Some special dates are wonderful to recall...reliving your children's birthdays, your anniversary, and perhaps the date of your first kiss can bring back such lovely memories. A few bad-news days I'd rather not remember but some of them have a sneaky way of sticking in my mind, no matter how hard I try. One of those days is Father's Day, now a poignant reminder of how much I miss my dad, and also a sad reminder that it was on that special day that he fell ill. He never saw my last Father's Day card--by the time my sister stopped by to see him and deliver our cards, he was sleeping, having mentioned earlier in the day he wasn't feeling well. A short while later came the phone call to my mother--he was being transported from the nursing home to the hospital with a critically high fever. So I worried and paced for a few hours until the dreaded evening call came--"the doctor says family should come quickly". Within an hour we had assembled clothes, packed the car and were headed home. All of this came a week after my son's wedding--truly the highs and lows of life were packed so close together that year. And now here it is five years later--we celebrated my daughter's birthday and my son and daughter-in-law's anniversary (same date!), and Dad, as always, is never far from my mind.
So when I discovered this beautiful poem earlier this week, "Not Forgotten", it seemed the perfect choice for remembering not my father's final illness, but his legacy of love and laughter. As my son said just the other day, "Grandpa's eyes always twinkled as he waited for you to get the joke he just made..."
I received my first bike for Christmas--a lovely Schwinn with a basket, fondly named Queen Elizabeth by me (even then I had a slight obsession with the royal family.) And I rode that bike all over town for years, reluctantly trading up for a new one wwhen I headed off to college. It was the vehicle by which I had all sorts of adventures with my friends, and also the vehicle by which "Santa" revealed his true identity. The bicycle, parked under the Christmas tree, had a handwritten note from Santa letting me know how proud he was of me and that he knew I would be responsible with it. Funny thing, though...Santa's handwriting looked just like my Dad's! That note is now nestled every year into my Christmas tree, a lovely reminder of a very special gift and a very special father.
But before I could set off on adventures, I had to learn how to ride it. I impatiently waited for spring (unlike my siblings, who evidently mastered the whole riding in snow thing!)...
Spring finally arrived and my dad took me to the nearby empty lot to practice riding. I eventually mastered the bike and proudly pedaled around and around the area, so Dad left me to my fun. Well, that worked until I was ready to stop, and realized I had no idea how to stop riding--the brake lesson had been overlooked. Dad eventually returned to see how I was doing, and found me circling round and round the lot while crying because I was tired and afraid to just tip over and stop. Gee, what I wimp I was! This poem beautifully captures that special day when my father gave me the courage to spread my wings and fly, and also the wisdom to know when to stop.
by Sheila Packa
I learned to ride
the two wheel bicycle
with my father.
He oiled the chain
clothes-pinned playing cards
to the spokes, put on the basket
to carry my lunch.
By his side, I learned balance
and took on speed
centered behind the wide
handlebars, my hands
on the white grips
my feet pedaling.
One moment he was
holding me up
and the next moment
although I didn't know it
he had let go.
When I wobbled, suddenly
afraid, he yelled keep going—
Beneath the trees in the driveway
the distance increasing between us
I eventually rode until he was out of sight.
I counted on him.
That he could hold me was a given
that he could release me was a gift.