It was a sweltering summer night in the middle of July. I remember it vividly as it was far too hot for me to fall asleep. I tossed and turned until eventually the intense heat and humidity drove me downstairs to seek refuge in the somewhat cooler living room. This was before my parents splurged and installed window air conditioners in the bedrooms, and the possibility of the slightest relief was worth the effort to move downstairs.
I silently slipped down the steps and set up a makeshift bed on the sofa with a set of our finest polyester sheets. Thread counts meant absolutely nothing to my Mom. She was all about a bargain, so the cheaper the sheets the better.
The windows were pushed open in the living and dining room to catch any breeze that dared to float through the night. I plumped my pillow and settled in trying to find the slightest bit of comfort between the lumps on the couch and the scratchy sheets. I started to doze and was awakened by the slam of a car door and saw my Dad making his way up the driveway to the front door, stopping quickly to pick up the keys he kept dropping. I could tell he was a tad bit tipsy as the friend who dropped him off yelled to him and waited until he was safely inside before he drove away. It was a Friday night and my Dad enjoyed having a beer with his friends at the Legion, where he served as a Commander in previous years. He felt comfortable there and they were his kind of people; down to earth, loyal and lifelong friends.
He stood at the door for quite some time trying to find his house key and successfully manage directing the key into the lock. I couldn’t help but smile, as each time he dropped the key and managed to find it again he would say, “atta boy Tom”, and congratulate himself out loud. It’s an interesting experience to see your Dad after a few beers when his spirit was relaxed and carefree.
My Dad was truly one of a kind. I know many say this about their parents. But, my dad truly was. He was hard-working, kind, and would literally give the shirt off of his back if it would make someone’s life a little better. On the cold, rainy day in December that we buried him there were hundreds who came to pay their respects and share their stories about the man I called my Dad. I loved my dad more than I could understand at my tender age and on this hot and humid night in the middle of summer, I saw straight through to the center of his soul.
He was able to make his way in the house and took a seat at the dining table. I doubt he saw me feigning sleep on the couch as he walked past. He plopped into his chair at the head of the table, put his head in his hands and started weeping. My Mom was upstairs asleep and didn’t hear any of this. I remember thinking how private this was and that I shouldn’t be witnessing this, but couldn’t drag myself to get up and run back to my bed. I was stunned at this display of pure emotion and never, ever told a soul – until now.
He cried for quite some time in between laying his head on the table. I couldn’t imagine the source of his pain until he started mumbling. First quietly to himself, and then louder until I could hear him out loud from across the room. On that night he cried for his parents. He weeped so deeply it was as if he just lost his parents and they both passed away years before. I had no words and was too young to process the pain and loss he was dealing with. It scared me to my core. He eventually pulled himself together and made his way up the stairs to bed.
He never said a word about this and neither did I. I started writing about this memory quite some time ago, and found it interesting that I decided I would take time and finish this story on the eve of Father’s Day. Funny timing for sure. I know that he missed his parents and felt their loss deep in his spirit, and i understand this for sure. It doesn’t matter how much time passes, the memories are embedded in my soul and I can draw on them for the rest of my life and this is a perfect gift.