The Walking Sticks

Posted in Memories on September 8, 2010 by Lisa May

One day, many years ago, my dad had some pain in either his ankle or his hip (I forget which) from a minor injury (a fall, of course) and decided he should try using a cane until it healed. So, he sent me off to find him a cane and I ended up finding one at a local pharmacy. It was plain finished wood with a simple curved top and a rubber cap on the bottom, certainly nothing fancy. It was enough, however, to get him started…

A while after I bought that cane he found a carved wood walking stick, I think at a flea market. And a while after that he got another…and then another…and then – well, you get the idea.

After a couple years he had a decent collection of walking sticks. Some were plain wood, some were carved and intricate, some were painted and downright exquisite in detail. When I was in New Hope, PA one day I found one with a snake head on the top with its mouth open and teeth and tongue protruding and brightly colored with paint. Of course I had to buy it for him, and he loved it. A few months later when I was visiting he excitedly showed me the latest addition to the collection. It was dark stained wood with a compass hidden in the top in a screw-top brass knob. He got almost giddy when he showed me its other secret – beneath the knob was another screw top concealing a small flask for booze. He’d never use such a thing, but he thought it was “really neat.”

It's a walking stick! No, it's a compass! No, it's a flask!

At one point, he surprised me with one he bought just for me. Plain wood with no stain or finish, it has a bear carved into the top of it with painted black features. He thought I’d love it, and of course he was right.

When my sister and I were kids, he made us walking sticks out of tree branches. I still have mine, though understandably it’s way too short for me to use now.  It holds many memories for me of time spent at my grandparents’ cabin in the mountains and at Peace Valley Park, one of his favorite local haunts. I will always cherish that tiny little stick. Hopefully in the future my son will get some use out of it as well.

After he passed away, my mom let us close family members pick our favorites from the collection for us to keep. The first one I chose was the plain wooden one I had bought him all those years earlier, because it’s what started it all in the first place and I had to have it. I also picked the brass-knob one with its “secrets” because I always loved how excited he got over it. The other two I chose were a very detailed carved snake head-topped one that he loved (thought not the one I had bought him) and a plain one with a slight crooked handle which had very unique knots in the wood, another thing he liked a lot.

Hissssssssssss...

He truly valued his walking stick collection but he did occasionally break one out and use it, though sparingly and carefully.

Around 2002 at Peace Valley Park with one of his many walking sticks

Now whenever I see a wonderful walking stick for sale somewhere I feel a bit sad that I cannot buy it for him. But then I hear his voice in my head saying, “At least now you can save the money!”

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My apologies for the very long pause in new posts. For some reason it’s been a bit of a struggle for me lately to feel up to taking the time, but now the somber mood has passed and I can get back on track.

Difficulties

Posted in Memories on July 6, 2010 by Lisa May

I haven’t posted anything here for several weeks now. On Father’s Day I began writing a post, but walked away and never finished it. Since I started this site it’s mostly been therapeutic, but lately it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to write the posts. I’m not sure the reason; perhaps I’m just missing him a lot more while dealing with things in life with which I could have used his help and advice.

Regardless the reason, I have not given up completely; I’m just taking a vacation of sorts. I will return with new posts and more amusing memories of my awesome dad. But for right now, I just need time to myself to remember him.

Happy Birthday Part 2

Posted in Memories on June 13, 2010 by Lisa May

Family Portrait 11-20-43

I was looking through all of my photographs and this is the only one I could find of my dad as a baby. Thanks to my grandmother writing on the backs of all photographs, I know it was taken on November 20, 1943, when my dad was five months old and his brother was three years old.

I love this photograph. He was such a cute baby! And I can see a little of my own son in his face in this photograph. That warms my heart.

Happy Birthday, Daddy

Posted in Memories on June 13, 2010 by Lisa May

Every year for my dad’s birthday I would take him out to eat for dinner at an Italian restaurant. He loved Italian food but my mom has never cared for it. For that reason he really didn’t get to have it that often, which made the outing extra special for him. It was a yearly tradition for us, and every year he looked forward to it. Each time we would try a different place and whenever a new restaurant would open in the area he’d get excited to try it. At Christmas just weeks before his death he was talking about a new restaurant that opened nearby and how much he wanted to try it that year for his birthday. Sadly, we never got the chance.

His favorite Italian meal was veal Parmesan, but sometimes he would get chicken Parmesan just to change things up a bit. I usually got some form of pasta, either lasagna or tortellini. I would never be able to finish my meal, so he would of course have to “sample” mine. After all, he couldn’t let it go to waste, could he? Then he would get a cup of coffee and we’d sit and chat until he finished drinking it. He never got dessert.

I miss those yearly outings with him. It was time where I’d get to have my dad all to myself, and we both always enjoyed it. Sure, we used to go other places together – flea markets, Home Depot, woodworking supply stores, even grocery stores sometimes – but this was different. It was special. It was his birthday, and the dinner was my gift to him. And I realize now it was also a gift to myself, because it gave me some wonderful memories of sharing dinner and conversation with my dad.

Happy Birthday, Daddy. I wish you were still here so we could go out to dinner again tonight. There are several new Italian restaurants in the area that I know you would have loved to try. Perhaps we’ll have some chicken Parmesan for dinner tonight in your memory.

I love you, Daddy.

Glasses

Posted in Memories on June 8, 2010 by Lisa May

From the time my dad was fairly young, he wore glasses. According to what my grandmother used to tell us, my dad broke his glasses many times. And they weren’t cheap, either.

One time my dad angered his older brother, my Uncle Glenn, though I don’t remember from the story exactly what he did. Logically, my dad ran away. Quickly. As he was running, he suddenly thought that his brother wouldn’t hit him while he was wearing his glasses for fear of getting into trouble. He thought wrong. He stopped and turned around – just in time for a punch right to the face, which, of course, ended with broken glasses.

This occurred right around the same time in their lives that this picture was taken.

In this photograph, my dad is getting a piggy back ride from his brother. The other kids are neighbors for whom I do not have names. Incredibly, neither of them is the infamous Arnold Jones. Ah…Arnold Jones. That’s a story for another day.

Generations

Posted in Memories on May 28, 2010 by Lisa May

As I look at this picture of my dad when he was a kid, I can’t help but wonder if my own son will look similar when he is this same age. I hope so, for the main reason of seeing my dad live on in the next generation.

It deeply saddens me that the two never had a chance to meet. They would have gotten along frighteningly well, I think. They would have had water gun fights, played baseball, rode bikes, hiked in the park…and I’m sure my dad would have taught him some woodworking in his basement workshop, too.

It isn’t fair that my son was cheated of those experiences with my dad, but at least I was lucky enough to have them with him myself when I was a kid.

Damn it, I miss my dad. A lot.

Graduation

Posted in Memories on May 11, 2010 by Lisa May

It’s that time of year when graduation excitement will begin for a lot of high school seniors, so I thought it appropriate to post my dad’s high school graduation picture.

He was a pretty darn good looking guy, wasn’t he? And for his portrait he even wore a tie!

He hated high school and couldn’t wait for it to be over, which is something I’m sure a lot of people can relate to – including me. Though he never attended college, he was a very smart and honest man and a hard worker his whole life – and that’s worth more than any diploma.

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