With the rusting of time, our memories can turn ordinary actions into heroic deeds; heroes become legend and eventually, a myth is born.
My father had lived for 92 years and for more than fifty of them I had called him my friend. I’d heard him say many times how he’d grown up in a simpler and certainly less complicated era. I know that the problems I’ve faced in my lifetime are nothing more than a mere drop in the bucket of what his eyes had witnessed. He’d lived through two world wars not to mention a few others that most people would just as soon forget. He saw first-hand, the ‘great depression’, and too many so called recessions. He’d witnessed oppressions and knew the amount of cruelty that men were capable of inflicting on their neighbors.
He’d faithfully followed the rule of 15 presidents (more faithfully to the Republicans than those airheaded Democrats) as they each gave him a promise of prosperity. Though one way or another that prosperity somehow had always managed to evade him. He never gave up hope for his family, himself, or humanity. He’d raised fifteen children to maturity and had been a devoted husband for over seventy years. He’d witnessed over a hundred births into his extended family and sorrowed over an untold number of deaths, including his wife and three of his own children.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know he wasn’t a spectacular man. At least not in a superhero kind of way. He didn’t discover the cure for the common cold, win a Nobel Prize, or anything like that. He wasn’t famous, he definitely wasn’t a Saint, and it doesn’t take a person with too many brains to figure out that he wasn’t a rich man either. In fact he’d spent his entire life fighting the struggle against poverty until the day he died.
He was however an honest and hard-working man. He was a good friend, a good neighbor, and a person that people could count on when things got a little rough. He’d give you all he had and never expect a thing in return…except friendship. I suppose though when you really think about it, what other definition of a superhero is there.
So it was at his funeral that I suddenly came to the startling realization; that for me the road that I’ve already traveled is a much further distance than what is left of my journey not yet taken. My aches and pains constantly remind me of my age and of my ultimate mortality. My body has become a symphony of creaks and groans and it seems that everything about me only functions with the help of some sort of device. Glasses, hearing aids, pills to control blood sugar, blood pressure, high cholesterol and Viag… well by now, I’m sure you get the picture.
After his funeral, back in my comfortable house surrounded by my familiar things, my granddaughter crawled onto my lap. She looked up at me with those big brown eyes filled with the innocence of youth and asked,
“Papa, did you know that man they were talking about this morning?”
“Yes I did sweetie. That was my father, your great grandfather.”
“What was he like,” she asked, “I don’t think I remember him.”
I was certainly shocked. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. It was as if those words jumped up and kicked me right between my eyes. As I searched my mind for some answers, I began to understand that old saying, ‘we only live as long as someone remembers us’. I quickly realized that if my father, a truly great individual, could fade from memory after only one single generation… I sure as hell don’t stand much of a chance.
So here’s to you dad. I know that if there is a Heaven, yours will be laying on the side of a tree covered hill looking out over an open meadow. You will be watching the moon cross an unclouded sky and listening to the sound of your dogs singing their music. So pass around the jug to all our friends that have joined you on this Father’s Day and know that you are in our memories and our hearts.