Sometimes some of my best thinking is done while driving. Yesterday NPR triggered a series of memories and emotions I was not expecting. When I was a little girl I remember waiting up for my dad to come home from work as I tried to sit patiently - the hum of the dishwasher making me feel sleepy...my footed pajama's whispering on linoleum floors, shadows dancing on flowered walls.
I would wait for him to walk through the door from a long day of surgery, and eat up the attention that the Dr. would finally direct my way. It's been almost 20 years since he passed of prostate cancer, and I remember that wink and his smile like it was yesterday. There were things about him that were all his own including his sense of humor, unwavering faith, can do attitude, and his passion for literature and music. The thing I remember most about my Dad was his hunger for intellectually challenging conversation. He loved digging in the trenches of discussions, and challenged me to think and respond accordingly. He was into the "principal" of things and held a high moral standard for himself, and those around him.
He never really treated me like a child, and I think exposed me to issues and problems well before I was actually able to wrap my head around them- but it did make me feel extremely important and boosted my confidence. He certainly taught me never to "hide" out with thoughts unspoken. He told me once that "life was for living, " and so it is.
My Dad's family were Irish Immigrants- and his parents settled in Wakefield MA on Albion Street, and proceeded to have eight children. My Dad was born in 1923. His father was a butcher, and I really no nothing more except that both of his parents died of cancer before he turned twenty. His sisters put him through college and medical school, and he would tell me stories about how he had been a poor student, and failed many classes in math and science before finally "applying himself" and making the marks that finally allowed him to graduate and go on to Georgetown Medical University where he studied Vascular Surgery. He was a pioneer in his field and went on to become Chief Vascular Surgeon at one of the largest hospitals in Detriot Michigan, and held that position for 30 years (I was still in high school when he retired.)
He had been drafted, been through wars, cared for people in WWII, and worked with sick and wounded people from the onset of his career. He had been there through the Detriot Riots, and used to tell me about the many gunshot wounds, and terrible stories of families who's children had needed a surgeon and who could not afford the care, and how he would peform the surgery's anyways. We would always have visits from people who would bring gifts to our home on the weekends to come visit the "Doc" many who said he saved their lives.
In addition to the fact that NPR was always a favored station in his car I heard a poem yesterday entitled "Music" and It was simply beautiful and flooded me with memories I had not even known I still had. I remember how after he retired my dad would drive me to school and we would listen to the classical station and how he would orchestrate the music with his finger in the air, and intermittently pat my knee. He affectionately called me "Moniker" and I had a deep affection for my Dad- we were pretty great together.
I learned yesterday as I was listening to that poem called "Music" that grief can still reach out of the quiet peaceful places of your heart and wash over your memory as you sit remembering the life of someone who deeply touches your soul. I learned that it can still wrack you years later- even when you never see it coming. Life I think, is funny like that. It makes you FEEL when you least expect it, and forces you to have a moment that seems way to big for you to manage, and then will throw you something uneventful and mundane in it's wake - like a flat tire.
When I had finished wiping my tears and cursing the pothole I calmly called AAA and waited until someone came to my assistance. The roadside spot where I had wept so deeply as I recalled such a remarkable piece of my life easily let me move onward as the open road lay before me. AAA finished it's fix and I put the car into drive.