Tag Archives: fathers day

Fathering Continued Beyond the Grave

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops an old photo of her father who is still fathering from beyond the grave

Father’s Day when your father is no longer around can be a time of bewilderment. Especially when it seems your father continues fathering from beyond the grave. Although my dad has been dead for eight years, I can still hear his words. Sometimes he is encouraging. Proud of me. Other times his words are filled with doubt and directives.

My father’s ghost shows up every time I spend more than the cost of a meal in a good restaurant. He says, You don’t need this; spend your money on something worthwhile. Dad makes me feel like mopping the floor with my tongue when I’ve spent money on something that doesn’t work out, like the Roto Rooter guy who charged me the $175 minimum service fee and then left without fixing the garage drain problem.

Dad sneers, This is the way you balance your checking account? and I shrink. He tells me, Never lend money to family. Be good to your sisters. Be generous to your friends. Spoil your dog; that’s your best friend. You don’t need a husband.

When I race home from Wegmans, throw bags of groceries in the fridge, wolf down dinner, and drag the dog for a quick potty before dashing off to some event across town and, in the scurry, misplace the car keys… Dad says, This is a hell of a way to live.

When I burn dinner, he suggests, Okay, now we go out to a nice restaurant. He chuckles at me dancing with the dog to John Philip Sousa’s marching band music, and persuades me to play every army bugle call I can find online.

Dad points out the honeysuckle that needs trimming, and the tiny dings in the car’s fender that should be painted before rust sets in. And the raccoon that lives under my deck, named Oscar after the squirrel Dad used to feed on his porch – sometimes I think the ‘coon is my father reincarnated, now overseeing my weed-whacking.

From the other side, from beyond the great divide, from wherever he is or is not on Father’s Day, I can hear my father louder than usual. His words comfort me like old familiar songs even though they mostly remind me I’ve been careless or done something stupid. Most of the time he has a valid point.

What voices do you hear from your father? What does Fathers Day mean to you?

 

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Gifts From my Father

Robin Botie restores and posterizes an old photo of her father for Fathers Day, in Photoshop.“Dad, is it okay to replace my 17-year-old mattress?” My father’s been gone seven years but I still consult him every time I spend more than what a dinner in a nice restaurant would cost. If I’m spending money on someone else however, I don’t bother to ask. For family or friends, for persons in need, or for matters involving food, I know I have his blessings to be generous.

When my sister and I were about six and seven, my father came home from work one day and took us out shopping for bicycles. The small store was closing but the shopkeeper stayed open for us. We quickly chose our bikes, and my father asked if we wanted bells for our bicycles. No. We were thrilled simply to have bicycles. “How about baskets? Bicycles need baskets,” he said. We shook our heads. No, thank you. “What about these?” he went on, pointing to streamers and things to dangle off the handlebars. My sister and I hugged our new bikes and declined all his offers until he finally nodded in the direction of the shopkeeper and said, “C’mon, what else can we buy? This guy has to make a living too.”

Decades later, right before a winter vacation to a beach, a surgery gone wrong necessitated buying new clothes for my Dad. Having never been sick up until then, he didn’t own a bathrobe or slippers, or anything one would sit still in. He and I went shopping at Nordstrom’s Department Store for sweatpants, pajamas, a swimsuit, and comfortable casual clothes to fit over the temporary catheter and tubing he suddenly had to accommodate. I couldn’t believe my father even knew how to shop. Except for his love of good food he lived very simply, and wore clothes of World War II vintage. When our pile of purchases at Nordstrom’s grew too heavy for me to carry, I asked, “What else can we buy?” this time meaning I thought he had bought enough.
“Now we buy something for you,” he answered. And he bought me a bathing suit, two pairs of sandals, and a red dress.

Maybe my Dad is watching over me still. Maybe he smiles each time I treat a friend to dinner at Gola Osteria. But, except for food and clothing, it’s hard to be generous with myself. Like this old mattress I want to replace. I’ve been looking for a new one for at least three years. Maybe this year, Dad? For Fathers Day.

 

What “gifts” did you inherit from your father? What does Fathers Day mean to you?

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Preserving Family Memories

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops an image of her deceased father from an old VHS videotaped recording converted to DVD.On a small computer screen, in a blurred DVD converted from an old VHS recording, bleared further through my tears, I watched my father laughing. I’d last seen his face in 2009. He wasn’t laughing then. At the end of his life, he was angry, ready to go. Done.

Now in the recovered footage, My father sat in a row alongside his siblings and in-laws. The seven of them smiled nervously, lined up in front of a video camera in 1993. My father, always fascinated by cameras, seemed amused to be on the other side of this newfangled movie-making instrument. Within minutes, he warmed to the camera and to the questions his niece and daughters were posing to the group. He laughed, talking on past his turn. It was hard to shut him up. I’d forgotten what he was like when he was happy. The video zoomed in and out, focusing on the group, closing in on him.

Videotaping aging relatives. We’d all noticed the changing population at the family reunions. “To preserve the family history,” my cousin Brigite, the one who came up with the idea and produced the project, had said.

But for me, years later approaching Father’s Day, fixated on the fuzzy computer image, it was the preservation of my father’s bright face and the sound of his laughter. And of all the pixelated memories of being my father’s daughter. For days after, I talked to him, and walked in the warmth of his smile.

 

 

What memories are brought up for you by viewing photos or video footage of your loved ones who died?

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