Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Time to Remember

"Mr. Mah-velous"

Today is the first anniversary of the death of my father, Simon Lamhut. How is it possible that the last three months of Dad’s life seemed to last an eternity, yet this past year without him blew by like a spinning tornado? Those two time periods were equally challenging, though different. November 2010 – January 2011, Mom, my brother, my husband, and I endured the days watching helplessly while Dad fought the ravaging effects of stomach cancer vs. the rest of 2011 when we barely noticed time passing as we adjusted family dynamics around a gaping hole and spent hours diligently attending to details that would establish new supports for Mom in his absence. I trust that Dad is enjoying the peace and quiet he deserves, and I’m comfortable that we, too, have arrived at a better place, each at our own pace.
      My Dad was not big on spending social time, even with his family. He loved us, for sure, but as I was growing up in the 50’s he aspired to be the best dad possible in the tradition of that era, continuing his education and advancing his career. In his “free time” Dad was most often in “the shop” either on the ham radio or puttering around doing projects.
The bounty I’ve inherited from my father is a list of items so common that some people may accuse me of over-valuing the lot. Most of them were collected during the difficult task of clearing out the bedroom drawers he shared with Mom and re-purposing his shop. These items, protected from the discard piles earmarked for “Goodwill” and “Trash,” span the many chapters in his life and will always remain treasure to me.

·      Ephemera he kept, and kept, and kept. His original 1939 Boy Scout Handbook. “Blue Print” 1923, the yearbook commemorating his senior year at Brooklyn Tech HS. Letters to and from his cousins and buddies during World War II. Illustrated “CQ” cards exchanged among ham radio buffs to document the reach of their signals.
·      Dad’s navy blue wool cardigan. He always wore one over his flannel shirts.  And the navy blue lined hoodie that kept him warm during hours of dialysis the last years of his life. Every time I snuggle into one of these, it’s like getting a hug from Dad.
·      Evidence of the art he continued to dabble with long after he’d decided he was “not talented enough” and found himself a “secure day job” in electrical engineering. Pencil and pen and ink studies and water colors and oil paintings, many worth framing, which I’ve done. Ceramic clowns and flower pots, better than average. And “how to” books on all of the above.

The most wonderful tangible inheritance for me remains the two carloads of artist’s equipment and supplies I hauled from New York to North Carolina. Easels, canvases, frames, brushes, paints, palette and good quality paper pads, T-squares, rulers, sand paper, welding tools, electrical parts, found objects, marking pens; I could go on. Luckily, Dad lived to be almost 90 and left these for me long after I was detoured off my own “serious” career path into creative retirement. Not only am I free now to dabble on, but feel obligated to do so. Imagine the crime it would be if any of those canvases he never got to use remained “orphaned” through two lifetimes!
    Today, on the anniversary of his death, I got one more "gift" that let me know Dad's love is still accessible. The orchid plant I've had for four years, which has been nothing but a collection of potted green leaves and meandering grey roots since its first season ended, produced one bright bloom this morning. Coincidence? I choose to think not. To every time there is a season, for everything, there is a reason.

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