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Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning

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Family

Ten Years

My father died ten years ago today. You can read about that here if you like. Ten years is hard to process. How does one do that? By days and years clearly. What else? By what’s changed? By what’s different? Children had, weight gained, meals enjoyed, places lived, chins, jobs had, money made, money lost?

How would he process it? That’s the thing I miss – knowing what he’d say. I don’t really know what he’d say about ten years having passed since he died.

So I’m taking the “What Would He Recognize” route. I don’t look too different. He’d comment on wrinkles. He may say I’ve put on a few pounds and that’s a good thing. He’d say my husband looks better with the glasses he now wears. He’d recognize Avery. He’d be able to pick his other four grandkids who he didn’t meet out of a crowd. He’d recognize our home and our home city. Still here, ten years later. We lost a cat and that would make him sad but we still have Max and that would make him laugh.

He’d ask “So, what’s new?”

Well, Dad, you have all these new grandkids and mom is still stirring up the firehouse (not new but awesome anyway), your other daughter and son in law live near mom with their amazing three children (he’d fake gasp and say “THREE! I always knew that child would have three kids!”) so their lives are filled with sports, toddler antics and train and garbage truck obsessions (he’d love that last bit and encourage a wildly impractical collecting habit). Also, Dad, all of your thousands of records and CDs are gone but they’re in a good home (he’d say “I’ll speak to your mother about that.”). I don’t think I’d mention that Donald Trump is President. He wouldn’t believe that anyway.

He’d probably ask about work. He never understood what I did in finance (“She does something with money – you’d have to ask her. She ignored me when I said she should be a priest.”) but he always asked about it. So now the answer would be “So a couple years ago I decided I was done with the whole corporate thing and with the encouragement of my husband and business partner decided to end all of that and now we own and I run these cafes – two of which we bought and well, one which we opened exactly a year ago – actually on October 25th nine years exactly on the day you died. Yes on that day we opened a restaurant in New York City.

This is where I have a hard time…I don’t know really how he would have reacted. Or what exactly he would have said. What’s hard about that is that I feel like I always had a sense of what he’d say…we were pretty good at finishing each other’s sentences, you see. But on this I’m stumped.

I do know he would have listened. “Well, tell me about that!”

So I’d say a lot including “When we jumped into this café venture it was assumed we’d open more. I never knew how many but at least one. Three months after buying two we embarked on opening a third. My husband found the perfect spot in Park Slope. For nine months we tore down, planned, designed, bought, built, spent, unpacked, stocked, hired, prepped, sweated, cried, laughed, cried more, spent more, had night sweats, got excited and then opened. It’s been absolutely great. I mean the cafes drive me nuts (they’re like your kids – you LOVE them but they can make you insane) but overall they’re great and the new one has performed beautifully. I feel lucky. Very very lucky (and all kinds of grateful to the loads of people who helped and are still there today making it great every day).”

He’d say “Tell me about the food.”

And that’s how we’d carry on. The one other thing I know is where he’d sit. He’d like the new café and if he were to join us today on our one year birthday he’d sit at table 6. It’s a corner table, a little tucked away, with a view of the rest of the café. He’d like that seat. He’d spread out with his books and get a iced black coffee and hold court. He liked to hold court and listen.

That’s what he did, he listened. So maybe it doesn’t matter so much that I don’t know what he’d say.

Dad, see you at table 6.

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The Cussing Post

I haven’t written in a while.  I’ve been working and making lunches.  And watching an astonishing amount of television. But the time to record a memory has come.  Let’s talk about cussing.

See, a work friend told me recently that I can be tougher than one would think, and perhaps a little course. He said this with the best of intentions – it was all friendly.  One of the drivers of his opinion is that I swear (more than I should, or more than one would expect).

Hear this now – I swear because my father was a priest.  Full Fucking Stop. 

I remember when I first learned about swearing.  I was about 6 and behind our house was a parking lot…the CHURCH parking lot. It had a basketball court. The neighborhood kids would regularly come and play. They were all older.  And they said “shit” every other word.

Doesn’t every kid do what I did: “Mommy, what does shit mean?”

A week later, no more basketball hoop.  My mother was swift with her actions and was not about to have her daughter learning teenager vocabulary.

With the basketball court out, the swearing was left up to my dad.  As a priest he reserved special right to use all parts of the English language and he was awfully colorful.  “Crap” was just the beginning (not really a curse word).  “Fuck” and “shit”, and their variations, were frequently invoked descriptors for music, kid behavior, NYTimes OPED pieces or parishioners.

“God damn it” however, was forbidden. He had his limits, and we did not take the Lord’s name in vain.  “Damn it” was fine.

My kids like to swear. Whenever they get the chance, they like to review the list of the words they are not allowed to say, just to make sure they have it right.  “Mommy, we never say God Damn It, Shit, or the big one…you know…starts with effffff and then…”

Being a parent can be hard. Watching what you say all the time, eating properly in front of your kids, being patient while reading Goodnight Moon for the 758th time, being kind even when some asshole runs a light. But we try.  We try not to swear. I definitely try not to swear around the kids.

But swearing is like potato chips – hard to open the bag and eat just one – hard to compartmentalize swearing.  I might try harder not to swear. Seems like the right thing to do (on a VERY long list of other right things to do).

A View To Remember

There are certain moments you don’t want to forget.

A few minutes ago our son woke up crying. I brought him out of his room so he wouldn’t wake our daughter. Carrying him, I turned off all the lights in the kitchen and living room. I’m sitting with him on the couch. I’m in our living room and it’s quite dark. The only light comes from our two windows up front. I love those windows. We have tall ceilings and these are tall windows. There’s a tree outside filled with leaves. It looks like we have a breeze now. The light is dim coming from our street but enough to outline the flowers on our dining room table. I bought them two days ago. There’s a small shadow of a lamp on a side table. Our daughter used that lamp this morning as she colored a picture. The outline of the dining room chairs where we all ate dinner tonight is clear. The fan spins silently but powerfully on our ceiling. There’s a small piece of stained glass artwork hanging on a window. Our daughter made that months ago.

There’s a little street noise. I hear the air conditioner turn on. But mostly there’s breathing. That deep rhythmic breathing you hear when you know someone’s asleep. He’s asleep now on my lap.

I think I’ll stay here a little bit longer before quietly placing him back in his bed.

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