Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘things I learn from my family’

By Bob Chrisman



Allen Cemetery on the outskirts of Gower, Missouri serves as the final resting place for my mother’s parents and some of her aunts, uncles, and cousins. Names like Patton, Divelbiss, Pogue, and Williams mark the plots of family members. Every Memorial Day we decorated those graves. As time passed and more relatives took up residence among the tombstones, we didn’t attend to as many of the graves. After my father’s stroke in 1969, which left him bedridden, and my sister’s departure to teach a distance away, we decorated fewer graves because my mother didn’t like to leave my father alone for long.

After my father died in 1984, Aunt Vera, my mother’s younger sister, and her husband, Uncle Howard, joined us for the annual, grave-decorating trip. Neither one of them drove anymore so they gladly came along for the outing and the lunch that followed. I would swing by their house, just up the street a few blocks from where my mother lived, and pick them up.

Uncle Howard had a great sense of humor despite the hardships of his life. He managed to find something funny about most everything. Going to the cemetery provided him with an opportunity and a captive audience. Much to my mother and aunt’s chagrin, my uncle always told me the same story on the way there.

“Bob, did I ever tell you about buying those cemetery plots?”

Although I had heard the story many times in the past, I would say, “No, Uncle Howard. What happened?” With that question he launched into the story.

“Your mom and dad and Vera and I made an appointment with Eldon Lee. You know Eldon Lee, don’t you? He was the funeral director and caretaker of the cemetery. We drove out to Gower one evening. We picked four spaces right in a row. The girls decided that we would be buried boy-girl-boy-girl.

“Eldon Lee put your father’s name down first, then your mom’s, and then he started to write my name. I said, ‘Eldon Lee, hold on. I’m not happy with this arrangement.’ They all looked at me like I’d lost a marble or two, but Eldon Lee put down his pen to hear me out.

“I said, ‘When you die, you lay down for your eternal rest to get some peace, don’t you?’ Eldon Lee nodded his head. ‘Well, how much rest and peace do you think I’d get planted between Lucile and Vera? Not much. I can tell you that right now. You better put the girls together between Len and I so all that chatter between the girls won’t disturb us in our graves.’

“That’s why your mom and Vera have places next to each other.”

He laughed in that mischievous way of his. My mother and Aunt Vera sighed. Aunt Vera said, “Oh, Howard.” No matter how many times I heard the story, I laughed. I could imagine my mother and her sister gossiping in the grave while my father snored on one side and Uncle Howard tossed and turned on the other end.

Uncle Howard had another routine that he started when we pulled up the gravel road into the cemetery. He never failed me in doing this one, which irritated my mother and aunt beyond words. That made it all the funnier because they should have known it was coming, but it always appeared to take them by surprise.

My mother and her sister decided which set of graves we would visit and in what order. My Uncle Howard pointed at new graves we passed.

“Look, Bob, see that one? Hey, you girls, would you pipe down? All your talking drives the ground squirrels away. I’m trying to see how fat they are. Looks like we’ve added lots of new dishes to the graveyard buffet lately.” He laughed.

That stopped the women’s conversation. Aunt Vera usually said, “Howard, that’s no way to talk about the dead.”

“I guess you’re right.” He paused for effect. “But, they’re dead and they don’t care about my little joke.”

Mom said, “Howard, someday you’ll be lying here in the ground and you won’t want someone talking about you like that?”

“You’re right, Lucile, but I’ll be dead and I won’t care. I’m so little and skinny the ground squirrels will be very disappointed when they lift the lid on my coffin. They’ll probably look at one another and say, ‘Ain’t much meat here. Let’s move on.’” Then he’d laugh and I’d join him.


Uncle Howard and Aunt Vera's headstone, photo © 2010 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.




Uncle Howard hit the buffet line in April, 1990. Aunt Vera followed in December, 1993. In February 2008, my mother joined them. My family won’t add any more people because we have scattered all over the country.

On January 1, 2009, I drove up to the cemetery to pay my respects and to remember the stories of my childhood. When I entered the cemetery I found myself looking for the new graves and the ground squirrels. I stood at the graves of my parents and my aunt and uncle. I listened as the cold wind blew through the place. I didn’t hear Mom and Aunt Vera talking. Maybe Uncle Howard’s plan worked. I hope he enjoys his eternal rest in peace.



About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his family. For Memorial Day 2010, we published Desecration Day, Bob’s humorous yet moving piece about a grave decoration day that got a bit out of hand.

You can see these other pieces of Bob’s in which he writes with humor and compassion about his family members: Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters and The Law Of Threes. He also published these pieces about the life and death of his mother: Hands and In Memoriam. And he produced a trilogy about his father: My Father’s Witness, Bearing Witness, and My Life With Dad.

Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Growing Older, Goat Ranch, and Stephenie Bit Me, Too.

Read Full Post »

By Bob Chrisman



After my father died in 1984, my mother made semi-annual trips to Southern California to stay with her step-sister-in-law, Aunt Gladys. Uncle Roy had died a couple of years before my dad did. I would fly out to spend some time with them and then accompany my mother home.

During my first visit, Mom and Aunt Gladys announced their desire to decorate Uncle Roy’s grave at the VA cemetery in Westminster, California, near the Pacific Coast. At 90 my aunt had stopped going. “I’m not as quick on the highway anymore. I’ll leave that to you.”

We loaded the car with grass trimmers, scissors, throw rugs, plastic buckets, dishwashing liquid, sponges, old rags, and rolls of paper towels. My aunt directed my driving.

“Take that exit. Now be careful, Bob. A lot of these people aren’t paying attention. Lucile, look. Honey, did you see those mums in front of that grocery store? Weren’t they beautiful? Roy loved mums.”

I moved into the right lane to head back to the store. Aunt Gladys wanted mums. And my mother would want to make Aunt Gladys happy. One right turn, three left turns, and 15 minutes later we pulled up to the store. They climbed out while I parked.

When I caught up with them in the store, they had removed all the pots of deep red mums from the rack and lined them up for inspection. My mother and my aunt handed me the mums they eliminated as possible choices.

“Here, put this back where it belongs.” While I redecorated the mum display, they narrowed the choice down to three.

“Bob, you pick the one you think is the best one.”

I chose, but my choice wasn’t the best one so they bought the one they had already agreed on.

That done, we headed toward the cemetery.


A sign greeted us at the entrance:

The level of the cemetery has been raised by several inches. If you have trouble finding the gravesite of a veteran, please contact the manager located on the property.


We drove to the spot closest to Uncle Roy’s grave. My aunt and my mother tottered across the grass. I, the beast of burden, unloaded the trunk and followed.

“Now, he’s here somewhere. Lucile, you don’t think they’ve moved him, do you? That sign said something…”

“No, Gladys, they only put more dirt on top of him.”

I found the spot. “Here it is.” I dropped all of the grave decorating equipment and took the bucket to get water.

As they spread out the throw rugs, Aunt Gladys said, “Lucile, I don’t remember the grave being this far from the road.”

“Gladys, it’s always been here.” Mom yelled at me. “Don’t fill the bucket too full. We don’t need that much water.”

They had donned their gardening gloves and hats and set to work. They trimmed the grass around the stone. They scrubbed the marker with old rags and dried it with the paper towels.

“Roy and I bought an in-ground vase. I can’t remember exactly where it is, but I’ll find it.”

She pulled out a knife with a long slender blade and stabbed the ground like Anthony Perkins slashed at Janet Leigh in “Psycho.” Stab, stab, stab.

“Aunt Gladys, please stop.” Mom didn’t say a word. Stab, stab, stab.

“I need to find that vase. It’s buried here. They better not have removed it. We paid good money for it.” Stab, stab, stab.

“Wait. Put the knife down. I’ll go to the office and find out where the vase is.” Stab, stab, stab.

My aunt worked up quite a sweat. “Okay. I’m tired. Why don’t you go to the office. We’ll keep ourselves busy while you’re gone.”

I ran to the car. I knew they wouldn’t wait long to do whatever they wanted to.

I drove to the office. As I entered the building, the air-conditioning hit me in the face like a block of ice. The hot and humid outside air vanished in a room where you could have hung meat without it spoiling.

A cheery young woman asked, “Hello. May I help you find your loved one?”

I smiled. “My aunt is stabbing her husband’s grave with a knife to find the in-ground vase. To avoid injury to her, can you tell me where the buried vase is located?”

The woman’s mouth dropped open.

“Let me speak to the manager.”

She disappeared only to return with a rotund man dressed in a robin’s-egg blue polyester, double-knit suit. The exertion of walking from his office to the desk had turned his face beet red and he mopped his brow with a white handkerchief.

“I’ll show you where it is.”

I asked, “Do you want me to drive?” I wasn’t sure he would fit in the rental car.

“No, I’ll take my car. Suits me better.”

He climbed in a huge car, exactly the same color as his suit and rolled down his window.

“Lead the way.”


When we arrived at the gravesite, I pointed to my aunt and mother busily working.

“That’s them.”

He nodded and waddled off, wiping his head and neck as he went.

When I arrived at the throw rugs, grass trimmings and dirt covered both women. The manager stared at the ground, his jaw agape.

Aunt Gladys said. “Honey, we don’t need him. When we couldn’t find the vase I paid for…” she looked up at the manager. “…we simply dug a little hole and planted the mums on top of Roy.” She looked very happy. They both did, but the manager didn’t.

“You…you can’t do that.”

“Can’t do what, young man?”

“Can’t go around digging holes in the cemetery. It’s…well, it’s grave desecration.” His color had grown much redder. Sweat poured off his face. His handkerchief looked sopping wet. “It’s against the law to dig holes here.”

“If we had been able to find the vase, which, I will remind you again, we paid for, my sister-in-law and I wouldn’t have dug this hole.”

He took out a pocket knife. My aunt grabbed her knife, prepared to fight.

He stepped next to the stone. He jabbed in the ground and dug out some grass.

“Here. Right here.” He stood up with a smug smile on his face.

My aunt ignored him. “Lucile, look. It was right there all the time…under a foot of grass and dirt.”

“Next time, ladies, please don’t dig a hole.” He snapped his knife shut and waddled back to his car.

“I think I’ll report him. Grave desecration? What a bad attitude these young people have.” She extended her hand to me. “Help me up.”

With both of them on their feet, I brushed off their clothes. I gathered everything, wrapped the knife in an old rag and dropped it in the bucket. I packed the stuff in the trunk.

When I went back to help them to the car, I heard my aunt ask, “I think we did a lovely job, don’t you? Roy would be pleased.” My mother agreed.



About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. Desecration Day is about his Aunt Gladys and his mother. Other pieces about his aunts include Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters and The Law Of Threes. He published two pieces about the life and death of his mother — Hands and In Memoriam.

He also wrote a trilogy about his father: My Father’s Witness, Bearing Witness, and My Life With Dad. Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Growing Older, Goat Ranch, and Stephenie Bit Me, Too.

Read Full Post »

Georgia Pine Over My Grandmother’s Grave, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






visiting Estelle
gravestones outlast the living
markers for the dead


all that’s left behind
a letter, a horseshoe ring
lasting love and luck


face of a pine tree
warm thoughts of the Grandmothers
hover over me







It’s the time of year when I think often of family and loved ones, living and dead. One of the highlights of my October trip to Georgia was visiting my Grandmother Estelle’s grave for the first time. I did not know her well, had not seen her since I was 2 years old. I knew none of my blood father’s family. It was synchronicity when in 2007 my paternal aunts ended up in the insurance office of my maternal uncle and asked the question, “Are you related to….?”

It happened to be two weeks before Mom and I were scheduled to travel to Georgia. After 50 years apart, the question’s answer led them to me.

It turns out, my paternal grandparents are buried down the hill from my maternal grandparents in the same cemetery. I’ve been visiting the cemetery with my mother for years and never knew. These photographs are of the pine tree that grows high over their graves. My Aunt Annette told me that my grandfather loved pine trees. So do I. When I was a child, I would spend hours sweeping pine needles, the scaly bough of a branch curving to make just the right shape, a prairie-style home.

The thing about cemetery trees is that they are many times old growth trees, never to be cut. I like to think this pine is a guardian for my grandparents, its long roots extending deep underground, branches tall and proud (reminds me of another pine in New Mexico that I’m quite fond of, the Lawrence Tree).

There is more to the story — a letter, an obituary, a ring. Perhaps another post. This week I give thanks for all who live, and those who have come before.


Skin Of A Pine Tree, Pine Trunk In The Graveyard, My Grandmother’s Grave, Cemetery Pine, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Post Script: the day Mom and I met my aunt at the cemetery, we also visited the Gertrude Herbert Memorial Institute of Art in Augusta. That’s where my Canon G6 battery died; I had forgotten to charge the backup battery. These photos are all taken with the BlackBerry cell phone camera.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

-related to post: haiku 2 (one-a-day)

Read Full Post »




Moms are the best
to hug and to nestle
My mama’s bad ass
She can arm wrestle







Bobbi goes up against MOM...

Bobbi versus Mom, in the First Annual Arm Wrestling Holiday Championship, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





...and the winner is MOM!

And the winner is Mom!, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





The holidays are just around the corner. We have tamales to make (after Thanksgiving) and biceps to beef up. Last year Mom beat at least five of us—my two daughters, myself, Dad, and my sister Bobbi—in a jolly game of arm wrestling. Mom is 83. (Did I mention she’s bad ass?)

What’s on your list of things to do before the holidays? And, what family traditions are you most looking forward to?

Read Full Post »

Pumpkins In PA, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 

Back in Minnesota and it’s Halloween. I’m home from the 2400 roundtrip air miles, Minneapolis to Pennsylvania. The road trip with Mom from Pennsylvania to Georgia clocked around 1200 driving miles. Fall is beautiful on the East Coast and we had a lot of fun stopping in Fancy Gap, Virginia on the way down and the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge, Virginia on the way back to Pennsylvania.

One thing that sticks out for me on this trip is the difference in temperature and light from East to Midwest. When I was snapping sunset photos in Virginia for Twitter, Liz noticed that it was already dark in Minnesota. And this morning when I awoke, the temperatures in Harrisburg and Augusta were surprisingly similar, topping out in the 50’s. Yet in Minneapolis, it was only 32 degrees.

Cold and dark. It’s going to be a crisp evening for the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. My sister told me last week that in Pennsylvania, they trick-or-treat on the Thursday before Halloween, something I had not heard of here. As far as I know, there is only one Halloween evening in our neck of the woods. And that is tonight.

The night before I left Pennsylvania, my sister brought home pumpkins for my niece and nephew to carve. She grabbed a few extra for my mother and I and we went to town. I had not worked that hard on a pumpkin in years. I’m not fond of cleaning out the guts. But my sister and niece were masters at expunging the stringy goo from the hollowed out orange shell. I learned a thing or two about pumpkin carving that night:

 
 

 
 

place a big plastic table cloth down on the carving surface to catch all the guts and gore that fly through the air

 
 

 
 

use ice cream scoops and scrapers to remove extra pumpkin goo

 
 
 
 

 
 

draw your design out on in pencil on a white sheet of paper before carving

 
 
 

 
 

tape the paper to the outside of the pumpkin

 
 
 

 use an ice pick to punch holes along the lines of the design (when you remove the paper drawing, you have a dotted line pattern of holes to follow)

 
 
 

 
 

when carving in groups, you’ll need plenty of sharp knives and serrated pumpkin carving tools

 
 
 

 
 

X-Acto knives work well for the more intricate designs

 
 
 

 
 

toothpicks can help repair a misaligned cut from a knife that slipped

 
 
 

 
 

you’ll need stamina in the wrists, for punching the design with the ice pick and to complete the carving

 
 
 

 
 

for those whose wrists can’t take it or who don’t want to carve, painting pumpkins works great

 

When we finished carving, we placed votive candles and tea lights inside each pumpkin and arranged them on the front porch for photographs. Mom’s is the painted one over by the scarecrow Paul won a few weeks ago (he’s always been lucky like that). The scarecrow lights up in multicolored LED’s, adding another dimension to the overall decor.

It occurred to me that this was the same porch where we celebrated Halloween in the 60’s and 70’s growing up. Ghosts of all the ghouls and goblin costumes Mom created for my five siblings and I in the house where we were raised danced in and out of the breezeway.


3’s Not A Crowd In Pumpkin World (Dark), 3’s Not A Crowd In Pumpkin World (Light), Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Happy Halloween 2009. We’re preparing to watch a scary movie and chuckling at the inventive costumes (check out ybonesy’s daughter’s costume this year) of the little Midwest trick-or-treaters that drop by our door. In two days, it will be the full November Frost Moon (will bats be hibernating?). It’s blustery and chilly in Minnesota. Part of my heart is still in Pennsylvania.


-posted on red Ravine, Halloween Night, Saturday, October 31st, 2009

-related to posts: Halloween Short List: (#2) Build Your Own Casket, halloween haiku, Taking Jack To The Cemetery, The Great Pumpkin Catapult

Read Full Post »

Pink Cadillac, Hindsight, outside the Pink Cadillac Diner, Natural Bridge, Virginia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Back in Pennsylvania. I always think I’m going to post more than I do from the road. But at the end of the day, I find myself exhausted. Out as soon as the head hits the pillow. Perhaps it’s the introvert in me. I love traveling West to East, North to South, all the people I see only once a year. I wish there were a dozen of me. Maybe a baker’s dozen.

Yesterday I drove 13 hours back from Georgia with Mom. I spent this October day with my family in Pennsylvania. It’s almost 4am and I find myself wide awake, wanting to write. It’s the best I can do to post a haiku, a note, a few photographs from the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge, Virginia. It’s a little off the beaten trail. Mom was finishing up her ice cream cone while I walked out to photograph the Caddy. A young woman strode proudly up behind me with her two daughters, camera in tow.

“My dad took a photo of me in front of this very spot,” she said, “and now I get to take a photo of you.” Snap. I watched her daughters gleaming next to the rusty chrome. “Would you like me to take a photo of all of you together?” I asked. “I’d love that,” she smiled, rushing over to hand me her pocket camera.

Lineage. Family legacies. The things we pass down.

The day was perfect for driving. The light illuminated by Fall. I hung my head out the window and snapped photos of a sunset front over Virginia. There is so much to tell. For the time being, will you settle for the highlights?


  • visiting the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art in Augusta, Georgia with my mother
  • walking with my dad through the Brick Pond Ecological Park in North Augusta, South Carolina
  • dining on my uncle’s chili he’s been making since he was 12
  • riding on the back of my brother’s Harley Softtail
  • driving through Virginia with the mountains framed in gold
  • visiting my paternal grandparents’ graves for the first time with my aunt
  • photographing a historic Sand Oak at Westover Memorial Park Cemetery
  • standing by the Savannah River on the down side of Clarks Hill Dam
  • spending the day on the Georgia side of Clarks Hill Lake working on family history with Mom
  • watching the Vikings/Steelers game with my family
  • grits, sweet tea, barbecue hash, boiled peanuts
  • seeing the faces of my brother and mom at the airport when I land
  • talking to Liz on the new BlackBerry from Sconyer’s Bar-B-Que (she asked for hushpuppies)
  • Twittering across the Mason-Dixon line (and the rest of the 1200 mile round trip to Georgia) with the same said BlackBerry
  • photographing the October Blood Moon rising over Pennsylvania, setting over Georgia and South Carolina
  • writing haiku in the air, Minnesota to Maryland and Pennsylvania
  • watching my sister-in-law tap dance across her living room floor (and later my niece and brother’s fiancee danced across the same floor)
  • The Beatles Rock Band with my niece, nephew, and brother in his living room
  • attending a huge Halloween bash with my aunt at the Julian Smith Casino building where in the 1950’s my mother used to go to dances and work barbecues to raise money to build a local church
  • laughing with my family, North and South
  • stopping at the Pink Cadillac Diner in Virginia with Mom on the way home from Georgia





season to season
hindsight is 20/20
reflecting the past;
future remains uncertain,
jumps hoops through the looking glass




-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 25th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS, WRITING TOPIC– ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, you can’t go back — 15 haiku, Cassie’s Porch — Then & Now, Excavating Memories

Read Full Post »

 
 

By Bob Chrisman

 
 
 

BOB FATHER & SON 1958 IMG_1798

Father & Son, circa 1958, St. Joseph, Missouri,
photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
On May 3, 1952 I arrived to take part in the family drama. My parents celebrated their twelfth wedding anniversary the week after I was born. Dad had turned 38 in February. My sister would turn ten in September, followed by Mom’s 37th birthday the end of November.

As a child I adored my father, but around the age of five I didn’t want him to touch me. I would scream if he came close. He loved to come home from work and rub his unshaven face against my cheeks until they turned red. I hated that. I hated him.

My father exploded at odd times. Seemingly benign topics of conversation would cause him to yell and pound the table. Although never physically violent, his fits scared me and made conversation with him unpredictably frightening.

Not a particularly outgoing man, he withdrew more from social interactions. At family gatherings he would collect all the reading material in the house, find a comfortable chair, and read and sleep the afternoon away.

My sister left for college when I was nine. My father grew even more distant. His only ally had left the house.

The first craziness that I remember occurred one Sunday afternoon. My sister had come home. My grandmother had come to town from the farm. Our car pulled up in front of the house and I went to the door.

My mother was yelling. My father, half in and half out of the car, shouted at someone. I looked to see who they were screaming at and realized they were arguing. I had never seen them argue like that. “Sis, come here. You gotta see this.”

From behind me I heard, “What the hell?” She nudged me. “Shut the door. We don’t want them to know we saw.” I closed the door.

Five minutes later, Mom walked into the house and threw her purse on the bed. When she noticed us staring at her, she sighed, “Len will join us later. He has something to do right now.”

Twenty minutes passed before he returned home and sat down at the table. No one said a word about what had happened between them.

 
 
 

Years later my mother said, “Your father got scared when you started to first grade. He knew someone wanted to kidnap you kids. They planned to snatch you at the Frosty Treat.” The Frosty Treat was a popular, after-school, ice cream shop. Without any explanation our parents had forbidden us from joining our friends there. I didn’t think much about it. By the time I started school, I had grown used to these commands. The new order was, “Come home directly from school.” I obeyed.

My mother told me that Dad has accused her of moving the pillows on their bed to make him crazy. “We only had two pillows. I never understood what I had done.” Although these episodes continued through my childhood, she never talked about them.

When I asked about the argument on that Sunday afternoon, my mother swore me to silence. “Your dad said an angel descended into the church and stood next to him during the service. It communicated telepathically and told him to watch himself. The man next to him had been sent to see if he played with himself during church. I told him he was crazy. That’s when he yelled at me.”
 
“Mom, that’s nuts. Did you think of going for help?”

“To whom? God? I prayed for your dad night and day.”

“How about a psychiatrist or psychologist?”

“We took care of our own problems.”

 
 
 

BOB FATHER 1968 IMG_1792

My Father, circa 1968, St. Joseph, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

 
 

Physical problems plagued Dad during the late 1960’s. The grain dust at work irritated his one good lung and caused severe asthma attacks. I can close my eyes and hear the gasping sound as he struggled to breathe. I can see him sitting at the kitchen table, his mouth wide open and his neck muscles strained, as he inhaled.

My mother walked twelve blocks in the dark to the pharmacy to buy the “breathing medicine.” She never asked me, her teenage son, to go. As soon as she left, I crawled under my bed and hid. I didn’t want to hear any calls for help. I’d fail him. I always did.

He underwent hernia surgery in December 1968 and a re-do in January 1969. He stayed off work until March. Two weeks after he returned to work he suffered his stroke.

Chaos erupted. My mother stopped being a mother and became a devoted wife. I resented his stroke because it hadn’t killed him and because it took my mother away.

Somewhere in the years that followed, he gave up. Not that I blame him. His life beat him down. The stroke and residuals destroyed what little will he had left.

It ended any chance I had to talk with him about what happened between us, to ask him questions, to make my accusations, to hear his side of the story. Even if he hadn’t lost his mind, I couldn’t have talked to him, so great was my hatred. On May 2, 1984, he died of old age. A birthday “present” I can never forget.

I’ve always felt incomplete as a man because he didn’t teach me the secrets that fathers pass to their sons. Even now, after decades of searching for that knowledge, which I doubt exists, I still feel inadequate.

 
 
 

Recently a psychic said, “Your father asks you to forgive him for what he did to you.”

Without hesitation I replied, “I have forgiven him. He needs to forgive himself.”

I joined forces with my mother. I disliked the failure I thought he was. I sometimes treated him with no dignity because I thought he deserved my contempt. Perhaps most importantly, I hated him because he didn’t love me enough. But then, I never gave him a chance. Like my father, I must forgive myself for all the things I did and didn’t do in my relationship with him. Only then can I truly bear witness for my father.

 


About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. My Life With Dad is Part III in his exploration of a trilogy series about his father. Part I, My Father’s Witness, was published on red Ravine in August, followed in September by Part II, Bearing Witness.

Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, and The Law Of Threes. He has also published two pieces about the life and death of his mother — Hands and In Memoriam.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »