Some memories of my Dad are like mercury. I just can’t seem to get a handle on ’em. Others are like fixed points in my past’s night sky by which life could be sailed back through safely. And then there are those memories which are the coming together of dozens forming one pressing against the walls of my life, forming it. And doing so in ways I could not understand till I had my own kids.
Going to get a chocolate shake at McDonald’s after time at the dentist, Dr. Vines pipe-smoke still in my nose. Handing tools to him while he laid under the car covered in grease, his face making the same one my does when straining against something. Doing my best to stay quiet while he sits rock still in the brown-orange Lay-Z-Boy after a long day as a pastor, while my mom fixes supper in the kitchen. His calm patience while I learned to drive in his Plymouth Reliant. Shooting baskets and throwing baseballs. Grilling.
None of these are one particular memory. Just as a flock of birds is one living flying form, these memories move along together in the past having become one memory flowing together in a stream against the blurry backdrop of the forgotten.
My first thought is to wish I could remember one of these in particular. I can’t. But maybe the reason why is they are so repetitive as to be indistinguishable. A faithfulness in so many small ways over such a length of time as to only be understood in the aggregate. If one could be remembered it would possibly belie the uniqueness of the “event.” But none were unique.
The taste of the chocolate is embedded in my palate’s memory because it happened often enough for each to spill on into the other. I can feel the greasy tools slide between my fingers still because of the many times this was done. The smell of a ball glove rings true because of 10,000 pitches. I can sit down, close my own eyes just before supper and hear the echo of his own silence and my mother’s stealth movement in the kitchen. As I’ve scratched at these memories, they’ve rubbed off and made indelible marks on my own fatherhood. Hopefully marks of the same breed of faithfulness.