Memory – For Dad

1910119_1084349671685_9198_nMy father was the most interesting man I’ve ever known. He was both complex and basic; a deep thinker with the curiosity of a child. He was a great conversationalist, yet most times I found I could only go so far with him before running out of things to talk about, and the space between us grew crisp with awkwardness before I’d slink out of the room (it was only later I learned to love our silent moments). Whereas he and my sister were as comfortable as two old pals, and my late brother could talk with him for hours, exhausting a topic, then circling back around to it from a different angle.

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My father’s family – mother, father and grandfather at the head of the table; brothers and sisters and other relatives around the table. My dad is behind the camera.

In his 81 years, my father had been a social worker, a tool and die man at a Chrysler automotive plant, got his Master’s and a PhD. Both my parents retired from the Detroit Public Schools system after 30 years of teaching- my mom was, what I thought the best gym teacher in the city. And my dad taught English as a Second Language (ESL), often introducing us to his students and their families from foreign lands and bringing home unknown foods like baklava.

He was a great amateur photographer – we have pictures he took all the way back from when he was a teen on Detroit’s west side, and he took the picture of me with the late poet Gwendolyn Brooks in 1972 that I used on the cover of my poetry book “Like Gwendolyn” (although the picture is altered). He was the family genealogist, tracing his mother’s bloodline back to his great-great grandfather Josiah Henson. He into all forms of art, culture and entertainment; was an avid reader and loved the piano. He practiced daily, often plunking out a tune he’d written on the piano, for no apparent reason other than just for his own pleasure.

When he really liked something his word for it was “gorgeous,” which he often attributed to music. He’d sit in his basement office or his bedroom, engulfed in music playing on his stereo. Once he got my sister’s Ohio Players “Skin Tight” album and repeatedly listened to the song “Heaven Must Be Like This.” I really wanted to know what it was he heard in the song that he liked so much. When I asked he said, “The orchestration is gorgeous.” Hmm… When I listened to it, again myself, I strained to listen with his ears, and I heard what he meant. The song has beautiful lines and movements inside the instrumentation. Yep. Gorgeous.

When I was a little girl, my parents had an arrangement: my mother cooked wonderful meals Sunday through Thursday, but weekend meals belonged to my father. Now, his meal vocabulary wasn’t very large… it consisted of pizza from a little pizzeria that was once in Palmer Park, Chung King Chinese food out of big ole cans, with rice, Pigs in a Blanket, and when he really got fancy it was Tuna Casserole (my comfort food when I want to feel close to him). But his breakfasts were the best, and those mornings are some of my favorite memories.

A few years before he passed in 2003, I wrote a poem for him about those magical mornings when he cooked breakfast. It’s called “Memory.”

Weekend mornings

brought pancakes

bacon and

jazz

Hear the full poem.

Another fond memory comes from one year while in college. I was driving home late one night listening to Detroit’s legendary jazz station, WJZZ – 105.9 FM. A song I’d heard often as a child came on, and I heard it with new ears – adult ears, I suppose. I was enthralled by the moving piano and the lyrical melody… I didn’t want it to end. The DJ announced the track as “Wave” by Oscar Peterson. I ran into the house, down to my dad’s office and told him about that song. He reached right over to his record stack and pulled out the album – “Motions and Emotions” and handed it to me. “Wave” was on that record. It was as if he’d given me a pot of gold. At that moment, he was the coolest Dad in the world.

And speaking of cool, he was all that when he wouldn’t let old age keep him from one of his favorite activities – cross country skiing – when he was 81.

My dad at 81 on his last ski trip to Stoney Creek, Mich.

My dad at 81 on his last ski trip to Stoney Creek, Metro Park

 

8 Comments
  1. Ha Ohio Players, your Dad was pretty hip and progressive, lucky lady

    • Ha! I know. It was kind of bananas.

  2. Andi, I love this homage to your wonderful father. As I read the words I imagined every description so that I could “see” & “feel” the joy that you must have experienced. How fortunate you have been to have him in your life and to hold him in your spirit.

    • Teresa, thank you so much for reading the post. I’m glad you could “see and feel” it. I appreciate your comment.

  3. My Dearie, That is a GORGEOUS tribute!!!!

    • Thank you, Petronia. I’m glad you like it. Thank you for reading it and for leaving a comment.

  4. Andrea I have to say the back story of your father is truly amazing and inspiring ,I must say your parents truly sound like beautifully and amazing people you and your family truly blessed. Now as far as your audio for the poem , the poem itself is beautiful, the music lovely, your voice speaking the poem is truly gorgeous , I agree with your dad on that choice of word. I truly enjoyed the poem, I will definitely buy a cd or audiobook of yours great job. This truly made my day. Thank you.

    • Hi Dale. Thank you so much for reading the post, I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I really appreciate your comments. I’m glad it made your day. And whenever I have a CD or audiobook, I’ll definitely let you know. Your support means a lot.

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