Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall Back

For some, the crazier design the clock, the better This is the weekend we chant the Spring ahead, Fall back ditty that helps us remember to set our clocks back an hour. As I twist the tiny, gold, ridged knob on my watch, I continually lose my grip. I mean, really, could they make those knobs any tinier? At least I don’t have to start over each time my fingers slip.

These days, I seem to be falling back way more than springing ahead. Just today my mind drifted back to days, and probably many childhood years, when my father held my chubby little developing hands in his big strong hands and twirled me in the air. I can almost see the sea of white clover swirling below. This was the same clover Dad asked us to pull out of his backyard lawn, the same flowers we tied into long clover chains and sometimes necklaces and crowns. All my siblings remember, too, when Dad held our hands and directed us to walk up his legs so that he could help us do back flips. What prompted these memories was my birthday card for my father’s 91st birthday, which is tomorrow. Below a gauzy film, a father and daughter were silhouetted, he swinging his little girl in the air.

The card praised the father for giving the child wings. Although I cannot imagine myself soaring with wings, I can imagine myself running—and in more recent years, walking vigorously. For these abilities, for what I have done in my life, I can thank my father’s inspired teaching, timely encouragement, and boundless giving of self. My not winging into fame, fortune, or fabulousness is more rooted in my preference for weeding and creating clover chains. Had I chosen to back-flip off a mountaintop, Dad would have been there to cheer and/or catch me.

Dad soared though. At least in my mind he was exceptional. Did your father enter every tennis tournament open to seniors—and win many? Did your dad take up roller-blading when he was 70? Athletic trophies aside, my dad had character, sometimes was a character, and was always a gentleman. Even now in the nursing home, when a fellow Alzheimer’s patient loses her way and wanders into Dad’s room, he is so polite that his aides marvel at what a gentleman he is despite irritation at the invasion.

Yesterday at the 91st birthday party, my sister scooched close to his wheelchair, held his hand and stroked his pale, bony forearm while lauding his teaching influence. She told him one of her classmates is now a math teacher because he’d been inspired by Dad, his math teacher in high school. As she told Dad this testimonial, he beamed. Once an extraordinary wordsmith, he has very few words left now. As he smiled his signature toothy grin, he made a sound like a cross between a hum and a purr. He might not even have understood the story, but I think he knew my sister had said something smile-worthy, and he perhaps understood he had done something good. Tomorrow, his actual birthday, I’ll be feeling airborne remembering Dad.

Spring ahead, fall back. Look ahead, look back. Hope ahead, thank back. Learn a lesson, rewind. Soar today; in a flash, tomorrow will be yesterday. No turning back the clock.

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