I, like many others, gratefully have found a substitute father, friend, and mentor. Of course nobody can replace the real him, but at least now I have a chance at having the conversations in my adulthood I would have liked to have had with him after he died when I was 9. Anything from how do I hang a cabinet, to should I invest my time differently, or when did you know it was the right person to marry, and what is something about your parents that you miss?
If I can choose my father all over again, I would choose my dad. Not a moment goes by when I don’t miss him so much, and instead of being a victim of circumstances that took my father early in my childhood, I can be a survivor of parental loss and help others with that experience.
I am so grateful in this modern day, that we have technology to help connect us, and the ways and means to shift our perspectives and our possibilities to receive help and give support. For someone to be the father I need, and for me to be the daughter someone misses. In honor of my father, I will share something with you…this April marks 30 years he’s been gone.
It feels like it was just yesterday when he guided me from the back of my purple banana seat over my first hill. Sparkling pink and silver tassels twisted in the wind, hanging from my wide handle bars as I sped through Hoyt Park’s gray concrete field, finally riding a two wheeler. The same field we made angels in the snow in together after shopping at Scaturro’s supermarket under the “L” for cold cuts, pancake batter, frozen TV dinners with miniature cherry pies, and carrots for the pot roast Grandma would cook on the weekends. A quick stop at Neptune Diner for hot cocoa or a jog on the Triboro bridge; the usual Saturday…all of us doing chores together, while dancing around the house to12 inch vinyl, how I loved the crackling noise. And my father holding the sleek black microphone would sing Barry Manilow or the golden oldies and I would dance on the tops of his toes, my mother and sister singing in the background while dusting the lampshades yellowed from cigarette smoke.
The sun would shine through our 3rd floor apartment windows behind Crystal Gardens that overlooked the twin towers in the distance. Its rays shattered through the leaves of our ferns and philodendrons I told all my secrets to. My mom nurtured them so well. She’s gone now too, but her plants live on my sill twirling to the music still, as my parents dance together in the so-called heaven to “Unchained Melody”. I told mommy I wanted to marry him, and she gently explained to me the unimaginable news that he was already taken; I didn’t quite understand, but I assumed the higher road at age 8 and let her have him. I won 3rd place in the Sokol gymnastics on the vaulting horse at Bohemian Hall just before he passed of malignant melanoma, a skin cancer growing on his back like an endless tree trunk’s roots digging towards his heart. I have a photo of them proudly perched on both sides of me on our stoop as I adorn my medal.
We basked in the sun often. In Vermont playing Rummy on the dock of Lake Bomoseen, in the Catskills strumming guitar on top of Mountaindale, along the side of Astoria Pool, on our roof at “tar beach”, in our communal backyard sitting in our blowup 2 ft. pool, and of course swimming waves in the Rockaways…coconut oil was the only protection known back then. Little did we know the beautiful star comforting us through our panes while we danced in our den, would be the same to burn him. Sometimes, he’d let me drive our used forest green 1977 Lincoln while I sat on his lap, as he was on foot patrol, riding the brakes. Now, those were the days. I’d rather have had 9 ½ years of hugs from him alive, than never to have hugged him at all. Here’s to you dad. May you be resting in peace, after the dancing is over. (To read more of Jill Parshley’s writing, visit www.jillparshley.blogspot.com)