I wanted to share a favourite story of my dad and me. I have a father, and a stepdad whom I also call ‘dad’. Memories are kind of funny, aren’t they? We often just recall bits and pieces, times, and maybe a fact or two. We remember the good bits, and the bad ones, but hardly ones where we felt nothing. There’s a reason why it has stuck in our brain. Sometimes the memory doesn’t have a beginning or an end; it’s just a snapshot of a couple seconds or minutes of our life. It’s how that event made us feel.
My father and I have had many, many up and down times in our relationship. There was a huge chunk of my life (over a decade) where we weren’t on speaking terms, for a myriad reasons. In the middle of it all, when I wasn’t sure if I would ever see him again, I would think back on this little event and remember that there were pleasant times too. Now when I think about it, it makes me smile and makes me happy to make more great memories with him, however small and simple they may be.
Today’s story is of my biological father. It is of him and me at around eight years old, biking down a busy road, me chasing after my dad as fast as I can muster. This memory helped me hope for better days, and eventually, they came.
It’s Saturday. I am at dad’s for the weekend. It’s morning. I am sitting at the small kitchen table facing the window. I can see the yard, the back alley, and the empty parking lot across the street. The leaves on the chestnut tree in the garden are starting to change from green to yellow. The sun is shining in from over the low buildings across the lane.
I eat cereal and milk. I drink orange juice, no pulp. Pulp is gross. It makes me think of when my little brother drinks juice and leaves little bits of things in it. My dad walks into the kitchen from around the corner, and stands by the stove. His hair is wet and he is drying it by rubbing a towel on it really fast.
Hurry up and eat. We’re going to the store, he says.
Can I ride my bike? I ask.
Sure, he says. He returns to the bathroom. I can hear him brushing his teeth.
I hurry and eat. I tip the cereal bowl in to my mouth and slurp the last bit of cold sugary milk, and leave a little sip of juice in the glass. I set them by the sink, as I have been told to do so many times.
Soon we are outside, me on my bike and my dad walking. He walks with his hands in his jean jacket pockets, the kind of jacket with the light brown corduroy collar and says ‘Lee’ on the buttons. He smokes a cigarette. I pedal ahead fast and turn around, then pedal back to my dad. I do this over and over. We don’t talk much. I bike, and he smokes.
We get to the busy street. I keep close to the grey cement wall that has little diamond shapes embedded in to it. The trucks are big and they drive very fast, and very close. The road goes up hill a little, so I fall behind. I ask him to wait. He glances over his shoulder, so I can only see the side of his right eye, and continues to look ahead. He doesn’t slow down for me.
Dad, wait! I say.
He looks back again, this time he grins a little and starts to walk faster. Maybe he can’t hear me because the cars and trucks are so loud. This time I yell louder.
Dad, I said wait!
Then he glances back and is smiling. He laughs, turns back, and starts to run fast. I see it’s a game and I smile too, and begin to pedal fast after him. I am speeding so much that my legs won’t let me go any faster, though I am trying to. The coldness is making my pale hands turn pink like bubble gum. I think my feet may slip off the bike pedals; that scares me a bit, but I don’t care. The wind makes my hair fly behind my ears and neck, like Superman’s cape. I love how I feel, and I feel like I am flying.
My dad slows down, and I do too. I catch up to him. We laugh and are both out of breath. We stop for a minute.
I got you dad, I say. I am smiling big.
Yeah you did. He says, and ruffles my hair.
“But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope…” Lamentations 3:21 (MSG)
Question: Do you have a memory that helps (or helped) you hope for better days? How did it make you feel at the time? Did the better days come? How does it make you feel now? Do you have a favourite memory with your dad?
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