments I think of my father tenderly it was during the week I had tonsilitis. He was so excited to be home just doing little things around the house without my mother being there to nag him. He reveled in cooking family dinners, huge elaborate dinners to make my mother giggle, amazed that he attended to the little details. He'd bring me mashed potatoes and ice cream and we'd watch Bozo in the afternoon on the little black and white TV on the end of my bed. We played checkers and he told me things, life things he felt important for me to know. You are wondering now what those life things are. Well Charlie always had a wisdom about him that ran in two directions. In one direction, complete insanity the other such common sense that you can't believe he found the insight. It was even hard to put the thought process together, wonder of the experience to know how he'd arrive to the life conclusions let alone to share them with others. Charlieisms:

Never take a greyhound bus anywhere. People who ride on a greyhound bus either have lice or don't mind having it.
Always wear a hat. Ok, this didn't work for me because my head is too large for hats and I have never found one hat I looked good in.
The trick to good health was keeping your feet dry.
Men who work hard are never drunk. He didn't mention women, I assume he thought they should never be drunk.
People of color didn't really know how to swim. His proof of this? Ever see a really good olympic swimmer of color?
Men in the Marine corp are better men and they have brothers all over the world.
Children should never be heard past 5pm and he's home whatever he wants to watch on the tv is what we are watching even if that means the mating practices of any african animal on marlon perkins
Planet of the apes could really happen
You can always superglue a cut if you dont have bandaids

So he'd glide in, tool belt on, a pencil tucked behind his ear held by this giant flush of dark hair. He'd kiss me on top of my head and he was off again. He'd float by after my nap, feel my forehead and just my luck at 3pm all that week on wls, the planet of the apes movies. He'd make Stan come in and watch too but sit across the room in the big french chair my grandmother sat in while she watched Sox games in the afternoon. The three of us "holding down the fort" until my mother came home. This week he'd fix the dishwasher that she used to store pots for a year. He worked in the garden, worked on the pool filter and looked through the yard for snakes so my mother could hang sheets on the line without screaming like a maniac but mostly he was my guardian and my caretaker.

At the end of the week on Sunday morning while my mother was at church with my brother he'd come in my room, sit at the little electric organ and play swing low sweet chariot and sing loud, waking me. "hey your tonsils saved us from a morning of church wanna watch wrestling with me?" We cooked breakfast, I felt better, the fog of sickness lifting and tomorrow morning he'd be back saving the world. He ate the world. Richie hardly remembers him and he's like my father, a bull in a china shop. He's not as brilliant as my father but he's more tender when you aren't sick. I remember being fresh from heart surgery home,home finally. I told Richie I needed some chicken broth hot in a cup and he said "I'll have to check the salt content on that." I kept thinking how horribly had I screwed up that Richie was in charge and we had to think of the salt content of anything.Soon he will be back at school and my house will be mine again. When I floated through the house yesterday there were two tvs on, the stereo running on the counter and I ached for quiet.

take your head around the world
see what you get
from your mind
write your soul down word for word
see who's your friend
who is kind
well it's almost like a disease
and I know soon you will be

over the lies
you'll be strong
you'll be rich in love
and you will carry on
no no no, oh no
no you won't be mine

take your straight line for a curve
make it stretch
the same old line
then try to find if it was worth
what you spent
why you're guilty for the way you're feeling now
it's almost like being free
I know soon you will be

over the lies
you'll be strong
you'll be rich in love
and you will carry on
no no no, oh no
no you won't be mine - Rob Thomas

My father would like that I was writing about him this morning, this hazy lazy summer morning. We've had a rainy cool summer and those are the summers I like the best. Today I am making a bracelet for suzy's visit, something she will love with not too many beads. I am going to wander to the farmers market and find the perfect melon and some very ripe tomatoes to practice something wonderful to cook for her. I'll work all day because that's what I do and I think tonight I will watch the hulk. I could use a little mindless entertainment. If my father were still alive I'd make him lunch and take the kid over to see him, he always liked that best. We'd talk of life and I'd put my head on his shoulder and wait to hear him say, "this shit passes." Bukowski would say life is a "river of shit." word.

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