too late to ask my father questions, but it’s not too late to
remember him and write about his well lived life.
April of 2018, the results of a biopsy showed that my father had skin
cancer and he had about 4 months to live. He hoped to stretch out
that prediction and make it to his birthday in August. We thought we
had plenty of time with him before he died, but the cancer was more
aggressive than expected. He died on May 19, 2018.
think about all the times I talked with my father. There are
questions I wish I had asked him. Why did I waste opportunities and
leave questions unasked? I was busy cleaning his apartment. I didn’t
want to deal with his hearing impairment. Maybe I was afraid to hear
his honest answers. I thought I had more time with him. Whatever the
reasons, there are questions I will always wonder about. Here are
some of my unasked questions and my thoughts about them.
was the last thing Mom said to you?”
outlived Mom by 26 years. In all those 26 years I never asked Dad
about the very end of Mom’s life. At the end, it was just the
two of them in their living room where Mom lay on a hospital bed.
It’s difficult to imagine what Mom might have whispered to Dad
as she held his hand in the final moments of her life. Mom was not
the introspective type. She was the “cross-things-off-the-to-do-list”
type. Did she tell Dad the kitchen floor needed cleaning? Probably
not. Maybe, in that poignant moment, she reflected on their life
together and told him she had a good life with him.
was the last thing you said to her?”
Iimagine that Dad might have said, “Yes, we had a
life together. You were the perfect wife for me.” Whatever they
said to each other, those words will stay forever private. Maybe
that’s how it should be after 43 years of marriage. Their final
words should remain just between the two of them.
Mom as interested in traveling as you were?”
was an important part of their marriage, but it was Dad’s
childhood dream, not Mom’s. Was Mom always “on board”
with Dad’s traveling plans? I think their marriage was such a
partnership that it never occurred to Mom not to take an interest in
what Dad liked to do. She was game for anything as long as it
included three meals a day. Photographs of their first years of
marriage show that they enjoyed short trips in New York and New
England. The photos show them skiing, enjoying time at a lodge, and
hiking. Those short trips were a warm up to taking trips around the
country. When my brother and I were very young, our family trips to
Canada and around the U.S. began. Mom was always involved in the
planning of the trips. I remember Dad and Mom sitting in the living
room, talking about the itinerary for the next trip. I think they
both looked forward to the vacations.
did have opposing thoughts about going to the Amazon River. It was
Dad’s greatest childhood dream to go to the Amazon. It was
Mom’s greatest nightmare to go to the jungles of the Amazon.
They made a deal. Mom agreed to go to the Amazon, if their next trip
could be to Alaska. I guess Mom wanted to get as far from the Amazon
as possible. Sadly, Mom got sick after going to the Amazon, and she
never went to Alaska. Six years after she died, Dad went to Alaska.
Was that his way of completing the deal, even though Mom was with him
only in his thoughts?
did you think a remote fishing camp would be a good destination for
our first family vacation?”
found out about Zimm’s Fishing Camp from a coworker named
Murray Belknap. As far as I can tell from photographs, Zimm’s
was our first family vacation. The fishing camp in Ontario, Canada
was rustic. There was just enough electricity in the cabin for a few
light bulbs. The bathroom was a spidery outhouse. The stove for
cooking was a wood burning stove. The refrigerator was an icebox with
a block of ice. Why did Dad choose to travel to a primitive fishing
camp for our first family vacation? Did we fish? It was 1954. My
brother was barely 2 years old and I was 3. Perhaps the simple
fishing camp was all Dad could afford.
we had a good time at Zimm’s. It turned out to be more than
just a fishing camp. It was a place where memorable experiences and
family traditions were created. We returned there many times in the
1950’s and 60’s. Thank you, Murray Belknap, for telling
Dad about it. And, thank you Dad, for somehow knowing “Zimmie’s”
would be a good place to take your family.
you remember when I hurt my finger and you took care of me?”
am sure Dad would remember when I was a child and I hurt my finger in
the hinge of a lawn chair. I doubt that he would remember how he took
care of me while my finger healed. I remember because it was unusual
for Dad to be my caretaker. In our family, Mom took care of the
children. Dad’s role was breadwinner. But, when I injured my
finger, Mom relinquished her caretaker role to Dad. The injury to my
finger was significant, with the fingernail ripped off and the tip of
my finger attached at an odd angle. Mom couldn’t handle it. I
remember sitting on the couch with Dad while he changed the bandage.
Dad was patient. He let me soak my bandaged finger in a pan of warm
water for a long time before he gently inched the bandage off and
applied a new one. I don’t remember how long it took for my
finger to heal, but I know Dad faithfully changed the bandage many
times. The memory of Dad’s special care for me is imprinted on
the slightly misshaped ring finger of my left hand.
famous people have you admired?”
was especially fond of Shirley Temple. He owned a collection of her
movies on a set of DVD’s. Dad liked
to talk about those movies. He admired young Shirley’s talent
for singing and dancing and acting. And, he appreciated that Shirley
Temple’s movies raised people’s spirits during the
I was born, I wonder if Dad fancied me to be his own little Shirley
Temple. I certainly had the curls and the chubby cheeks. I was
enrolled in tap dancing classes for a few years. Alas, it became
apparent that I had no talents, and I was very shy. The closest I
ever came to being like Shirley Temple was in college when I was
nicknamed Shirley Temple because of my youthful appearance and my
abstinence from alcohol.
also admired the astronauts because they are the ultimate travelers.
I think Dad would have loved to have the opportunity to travel into
space. He was always looking for new vacation destinations. On earth,
Dad enjoyed traveling to distant places. In July of 1969, when the
astronauts were landing on the moon, we were camping on a remote
island on Lake Temagami in Ontario, Canada. Perhaps Dad felt a
kinship with the astronauts as we landed on the remote island. Dad
brought a small transistor radio so he could hear the historic news
of the astronauts’ landing on the moon. Radio reception was
poor in our remote location, but Dad could hear the dramatic details
of the landing as he held the radio against his ear. He repeated the
words to us as he heard them, “The Eagle has landed”. Any
comparisons between our landing on a Canadian island and the
astronauts’ landing on the moon are presumptuous, but it’s
the closest Dad ever came to being like an astronaut. Now that Dad is
free from his life on earth, I hope he is exploring new places in the
is your most prized possession?”
collection of stereo pictures highly. He had a stereo camera and he
took stereo pictures wherever he went. The pictures’ 3D affect
gives the viewer the feeling of actually being in the picture. Dad
labeled and organized thousands of stereo pictures in his specially
designed handmade boxes. The boxes of stereos were heavy, but Dad
hauled them out and enjoyed viewing them with a handheld viewer. He
was very worried that the viewer would break and he wouldn’t be
able to fix it. When I visited him, he took pride in letting me see
the stereos. Dad’s
came alive when he viewed the stereos. The collection helped him
relive his vacation experiences, especially after he was too old to
special abilities are you proud of in your life?”
was proud of his work at Kodak. His pride was well founded. He had a
good work ethic for forty years. He worked as a machinist, but he was
capable of doing the work of an engineer. Kodak awarded him thousands
of dollars for his suggestions to improve the designs of machinery.
Dad never tired of telling us he was as good at designing machines as
the college educated engineers. That’s pretty good for a guy
who didn’t finish high school. Dad knew he was fortunate to be
hired by Kodak, even though he didn’t have a high school
diploma. Dad’s long lasting career at Kodak began in 1944.
During World War ll there was a shortage of young men to work in
factories, but Dad had a medical deferment and couldn’t fight
in the war. He never had any regrets about not finishing high school,
and he had no regrets about his forty years of employment at Kodak.
He was a dedicated worker for each day of those forty years.
you satisfied with your life?”
my daughter visited Dad a month before he died, he sat back in his
chair and said, “I’ve had a really good life.” We
can take comfort in knowing Dad was well satisfied with his life.
my unasked questions inspire anyone to ask their own questions before
it’s too late, I am glad I could enrich your time with a loved
I am old (who am I kidding, that time has arrived) I hope someone
will take the time to ask me questions about my life. My retired
husband and I grow even older here by the shore of Lake Ontario.
wrote about my struggles to adjust to country living in a story
entitled, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,
which can be found in the story collection
Preservation Foundation. I also wrote about my employment that
brought me from the city to the country in a book that was published
by The Preservation Foundation. The book is called, Substitute
Teacher Domain: Enter at Your Own Risk.
author's name in
of the message we
won't know where to send it.)