Sunday, June 16, 2024

Dear Dad, 2024

Dear Dad,

This is the ninth Father's Day without you. Did I remember to call you on the last one in 2015? I hope so. I don't remember.

I was just glancing through pictures from back then, and it's odd to see how young Quinn was in particular. She was only eight when you died. There is such a world of difference between eight and seventeen. How much of you does she remember? So many of those memories must include your being sick or needing a walker. That's so unfair. I wish she had more experiences like mine, where you shared information about history and the world at the dinner table, surprised us with poems, dashed around city streets going from one gallery or bookstore to the next, always greeting me with a smile, and tucking a twenty dollar bill in my palm at every visit claiming it was overdue allowance. 

We never really got an allowance growing up, did we. There was a week where I remember I got a dime, and my brothers each got a nickel, and then there was a stretch where you had a stack of comic books you drew from once a week to mostly the boys because after my first couple of copies of Magnus the Robot Fighter, I lost interest. Then randomly in high school you thought twenty a month or a week was deserved for no reason I can think of. We had paper routes, so we didn't need it, but I liked the extra record money. I guess my approach to allowance with my kids has been the same. I'm happy to just get them what they need when they ask, or hand them money if they are going somewhere they might need it, but they seldom ask for anything. They have what they need. They don't feel entitled to more. I feel like my brothers and I grew up with that same sense. When I hear people say if you don't pay kids for chores they won't appreciate the value of money, I never buy it. I think it depends on the kids and the circumstances and the examples they see around them. The example I got was to make good choices, and books and art were among those.

So, let me think what I would update you on if I could call you this year.

I guess first is to let you know that Mom is okay. She had a scary fall down the front steps on her birthday back in October, and that was a mess. She broke her heel and had to be off her foot for months. It still hurts, and she's moving a little slow, but she's healed up remarkably well. Arno and Barrett and I took turns going out to help. She had lots of support from friends. Physical therapy made a difference, and she's back to her regular life as far as I can see. She's making beautiful work, including finishing up the project with the small cabinets to house books based on different trees. You'd be amazed. I know she still misses having you there to help her determine when a piece she's working on is officially done. All the current work is stunning. 

Mom actually told us a really funny story about you recently. We were in Pleasant Ridge for an unplanned evening (after touring U of M we were supposed to go straight to the cottage, but decided to visit Mom and stay there a night and she put together a meal so much more elegant and tasty than anything I could have done if given a week to think about it) and we started telling Dad stories. And she described how the first time she tried to cook for you in your apartment she opened the oven to find the smallest skillet she'd ever seen, and your response was, "Oh! I lost that six months ago!" She also said your cabinets were filled with empty boxes you found attractive, and things like a chipped teapot that couldn't be used but were all aesthetically pleasing. We may have a gathering later this year just to record everyone's stories about you (so they aren't lost like a tiny skillet in an oven).

The U of M tour was fun. We've taken four official college tours with Quinn so far: Beloit, Lawrence, U of I Chicago, and U of M. So that's two small schools in small towns, one small school in a big city, and a very big school. My inclination is to have Quinn not too far away so she still has access to things like home and the doctor she likes etc., and in a small enough environment that she doesn't fall through the cracks if she's not assertive. But big schools have advantages, too, I just worry. I just want her to have a good college experience. She doesn't know what she wants to study, but she's good at all subjects and loves to learn.

Quinn's a lot like you in many ways. She's quiet and serious and smart, but with a really wry sense of humor that takes people by surprise. She's particularly good at Spanish and art and writing, and of course geography still. She joined the debate club and the National Honor Society this past school year, and she also had a paid internship with some sort of sustainability company. She has nice friends, her grades are good.... The only thing I can think of to improve upon would be for her to practice piano regularly. I ask her every semester if she wants to continue lessons, because I know it's frustrating for both her and her teacher that she's not putting in the work, but she insists she wants to keep going. If she wants lessons she can have lessons, I just don't know what's happening from her point of view. Anyway, Quinn is lovely. It's easy to imagine how much you would enjoy going with us on college tours.

Mona's doing great. I wish you could see her art. I know you called her out as a genius many years ago, but her aunt recently said the same thing when we were in New York recently. I'm not entirely sure what's happening in her apprenticeship because she's very private about her life, but I know she loves the things she's learning and appreciates her teacher. There is so much more interesting stuff to know about tattooing than I ever realized, and she loves learning it all. I really think this path is a good fit. Plus she loves having her own apartment above the store, and she regularly pops in on us at home to hang out, especially now that Aden's home for the summer. I love seeing all the siblings together.

Aden's taking the slow path in college, which is fine by me. UW Stout is affordable, and she loves it, and she's still grappling with managing ADHD and anxiety and performing well in her classes. She's very good at what she's doing, and has won several awards so far, but turning in regular assignments, etc., is still a struggle. She's made some beautiful art, some of which I've had framed to hang in the house. Her current obsession is sea monkeys. Aden continues to be a delight, and I'm glad she wants to take advantage of being in  There are lots of classes she still wants to take, and I don't have any timeline she needs to fit into. 

How many years were you in school? Hamilton College, Univ of Geneva, Columbia, Wayne State.... I think I'm missing something. I have it in my head that you were at Teacher's College for a bit, but Mom disagrees. I know I wrote all of it down (your entire school and work history) on my laptop years ago where you gave us a hilarious blow by blow of many things, but that was one of the items lost when my computer crashed. I figure if anyone could see the value of taking your time to enjoy being in a learning environment while you can, it's you. So I tell Aden her grandpa would have approved, and to take whatever classes make her happy.

All three kids are so sweet and funny and kind. I worry about them and love spending time with them and wish you could visit with them. You would find each as fascinating as I do. 

Your other granddaughter loves college (of course) and is studying art history and anthropology. I hope I get to see her this summer, maybe at the cottage if we're lucky. Your grandson is bright, creative, funny, and surprising. He had his first cello lesson the other day, and if it sticks, I may wind up building one more cello after all. I really thought I was in the clear and would never need my cello form and templates again! But we'll see. He's one of the few people on Earth I would actually make a cello for.

Oh, and speaking of building, I was just in New York where a couple of my violins were part of a show of women luthiers! It was the second leg of a touring exhibit of instruments, and the showroom was just down the street from Carnegie Hall. You would have loved this trip SO MUCH. I wish you could have been at the makers' brunch with me and Mom and Arno, and I was on a panel talk that I think you would have enjoyed, and the concert that evening (all woman quartet playing music by women composers on instruments in the show) was amazing and you would have loved everything. It's impossible to walk around that city and not think of you with every step. We even walked all the way to the Cloisters on our last afternoon in town (which on my wonky knee was quite a feat). You made it to the Cloisters finally, didn't you? Wasn't that a running joke for a while that you kept meaning to get there, but somehow never did? The whole trip was wonderful, Arno's new office is great, their renovated apartment is incredible.... You should have been there. I wish you could have been.

Ian's good. He spent part of this Father's Day at the violin store running the rental charges. I've been really happy to see him use more of his retired-from-the-Army time to get involved in projects he's interested in, like his Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers group, and more Linux things. The other apartment above the violin store freed up, so we made it an office where he can set up the 3D printer, etc. I still need his help running the business, but I want him doing more of what he wants to as he can. Oh, and we're finally in the process of selling his childhood home. It's been two years since his mom passed away, and he agreed it wasn't good for the house or the neighborhood for it to just be sitting. Emotionally that's all still a lot, so I handled as much of that as I could. Losing a parent is awful, so I understood. I wish I didn't understand so well.

I'm trying to get myself unstuck with my writing projects. It's weird that for me being stuck has nothing to do with actual writing. I don't have any trouble writing and have never suffered with any kind of writer's block, but I have a need to finish a project before committing to the next, and the wedding novel has been stalled for years at this point, simply because I don't know what to do with it. I finally decided to send it to an editor and get professional advice. We'll see. She's had it for a couple weeks, which means in my head I feel like the whole book is garbage. Few things are worse than handing someone a book you wrote and then having to wait for them to read it. But it's a start, I hope! I just want to be unstuck and start playing with more of my projects.

Health wise, this year has been annoying. I feel like I was fine, and then I turned 55 and fell to bits. My right knee got all swollen and I couldn't walk for a few weeks. Physical therapy is helping, but yuck. I was kind of relieved when I found out the mandolin orchestra wasn't going to Spain this summer, because I don't think I could handle airports, etc. I'm on a CPAP machine now, which is stupid looking but I like sleeping through the night. I'm wearing aligners again because something was off with my bite. I had another biopsy, which was uncomfortable to say the least, but the results were benign. I have a thyroid check coming up, I need meds for my blood pressure, and I have another colonoscopy scheduled in about a month. I figure since colon cancer took both you and my grandpa, that's not something I can afford to ignore. That's too many things! I don't like going to the doctor. I have thoughts for when the last child is out of the house for getting both Ian and myself in a better eating and exercise routine, so maybe that will help with some of it.

I'm sure there was more I wanted to say, but I'm getting tired and I have a lot of work waiting for me tomorrow. I do miss our Monday chats. I don't reach for the phone anymore when I think of something to tell you, but I still think of things I would say all the time.

I miss you. I miss you so very much and it still hurts. Is there an age that's too old to just want your dad? If there is, I'm not near it yet.

Ha, the dog just came in to nudge me into petting her, and I make that same funny wgshkk! wgshkk! sound to her that you used to do to our cat and dog. Domino is such a cutie. She'd have let you pet her!

I love you, Dad.


1 comment:

  1. Your dad is still my favorite known through a blog grand-father! It's lovely to hear about him