Friday, December 30, 2011

Joy and Sorrow

This picture brought me to tears today.


Just a picture of a baby asleep on her grandfather's shoulder. Not just any baby, to be sure. It's Kelle Hampton's precious daughter Nella.

Do you see that absolute trust? She just melts into him. And do you see his love? It shows in his stillness, his relaxed, unfocused eyes, his continuing to hold her after she has fallen soundly asleep and he could easily lift her to her bed. He treasures her. He cherishes her.

It makes my heart ache for my own father.
Dad holding my niece Diane and talking with my Aunt Anne.
You can see my skinny blue-and-white-striped tushy just behind Diane's little feet.
He died almost a year to the day after he retired from a lifetime of blue-collar work in mining and construction, when I was only 27 years old.

That dark tan? He worked twelve-hour days through the summer months. He would get so dark that we swore there was some Mediterranean or north African blood in his gene pool. (Of course, Diane's congenital paleness makes him look even darker, by contrast.)

And he loved me. Oh, I know, I always knew and never doubted, that he loved me. Even when I was a careless teen and stayed out till all hours not thinking that he was worried about all the evil, dangerous, deadly people out there.

(I didn't know that one afternoon the flickering lights of his construction vehicle caused a rapist (who thought the lights were police lights) to release his victim. She ran half naked from the woods to my father, who wrapped her in his plaid jacket. Years later I found his deposition for the trial.)

My dad could be an asshole. A bigot, a racist, a loud-mouthed schnook, he and Archie Bunker would have seen eye to eye. He had a temper: at more than one big family dinner (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving), he threw down the carving knife and meat fork and stormed out of the house. [Was it more than once, or was it just such a terrible occasion that it echoes and repeats?] He was not a great husband; I used to pull a pillow over my head to drown out the noises of my parents fighting, things being thrown.

A hug before we head to the church on my wedding day.
As Aunt Winkie said of this picture, "It speaks volumes."
But do you see? He loved me. I loved him. It's as simple as that.

And he loved my little girl, Katie, but she was too young to remember him. He never knew my three younger children.

So that picture up top, that's what I've lost. And it always strikes me at Christmas, as these things do.

I miss him, and I wish my children could have a small taste of that love. I hope I've trickled down at least some of it.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could make you feel safe and loved the way your Dad did. I can't of course -- only he could -- but I wish I could.


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