By birth chart, I am the first and oldest kid of our family. With that opportunity comes parents, no one else will ever know. As a first, everyone in the situation is all thumbs. There are no dress rehearsals, no lessons from the past to lean on, just a flood of ready-steady-go moments.
I was born on foreign soil, when my dad was serving our country. Because of his skills, he was able to by-pass front lines, and secure a desk job and home for his intended family. My arrival was met with joy and overwhelm. My parents had no family nearby to assist, guide, or spell them. The world was all about me.
It was during those "all about me" times, that dad and I began a bond that would carry me through my life. Every evening, I became colicky. My mom had fulfilled my every need all day, her body needed rest. Dad created our routine. Each night he would fold his lean, six-foot frame into a wooden rocking chair, the only chair we had in our tiny Parisian flat, and stretch me across his lap and rock me, while he listened to the BBC or read magazine's.
Before long, our merry band of three, had returned from our European Tour of Duty. We had traversed countries, landmarks, towns, and streets. Now it was time to introduce family to me. What a delight that was. Yet, even as new beloved family came into my life, dad and I continued to an inseparable pair. Mom recalls, that where ever he went, there was always a blond ponytail following him.
We did a million things together. Helped at a church egg distribution project, watched him play softball, went to the beach, hiked into autumn forests behind our home. He taught me to fly kites, ride a bike, and helped me swim.
As the years flew by, he became my swim meet companion, and my coaches favorite parent volunteer. He worried over every boy I dated. And flipped the porch light off and on a million times over, if he thought I was out too late. When I was an adult, and my kids were grown, he drove up two and a half states, to celebrate their milestones with us.
The Long Good-Bye
A few years ago, my straight A, multi-patented, electrical engineering dad met a force he could not conquer, dementia. It came slowly, just little lapses. Over time, they have progressed. Three years of Covid restrictions didn't help. The loss of his routines likely sped up the process.
Yet, through all of that, he does remarkably well at keeping his calm. At using what faculties, he can claim, to assist him in maintaining normalcy as normal slips away like warm water on ice. I have made sure our connection remains, as have all my family. We visit him, call him, walk with him, engage with him. At times, I am not sure whom we are doing it for. Him or us.
My ponytail may not be blond, but I am still the girl who follows him. Even if he doesn't know who I am, I know who he is, who he has been, and what all that means to each of us.
First Born Privileges
Being first born, gives you birds-eye views no one else has. You straddled a life perspective. Before life got too busy. When two adults were just starting out and defining their "them". You get to watch all the parties grow, ebb and flow, like no one else. Etched in your heart are images when life was a bit more carefree.
It's those images that I hold onto as we march this final road. He has forgotten all of it, but I haven't. I am happy to carry them for us.
Tomorrow, or whenever mom opens this, she will read it to him. He can no longer access his technology. She does it for both. It's one more marker of an amazing life with my dad.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. It's been a remarkable fifty-nine years.