This July marks nine years since Dad passed away. Here’s one of our favorite pieces honoring him.
by Kim Keller
A couple of weeks ago I came upon this quote:
“We do not remember days; we remember moments.” It’s attributed to Cesare Pavese, an Italian author, poet and critic.
Well, I quickly thought, of course that’s true, but I never really absorbed the idea that an entire lifetime of hours and minutes and seconds could be distilled down into the moments we recognize as our memories.
After my father died, I was shattered and for the longest time I obsessed over his final days, replaying them over and over in my head. I started to worry that those painful memories might end up being my permanent record.
But that’s not how it turned out.
With time, the awful heartache eased, and now Dad shows up regularly in my life, in the most unexpected places. Each time it’s a wonderful little surprise, and I rarely see the triggers coming.
The smell of Old Spice will do it. I can see my dad chuckling at that and insisting, “Kim, I stopped wearing Old Spice back in the 70s!”
Maybe so, but that smell still takes me instantly back to my childhood, sitting on the toilet seat, watching my dad shave and splashing his face at the end with Old Spice.
Music is a surefire invitation to spend time with my dad. I can’t say that I really enjoyed all the times my dad would play Patsy Cline when I was a kid. But now I’m thrilled whenever I hear her singing Crazy.
Sometimes when I’m channel surfing, I stumble upon Dirty Dancing — you remember that movie, right? With Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, and Jerry Orbach playing Baby’s father? I was shocked when I found out this movie was one of my Dad’s guilty pleasures. The thought of that still makes me giggle.
And I think of all those years I walked right passed his lovely rose garden, with little appreciation for all the beauty and hard work. Now, I can’t pass a rose without smiling.
Not too long ago, friends of mine were all talking about the challenges of getting their kids to sleep through the night. It immediately transported me back to that string of nights when I was about six years old. I have no idea what woke me up that first night, but my dad heard me and came into my room. I still remember how delighted he seemed to join me. Dad sat down on the side of my bed, rubbed my head and talked softly with me. Then he went down to the kitchen to pour me a glass of juice. When he returned, he sat back down on the bed and watched me drink my juice. He made sure I was settled in, tucked me back into bed and turned off the light. It made me feel warm and cared for. I so enjoyed this little private time with my dad, and was equally convinced that he had as well, that I made a point of waking myself up the very next night in order to get the same treatment. I kept this up for about a week until, finally, he let me know that we both needed our rest and I should try sleeping through the night.
In the end, my memory of Dad wasn’t reduced to his last days and weeks, as I had feared. Instead, in the most unanticipated ways, these delightful little moments began to appear and transform the lingering pain. Slowly but surely, these moments helped to heal the ache of his loss and refill my life with a full and beautiful portrait of my father.
Kim Keller is the Co-Founder of In Care of Dad. She lives and works in New York City.
The photo was taken by Helen Forsyth Richardson.