Theoretically, I discovered that my father was human when he died. I was four, and Death was a vague notion, if that. In 1957, not even a pet had died.
One day he was smiling and lifting me off the linoleum tiles, twirling me in the air with the strength and safety of his arms imprinting my dotted swiss dress and my mind, a mold of utter perfection. The next day my mother was crying, and I didn’t know why. The puzzle pieces would fall into place over days, weeks, years, decades, a half-century.
He was electrocuted on his job as a utility repairman. Did he get distracted? Have a lapse in judgment? Simply slip?
I never learned of any character flaws from the stories that materialized over all these years. He loved practical jokes, and he defended his sister Anna Mae against bullies. He was a Boy Scout who shined shoes during WWII to donate proceeds to our troops. He was a star athlete, a man with a sense of duty to his country and his family. He loved my shy, artistic mother and he loved my sister and me.
Years later, when I was an adult and my grandmother was prone to revisiting her memories (when my grandfather finally allowed his son to be spoken of), she wondered out loud and often. Had there been a hole in his glove? Was it because he only had one kidney? Answers she never had, and never would.
I now help my mother go through her life’s belongings as she and my stepfather prepare to move into a retirement village. She too is ready to talk, and she slides into a girlish cadence as she describes how she met my dad. I can see that he is forever twenty-six, with no flaws. She pulls a heavy woolen sweater from the cedar chest, one of the few items not already hauled off to Good Will.
“This was Bobby’s letter sweater. Do you want it?”
I hold it up; it is a nice claret red with a big grey “S” on the front. For Susquehanna High School. Or for Sharon. It has no moth holes. It too is flawless.
I accept it and refold to take home with me. Today I put it on, slip my arms through where his arms once were. Bobby’s. Daddy’s.
It will be nice to wear in October.
Related post - Remembering Sheri @1953-1957
Copyright 2011 Sharon Watts
photos and card property of Sharon Watts