Father’s Day makes her melancholy

Published 8:15 am Saturday, June 17, 2017

I always feel a little melancholy when Father’s Day comes around. I still miss my daddy who died in 1974. I think of him often. Most of my thoughts cause me to smile through my longings to see him again. He was a character.

His favorite reading materials were daily newspapers and a dictionary. In my growing up years, Daddy never spelled words for me when I asked him. He sent me to our well-worn Webster’s Dictionary. As I grew older, I delighted in finding a word I thought he couldn’t spell. I loved challenging him with it, but he seldom missed one. Thanks to Daddy, all those reluctant trips I made to the dictionary benefited me. I turned out to be a pretty good speller.

Daddy knew how to comfort me when I ran to him with a skinned knee or suffered other mishaps. He held me tight and spoke these soothing words: “It will feel so good when it stops hurting.” As dumb as that sounds, those words and a big hug stopped my tears.

Perhaps a column I wrote several months after he died express my love for him best: “One beautiful spring day Daddy and I stood in the small workshop he was building behind his garage. He told me he had bought the radial saw he had wanted for so long and was going to install it in his new workshop.

After we looked at the windows he had just installed and told me he was going to have a concrete floor poured, he motioned for me to step close to the wall. He pointed to a potty chair left behind by some of my parents’ basement apartment tenants. It was hanging from the rafters. He tenderly lifted the chair and showed me several baby birds nestled inside, then just as carefully replaced it on the hook.

“They are wren babies,” he said. “The mother bird made her way inside before I sealed the rafters and found the old potty chair. She built a nest and laid eggs. She takes food to the babies all day long. You might see her. She will probably be slipping in any time now.”

“You mean she built the nest while you were hammering, sawing and putting in the wiring?” I asked. “That’s right. She would fly right by my head with bits and pieces of straw and paper to build the nest.”

I stepped into the workshop the other day. My heart was heavy. Tears filled my eyes. Tools and scraps of lumber were scattered about, just as Daddy had left them. The workshop was unfinished. Daddy was gone.

My eyes fell on the place where the wren had built her nest and I was comforted, as I was when God gave me the strength to watch Daddy battle an unconquerable illness. The wise little wren mother had known on an instinct what I had known all my life; my daddy was a kind and gentle man.”



Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.