I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day 2017

My front porch flowers today
Today is Father's Day. Since I've written about my own father in past years, I thought I'd move on from there to the more generic idea of fathers. Here's what I wrote about Daddy last year, if you want to know more about him. Anyway, looking online, I find that it's not only Father's Day, but it's also Go Fishing Day, Splurge Day, and Turkey Lover's Day.

June 18th is a big day for me, in many ways. I have three events that have occurred on that day, and when it rolls around I think about those things once again. First is the birth of my first great niece, born seven years ago today, to my niece Allison, Norma Jean's daughter. She (Allison) has two daughters, both born from sperm donation, essentially "phoning in" the father's role. Alexandra goes by the nickname Lexie and just graduated from first grade. I get to see her and her sister whenever I visit Norma Jean in Florida. I remember when I learned that Allison would become a mother and how she chose the sperm donor. I guess you actually get a catalog and learn essential information about the person whose sperm will be used before being impregnated.

Since Lexie doesn't have a father, she is close to her uncle Peter, Norma Jean's other offspring. They all live in close proximity since Allison moved to Tampa, and their lives are intertwined. When I talk to Norma Jean on FaceTime, I often get a chance to see the girls. I wonder whether they realize how different their lives are from their friends' lives, or maybe they're not so different after all. There are many families without both parents for whatever reason. In any event, I am so glad they are part of my family!

Twenty-three years ago today I became a skydiving instructor. I wrote about it here back in 2012. It was a long arduous journey from being a neophyte skydiver to become someone who could help other people learn the skill in relative safety. It's never going to be completely without risk, but what is? Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane into freefall with a parachute on your back is not something I ever thought I would do even once, much less thousands of times. And it's a wonderful memory; many mornings I'll wake up and realize I've been dreaming again about being an instructor. Over the years, I taught more than a thousand students and really enjoyed teaching the First Jump Course. Skydiving was such a huge part of my life for so many years that I couldn't imagine my life without that thrill. It's how I met Smart Guy, it changed my life for both good and ill in many ways.

That's because on this day seventeen years ago, I had a very bad landing under my parachute that caused me to fracture my pelvis in six places and lose an artery down my right leg. I won't put a link to it because there's one in the sidebar on the right side of this blog. I really don't need to dwell on that memory today; I live with the side effects every single day, so I don't forget it often. I have two pins that reside in the right sacral area, and fortunately for me, they don't give me much difficulty. However, I think maybe my hip pain of recent months might be related to the accident. Who knows? But every day that I get out of bed and work out the kinks, I need to get that hip moving in the right direction.

I've had a few other scrapes while skydiving, but that was by far the worst one, and the only one that caused me to miss an entire season of skydiving. Yes, I did return to the sport, and I made at least a thousand more skydives afterwards. I never thought a day would come when I wouldn't be an active skydiver, but I began to realize that I needed to find a time to stop before I injured myself again. I made my last jump in February 2015, at the age of 72. It was time to stop, since I seemed to throw my back out each time I tried to pack my chute. It was a warning sign, I told myself. But the amazing thing is how easy it was to let it go. Everything in its season, as they say.

Daddy was long gone when I made my first skydive in 1990. Sometimes I wonder what he would have thought about my avocation. It was a year-round endeavor in Colorado, but once I moved to the Pacific Northwest, it became seasonal, since the winters here are marked by low clouds and lots and lots of rain. I did jump in the rain once in Colorado, by accident, and I remember being afraid that my parachute would collapse under the weight of the water, but it flew just fine. I sure wished I could have had windshield wipers on my goggles, though. Since both of your hands are being used to steer the parachute, there's no way to wipe the water off them. You just gotta deal with it. I remember that I packed up the wet chute and made another jump right away to dry it out.

Yes, this day holds real meaning for me. Thinking about my own father always makes me realize how much I still miss him when I allow myself to. One thing I've learned about the loss of loved ones is that it doesn't do me any good to dwell on regretful memories. Once you get far enough away in time from a major loss, the regrets begin to recede and happy memories emerge. Daddy was a happy guy, most of the time. I have many memories of first beginning to enjoy the exploration of reading different sorts of books, when Daddy introduced me to science fiction. As a teenager, I would devour Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov stories and we would discuss them. He changed my idea of literature by introducing me to speculative fiction. That's one really good memory of my dad. I still to this day enjoy science fiction, thanks to him.

I realize now, when I think about it, that reading was always a huge part of our lives. Mama was the biggest reader of all; she would go to the library and bring back a box of books, which she would read in record time. She read everything (except science fiction), including lots of nonfiction books. I think she would enjoy the books I have on my bookshelf right now: one about the life of beavers and another about the secret life of trees. I'd be sharing them with her if I could. I do miss my parents, but then again, Daddy would have been 100 years old if he had lived until today. Somehow I just cannot picture how he would have gotten to that age. Do you want to be that old? I'm not sure I do.

I think I might celebrate Splurge Day today and have something to eat that I don't usually allow myself. Right next to the coffee shop is Mallards Ice Cream shop. It is simply the best ice cream anywhere, locally made and with flavors you've never heard of before, such as pepper ice cream (I tried it once and loved it, vanilla with black pepper spice) or even rhubarb ice cream (I haven't tried it yet). Yes, I'll use the day to splurge on something good to eat, and right now ice cream sure sounds like the ticket.

Whatever you decide to do with your June 18th, I hope it's a good day surrounded with love and laughter. Now that's something it would be great to splurge on: lots of giggles and belly laughs. Plus it wouldn't be nearly as fattening as the ice cream. (Nah! Ice cream wins out.) I hope you find someone to share those three hugs with that I mentioned a few weeks ago. I've found it to be a really wonderful meditation and reminder to cherish my dear ones. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.


Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Ah yes memories. My father was also the one who got me hooked on books and insrtumental music. He played and wanted me to learn. Iended up teaching band along with French as well as the regular stuff. We are slurgining as a threesome today, bricnch at the club. It is a Father's day affair.

Rian said...

My dad would have been 110 last month. Of course he passed on at the age of 75 back in 1982. But I have only good memories; the aroma of a pipe or a cigar, his thick English accent, and his unbelievable blue eyes. He was such a good man, husband, father, and grandfather. My kids were young, but do remember him. He used to take them fishing.

We don't celebrate Mother's Day or Father's Day very much. The kids may take us out to dinner or we may go on our own. DH and I went to breakfast this morning. After the graduation, moving, and my emergency appendectomy this past week, it's enough.

DJan, I'm glad your Father's Day memories are also good. And I do hope you splurge on that ice-cream!!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, Dad would be 112 this year if he had lived to that ripe old age. He died at 69 and he and I had become firm, fast friends by then. We'd been father/daughter and became confidants about our lives. He taught me to drive when I was 36. He lived in a farmhouse out in the country. He had me drive around it to learn. He got out of the car for a smoke and had me drive alone. I got around two corners of the house and then sideswiped the third, leaving a dent on both the car and the house. Trembling I stopped the car. Dad strode over and in his soft voice said, "Just back up and go around again."

"But . . ." I mumbled.

"When you fall off the horse, you get right back on," he said. And that advice has served me well all these years. I was so blessed to have him for a father. Thank you for reminding me.

PS: I'm sorry to learn about your skydiving accident and the pain you still experience. Peace.

Gigi said...

I love your front porch; it's so cheerful. I hope you enjoy your ice cream.

Have a great week.

Elephant's Child said...

Hooray for fathers.
And small splurges.
And love and laughter (which go so well with the other two). Have a great week.

Arkansas Patti said...

I remember reading about your bad landing and wondered how you went back in the air after that.You just don't give in. You might be right about that being the origin of your bad hip but you seem to have that under control. Kudos.
Many times I think of my Daddy and thank him for that role he played in my life. Was he perfect, lord no, but his good out shown any flaws and he was perfect for us.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marie Smith said...

I smile when I read of the sky diving, Jan, you have such an incredible spirit, especially to go back at it after the accident. You knew when to give it up as well, which I admire. When you're ready to let go of something,it can be easier to walk away than one might think.

Enjoy the splurge!

Red said...

You manage to connect widely varying topics in this post. It all comes back to fathers...even a father's judgement on your activities. When you say your Dad would be a 100 this year it seems to be idle speculation. what quality of life would he have. My dad would have been 105 this year. I have no goals for age. whatever , I'm given , that's enough.

The Furry Gnome said...

Such a great once-a-week inspiration!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, Elephant's Child left a comment on my blog posting today that includes you. Please go and read it! I'm pleased to be linked with you in that comment. Peace.

Linda Reeder said...

It's way past your bedtime as I finally read this post. We did have a fun day.
Father's Day is always tied up with end-of-the-school-year feelings of relief and completion. Even though we have been retired for a long time now, the feeling never quite goes away, especially with family still tied to the school year.
We are looking forward to the first week of summer vacation, and the return of warm weather.

Blogoratti said...

Wonderful thoughts and going down memory lane with your stories was heartwarming. Happy Father's Day to all. Greetings to you!

Rita said...

No, I'd rather not live to 100 if I am like my grandmother who lived to be 104. She had no long or short term memory left and couldn't walk anymore, either. Like a cranky toddler. No thanks. In our family we seem to go downhill in our 90s so that's old enough for me--LOL!

Her son, my dad, died in a car crash at 94. Was a blessing, actually, because he had been going downhill for the past couple years. I still miss him. When ever I hear a groaner pun I think of him and how he would have giggled. :)

John's Island said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Father's Day. I enjoyed this post, as I do most all of them! :-) Have a great weekend ahead!

Tabor said...

You certainly have many stories in your life. You did not just stand on the corner, your crossed the street.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I hope you will report on the rhubarb ice cream IF you tried that one!
I for one am glad you gave up jumping out of airplanes before you got hurt!
I don't want to be 100 either :)