I had this very vivid dream last night, one that seemed so real yet at the same time felt as if I were watching from above. I know I was smiling in my sleep because in my dream I was elated, relieved, felt loved. My father came to my home in NY, but it wasn’t my actual home. It was more like a log cabin out in the woods. He was carrying a large box and he stood tall and strong. I remember thinking it was strange to not only see him here, but to see him carrying such a heavy box. Somewhere in the back of my unconscious memory I knew the reality was that my dad was too frail to ever come back to NY, let alone carry a large box, but for those few moments I felt the truth was reversed and the realty was that my dad was young and with me.
Something strange happens as you get older, just as you watch your child grow at a rapid speed, you have the other extreme of watching your parents regress out of nowhere. My father is still alive but a mere shell of what he used to be. He can barely walk without stumbling, his voice is frail, he has lost so much weight and his face looks almost hallow. I never bothered to compare what he looks like now to what he looked like before, yet after this dream I realize that I long to see him as he once was, driving his green, Ford pickup truck, and going out of his way to make sure I get something I forgot, instead of merely putting in it the mail.
Emma’s birth was bittersweet for me in so many ways, with the main one being the decline of my father’s health. I never wrote about how Emma spent her first 4 days in the NICU, being prodded and hooked up to a bunch of wires. I was only able to hold her at feedings and once I did bring her home I was so paranoid that all I could do was fret over every fast breath she made. I guess I’ll write about that another day. My maternity leave wasn’t any better nor was it as enjoyable as I had envisioned. I wanted to spend the remainder of my leave back home in Florida with my family. I wanted to take advantage of having an extra set of hands to help ME out and let ME sleep. The truth of the matter was I would be going back home to try and fix the crumbling state of my parent’s estate. I ended up running around looking through endless items, deciding what we kept, sold, donated or threw away. My mind was overwhelmed with how one person could collect so many useless items. Who needs 32 Budweiser “collectable” mugs?! Seriously!!! Items which were never used, nor taken out of their boxes. The fact that they were never enjoyed is what killed me the most. They were just locked away in some dark tomb never to see the light of day. I would go through box after box and pray I would find something of personal value, something that made me feel my time was being put to good use, but alas all I found was one small beer mug that was wrapped in tissue paper and had a handwritten note that read “birthday gift for Tommy from mom and dad 1944”. I put it in my pocket and just kept on sorting. Every time I went back home just meant more work, more throwing away, more decisions to make, more companies to call. I still just want a vacation where I can lay on the beach in silence, alone. Some people might feel that what we did was perhaps callous. To throw someone’s personal items away without their knowledge while they are still alive, but it just had to be done. In hindsight I wish we that we had tackled the entire situation differently but hindsight is always 20/20.
Something that helped me though this time was of all things the movie Up. Last Christmas came the daunting task of cleaning out my grandmother’s home which had become my father’s 2nd major storage location. It was finally sold and would sadly be demolished. I was not only rummaging through mostly garbage but I was also saying goodbye to my grandmother’s home, to a part of my childhood. It had been uninhabited for almost 20 years yet it was always there, on Habana Ave. This home was where my brother and I would spend all our afternoons after school, visiting my grandmother. We would play outside on these logs that when I revisited seemed so small, yet appeared like castles to us at the time. I remember sitting in the kitchen listening to my grandmother say the same story over and over of how my father got lost one day when he decided to chase a train and how a nice colored lady found him, gave him ice cream, and brought him back. See apparently Alzheimer’s runs in our family and I hope that science works its wonder for when it's my turn. As I went from room to room, mostly in despair, I just kept repeating to myself, “it’s just a house”, as Carl Frederickson did as he watched his house fall into the abyss. I learned that a house is just a house and I needed to walk away with my memories and not form attachments to the fireplace, or the mint green kitchen, or the great hardware on the doors.
It is hard to even write about this, I mean I think about them every day, my parents, my grandparent my childhood, and something does occur to a person once they have a child where you realize just how much your parents loved you and how much they gave up for you. I love that my parents come to me in my dreams, always smiling, always young. I want to strive to make Emma’s childhood extraordinary and do little things for her just like my dad did for me. I remember on the eve of my first day of school, my dad stayed up late embroidering my name on my school bag. Each letter had a different shade of thread. I still have that bag and it is much smaller than I remember. He also made my pencil box which I hated it because it was a wood box that he had sanded and stained and completely different to the one everyone else had, you remember those cardboard box ones that had various scenes on the outside. I now wish I had that box with me. Another fond memory is how one day during my sophomore year in HS my dad picked me up from school and there was a lot of commotion in the pickup area. The date was Friday, Feb 12 and all the girls who had boyfriends were carrying their large flower arrangements or were greeted by their boyfriends who brought them balloons and oversized stuffed animals. I only remember uttering something under my breath of how stupid it was with all this Valentine’s Day commotion. My dad asked me why and I think I said something of how it just caused traffic and made it harder to get through the lot. That Sunday there was 2 dozen roses in my bedroom and at first I couldn’t figure out why and then I realized that during my teenage-angst rant, my dad heard what I hadn’t said-which was how I really did wish someone had brought me flowers. As long as I have health, I am going to make Emma feel extra special on her birthday and holidays and on regular days simply because I can.