Photos capture sense of best times with dad
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2018
There are two old black and white photos sitting beside my computer keyboard. The paper used to print them is starting to yellow around the edges,
They are pictures of my daddy when he was a young father. In one, he kneels beside my grandmother’s house in Luverne. My brothers sit on his knee and I stand beside him wearing a dress with puffy sleeves, small white sandals on my feet.
My brother Bob is shirtless and smiling, his hair looks like a rooster comb. Jim, my other brother, wears a diaper and looks over Daddy’s shoulder, his arm draped at Daddy’s neck. Daddy is smiling.
In the other picture, Daddy stands at the edge of the water. I think someone snapped the picture when we went on vacation at the bay. Three bathing suit clad children stand with him. One is Bob, tall now and holding a beach ball. Daddy has his hand on the shoulder of one of my younger sisters, and I think it is one of my cousins posing with them. Daddy’s smiling.
I like looking at the old pictures because they are snapshots of my childhood, sweet memories of an innocent time. My young father is happy in these pictures.
There were times that he became a kid with us and I think that is why he was happiest when he was with his family. He had fun with us and he created opportunities for us to play.
One summer he spent hours lining a badminton court in the backyard. He cemented poles to hold the net into two old tires. We scratched names and dates in the wet cement. Those tires rolled into place many a summer day as kids and parents squared off in a game of badminton or volleyball.
Daddy was precise with his creations. He knew the correct height for the badminton net and taught us the rules of the game. We just liked hitting the “birdie” back and forth over the net, often aiming for each other’s heads. We did not do that when we played with Daddy.
Oh, and how he loved our beach vacations. Beach time was an event anticipated all year. Daddy relaxed when his feet hit the white sand. We watched in awe as he dived into the gulf and rode a wave back to shore.
He showed us how to bait hooks with shrimp and cast our lines into the waves. He introduced us to fiddler crabs and sand fleas.
I still hear the echo of his voice reciting the rules for beach-time. “Off the beach and out of the sun from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.” Looking back, I think it was as much to give him and Mother a rest from watching us as it was to protect us from sunburn.
In my head, there other pictures like the ones beside my computer keyboard. Daddy at Christmas handing out gifts, laughing as we cry out with surprise when we open them.
Daddy sitting at the breakfast room table with Mother at the end of the day, drinking coffee and talking.
Daddy kissing us goodnight and waking us with “Rise and shine. Morning glory, what’s your story.”
And, there are pictures of Daddy’s final years when breathing became his sport and traveling to the beach or most anywhere else was too much of a struggle.
I hear his voice.
“I know folks look at me and feel bad for me, but I’m happy,” he said. “Inside I’m still 17. It’s just my body that is older.”
And there was one more thing my daddy told me. I hear him as I look at these fading photos.
“When I’m gone, don’t come to my grave to visit me. You know what I believe, and you know I won’t be in that cemetery.”
No, I know he’s not there. His body might be, but his spirit is with me in every sweet memory I hold in my heart.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.
Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.