As I write this, on September 22, we’re about 10 hours away from autumn, and that means the old man would have been 96 today.
I’ve been telling his story in bits and pieces for many years, sometimes right in this column. Like the time he and a bunch of buddies got stranded on Mount Fuji in occupied Japan and had to find a little old Japanese man to fix the engine. Or the one about his obsession with teaching me how to gut a fish. Or that time he taught me to ride my bike, or that time he built a sausage smoker in our garage.
There’re still more stories to tell, which is funny because he was not a storyteller himself. Nor an advice giver. I had to pull his past out of him, interview him, in order to get him talking.
But he worked hard and he had dreams. I knew where he stood pretty much all the time and that was a comfort.
Each year farther from his passing feels… not better, but maybe lighter? That hole is never going to get filled, but the life surrounding the hole becomes richer and bigger.
He wasn’t expressive on the outside, but he felt deeply. He loved my mom from the moment he stepped into the bowling alley and saw her for the first time, so we have that in common. Not the bowling part, but loving our wives from moment one. The love part.
His granddaughter was 900 days old when he passed. He called her Cutie. Near the end, he wasn’t sure who she was, but he still held her hand. My daughter danced with my nephews at his wake.
I mention all this annually because September 22 was also my first date with my wife – we rode a trolley and ate spaghetti she made after. She asked me if I’d eat the spaghetti with my hands because she wanted to see if I would do it. I’d have done anything of course. I ended up walking home that night with her phone number in my pocket.
This day is also important to moments with my two daughters, Little Bean and Tough Cookie – significant hiking days, exploring, bonding over dirt and rock and sky.
Facebook annually reminds me that the day has depth, that my life is significantly influenced by happenings on this day.
So, every year right about now, I continue to make the mistake of expectation – what incredible thing will happen to me today, what landmark will occur, what memory is the takeaway?
Wouldn’t it be something, though, if we could pick a day, your day, a singular moment on the timeline that was ours, where the cosmos bent in our direction? This would be a day we’d expect, plan for even, a chance to right wrongs, to win the lottery or make amends.
But you can’t manifest awe. Revelation has no schedule. Nothing is guaranteed. That’s just not how the universe works.
Still… perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from the ordinary. This morning, my daughter ate hash browns and we talked about music and singing. She just joined choir at school, a way for her to channel her volume. On her way out the door, my wife kissed me on my cheek. The house’s creatures sulked about looking for a treat, all sad furry eyes.
The sun shone. The coffee was bitter and hot.
A day like any other, this is and can be a miracle in and of itself. Any day can. My father’s shadow, always cast. A day with meaning, every day. The revelation of simplicity on autumn equinox. I’ll take it.