My dad loved books, but he hated bookmarks.
Even though the library included free ones in every book, Dad insisted upon “dog earing” pages. My mother would nag him about it, saying the books were the library’s property and they probably didn’t appreciate him returning books with creased page corners. But Dad continued to do it, and to be fair, I never heard him getting chewed out at the library about it. Certainly he wasn’t the only person who dog eared books.
As I was going through some books and sorting them for donations, I came across one of those library bookmarks. The bookmarks served dual purposes: marking your place in the book and reminding you when the book was due.
The bookmarks, with the sketch of the Downey City Library at the bottom, are so ingrained in my memory, having checked out hundreds of books from the library during my childhood.
The due date on this one was Aug. 29, 1981. I would have just turned 6 the month before. It would’ve almost been time for school to start, as we started just after Labor Day. I would’ve been entering first grade.
What’s even more interesting is that I found the bookmark in an old, worn copy of East and West, a collection of short stories by Somerset Maugham. That book is from the New Orleans Public Library and had a due date of Sept. 2, 1959. (Dad lived for a brief period in the Big Easy.) The next time I visit I may return the book just to see the reaction of the librarian!
Sorting through Dad’s book collection was the ideal task to mark Father’s Day.
It was an emotionally exhausting week to be a journalist, with the mass shooting in Orlando yet another example of America at its worst. But as always is the case in these national tragedies, stories emerge that show America at its best: brave, compassionate, able to put aside differences to help others in need.
A father in Seattle talking to his 8-year-old daughter about the Orlando incident was surprised when she innocently asked, “Do the fathers still get a Father’s Day card?”
That spurred a project where 49 Father’s Day cards were created for each father of a victim in the Orlando shooting. The city got involved and over 300 people signed the cards.
It’s a difficult Father’s Day for too many families struck by senseless tragedies.
It’s a heartbreaking Father’s Day for those who have recently lost their fathers.
It’s a bittersweet Father’s Day for those with fathers who have Alzheimer’s disease.
But somehow, somewhere, we have to dig deep and be grateful for what we do have. So I am grateful for a father who has been freed from the prison of Alzheimer’s, who loved me and was proud of me and for all of the old photos and mementos I have of his life that I will treasure forever.
If you celebrate Father’s Day, I hope you are marking the day in a way that is meaningful for you.
Not only is today Father’s Day, but it is also the one-month anniversary of my mother’s death. So both of my parents are weighing on my mind heavily today.
I can’t believe it has already been a month since Mom passed. Of course I think of her every day, but I especially thought of her when the tragedy in Charleston occurred. Mom was always so heartbroken to hear news like that. She truly could not understand why some people choose hate over love.
So just like with any death, life goes on, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
To honor my mom today, I’m getting my hair done, which was one of her favorite activities. She loved going to the salon, and sadly, she had to cancel her last appointment because she wasn’t feeling well.
To honor Dad on Father’s Day, I’m going to take a long walk in the park, one of his favorite activities.
How are you spending your Father’s Day?
A recent survey found that dads often get the short end of the stick when it comes to gift-giving on Father’s Day. It seems most of us spend more on our mothers than our fathers. Many people say mothers are easier to shop for, and seem to appreciate gifts more than fathers.
But for those of us who have lost our fathers, or are losing them slowly due to dementia, it is too late to worry about something as trivial as gift-giving. The best we can do is share a loving memory of our fathers, to offer to the world a glimpse of what this special person meant in our lives.
Two loving memories come to my mind this Father’s Day. The first is the lengths my dad went to in confronting the family of the bully who pushed me down at a preschool Halloween party. Dad wasn’t going to let anyone hurt his little girl! The second was just a year or so before Dad began his battle with dementia. He had filled out a prayer card for me, relating my struggles with Celiac disease. I had no idea he was paying attention when I discussed my condition.
After all of those years, Dad was still looking out for his little girl.
What are your favorite memories of your father? How do you honor him on this day?
For those of us who have lost a father due to Alzheimer’s complications or who are watching their dad battle the disease right now, Father’s Day is a holiday with mixed emotions. But while the damage Alzheimer’s inflicts on families should never be forgotten, this is also a good day to reflect on the positives of your relationship with your dad. After all, you might not be feeling such pain or loss if you did not value him and love him deeply as a father to begin with. For some people being estranged from their father makes this holiday a very painful experience as well.
For me, the realization that I did deeply love my dad and didn’t have this distant, indifferent relationship I always imagined came after Dad began losing his mind. That is unfortunate, but I know right before he started to change, I was able to tell him how I know it was difficult dealing with Mom sometimes and to just try to hang in there. In fact, one of the last things I remember him saying to me on my last visit before he became ill was, “Your mother is driving me crazy!”
I can still hear his hoarse, smoker’s voice making that half-joking, half-serious accusation. (My parents drove each other a little crazy, but they were devoted to one another.)
I could beat myself up today for not being there more often for my dad when he began the sad, slow slide into dementia. But at least I did get to hold his hand and tell him how much I loved him in the last couple of months of his life. And he was even aware and able to respond at one point: “I know you do.”
Actions of the past can’t be changed so as caregivers and family members we should stop being so hard on ourselves. Take today to remind yourself of the more pleasant times and let them bring joy to you even now as you mourn or suffer.
Today is the first Father’s Day I’m celebrating without Dad being alive. As I’ve mentioned before, Dad was not big on holidays, so there are not a lot of sentimental memories for me to tear up over today. It was odd not sending a card to him this year. It’s also odd not speaking to him on the phone, even though most of our conversations centered around mundane topics like the weather.
I decided to go ahead and buy a Father’s Day card this year, just so I could write the message I should have written to him all of those years he was alive and well. As those of you with dementia in your family know, the loss of that person’s identity can begin years before the physical death takes place. We love them whole and broken, but it’s important to show them that love while they can still fully recognize it. We just don’t know how much they know and feel once dementia takes hold.
Here’s the card I got. It’s actually one of the better ones I’ve found over the years, too bad Dad is not here to see it.
Here’s the message I wrote:
I’m thinking about you today and every day. It may be too late, but today I am saying thanks for all of the sacrifices you made over the years. Love, Joy
Since it’s Father’s Day weekend, I’ve been thinking about Dad’s favorite dishes and restaurants. As I’ve written before, Dad was a very down-to-earth guy. I don’t know if he ever ate in a fancy 4-star restaurant before I came along, but I certainly don’t remember any lavish dining experiences as a kid. Dad certainly adopted the typical American diet of fast food well enough, and he enjoyed Americanized versions of ethnic cuisine, like spaghetti and burritos. He never was a steak kind of guy though, as he always preferred seafood.
He loved fish & chips. Back when I was a kid, we used to go to Arthur Treacher’s. You can watch this retro commercial of the restaurant from the late 1970’s. I so remember that ugly brown and yellow color scheme! I also remember the newspaper-like wrapper they would use to line the baskets of food.
Dad loved the fish & chips platter. Mom usually ordered the same thing, and let Dad have a piece of her fish. I was all about the hush puppies!
But Dad would usually end up paying for the meal later. Too much malt vinegar and/or too much tartar sauce would give him digestive issues that would send him running to the bathroom. I clearly remember going to the park after a meal at Arthur Treacher’s and Dad clutching his stomach, with that sickly smile that he knew he had indulged too much in a favorite meal again. I remember dusk falling and Mom sending in a stranger to check in on Dad in the men’s bathroom, because he had been in there so long!
Still, despite those episodes, Dad loved fish & chips. I think they reminded him of back home and his brief time in England as a young man. A taste of his youth long left behind, replaced with the sunny palm trees of southern California.