My dad would’ve been 81 today and all morning I was thinking that I’d write something light-hearted. Maybe it’d even be funny in places. He would’ve appreciated that. But I mulled too long and recognized anew that I didn’t know him.

I can tell you that he was handsome.

I can tell you that he liked palm hearts with salsa rosada and that I’ve never known anyone who ate as slowly as he.

I can tell you he did this thing with his mouth. With his lips together, he’d thrust them forward, usually when he was deep in thought.

I never saw him demonstrably angry.

He expected people to take care of themselves.

I can tell you that he was in Korea, that he was in charge of doling out the soldier’s pay. It is likely that when asked if he would slip in a little extra cash, he had a whole litany of clever come backs. He was the guy that was reserved, no great talker, but when he did speak up, he was funny.

I’ve been told he named Post road in St. Paul. I wonder what the joke was.

I can tell you that he preferred pencils to pens and that he kept them sharp with erasers intact. His handwriting was on the small side and leaned sharply to the right. His politics were that way too.

He enjoyed carpentry and had a lathe. I liked to watch him shape out rounded spindles from straight flat wood. I liked the way a long squared piece of wood became cylindrical just by the spinning. Turn off the machine and,although the wood was shaved and chipped in places, it was still square. What was its true shape? What was my dad’s true shape?

I can tell you he didn’t like to come home or, rather, he liked to go drinking. When I was growing up, before I knew about hangovers, I thought of him as  a man who was a little terse, who never wanted to be disturbed.

I can tell you he died of ALS. When he still could bear weight, I remember helping him up the steps into his house.

“Lift your right foot,” I said, because I was going to nudge it forward to the next step.To be funny, he lifted his left. “You rebel,” I said.

And he smiled.

And I smiled.

And that is how relationships reshape themselves.


4 thoughts on “81

  1. I always thought well if anyone ever knew Greg, Chuck did, but I said to Chuck after he died, “I didn’t really know Greg”, and he replied, I’m not sure I did either, Reenie.

    But after he had the ALS, it seemed like he was there, and it was like he was an innocent…

    …that had been packaged all his life in this good-looking, clever, way competent costume so he could be a power broker…

  2. Shannon, it has been a delight to read some of your writing and to discover that we have much more in common than I first realized. We are the main caretakers of Jeanne, Ted’s mother, who is going to be 90 this October. Your piece about Ann was wonderful and made me reflect on all that Jeanne has lost, and gained, in down-sizing and being displaced.

    Additionally, we lost our dear sister-in-law Debbie to ALS three years ago. She was only 55 and was one of our best parenting mentor couples. I wasn’t done picking her brain and looking to her for guidance when she left, neither were her sons.

    It’s a pleasure to have met you. I hope we get to know each other better over the car-pooling year and I’ll try never to slight your kids. 😉


    • Yes,I hope we get to know each other better, too. I also want to learn all about bees. I’m glad you enjoyed what you read!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *