My very early memories are like still photographs. I'm told this is true for a lot of people.
When I was three years old, my daddy took me on a date. First we ate supper at Alfie's Fish and Chips, a restaurant long gone. I have a memory of sitting at the booth and admiring the bottles of malt vinegar. After that we went to see Song of the South at the fabulous Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta. I can recall sitting in the plush upholstered seat next to my dad, trying my hardest, I suppose, to take it all in.
My dad remembers this outing much better than I. His short-term memory has been tricky for several years now and sometimes his long-term memory is faulty, but he firmly holds on to a storehouse of moments like these.
My dad and I look alike; I don't look anything like my mother (who was a contestant in the Miss Georgia beauty pageant in 1964, so it's sort of a shame I didn't take after her). My reddish curly hair and blue-green eyes are courtesy of my father's side of the family, although his hair was dark blond. So is my keen sense of the ridiculous. I missed out on his mathematical genius and strong strategy skills. I wish I'd gotten those as well. (Did I mention he was a nuclear health physicist?)
In late May of 2004, his aorta tore and he underwent emergency heart surgery, during which he suffered two strokes. He was in and out of the hospital that summer, with one health issue leading to another, the most upsetting of which was his lungs filling with fluid on a regular basis. We were stressed, anxious, and worried that he'd never be the same again.
And he wasn't. The lung issue was diagnosed as congestive heart failure, a condition from which he'll never recover but for which there are meds to keep it under control. The strokes caused some minor brain damage: memory loss, short-term memory issues, trouble balancing, and unsteadiness on his feet. He also has diabetes and blood pressure problems. He sleeps quite a bit and gets weary easily.
In March, he had surgery for a cancerous tumor in the lining of his stomach. The surgery was successful and no chemo or radiation were necessary. But he, who got great pleasure out of eating good food, now eats small meals and often has very little appetite.
We are all so keenly aware of the blessing of more years with my dad. We've always been a loving family, but now Dad goes out of the way to let each of us know how much we mean to him, how precious we are to him, and how much he loves us. He is joy-filled, and loves to laugh as much as he always did -- maybe more. And he's just as witty as ever. He has a gift for making everyone feel comfortable -- the pinnacle of graciousness.
And he loves a mean Scrabble game. We have the best time when we play. One day I'll tell you about the time I beat him with the word "quark" on a triple word score.
That's a brief sketch of my dad: always supportive, always loving, always loyal. I love him more every day.