Friday, October 18, 2019

Rhonda Rose - Dad

Rhonda Rose: Here are some of my favorite memories of dad

Seeing the beauty in ordinary objects was a lesson that dad taught us from a very early age. When I was in college my professor encouraged me to enter a photograph in a juried show. As we discussed the composition, focal point and the sharp contrasts of the black and white images, he asked about the subject matter. I told him it was garbage. “No, no,” he said, “It’s quite good.” I laughed and explained that it was actually garbage, trash, junk from my dad’s barn. My dad’s 100 year old, two story, wooden barn was crammed full of all kinds of odds and ends he would collect from all over. He looked at each object as a treasure. My mom saw a lot of junk and every few years she would organize a “clean out the barn” day. The first few “clean out the barn” days we filled 10-12 Hefty bags and dragged them down the long, gravel drive to the curb. Eventually, she learned that my dad, being a city employee, could rent a large dump truck for only a few dollars. Late Friday night the truck would rumble down our drive and stop in front of the double door of the barn. We would work the entire weekend cleaning out the junk and organizing the tools. Late Sunday night we would emerge, filthy and exhausted, the truck piled high with broken lumber, rusted tools, aged appliances, and bags and bags of trash. My mom would sigh heavily, smile and head into the house. My dad would stand staring into the cavernous barn, tools hanging on the wall, floors freshly swept. With a devilish grin on his face he would turn to me and say, “Now I have room for more stuff.”

There were a few items in the barn that even my mom knew were off limits. Sitting on a dusty wooden shelf was an assortment of vintage glass bottles. These were reminders of our bottle collecting days. I only have vague memories of these special Saturdays because I was quite young. But I remember the cool of the woods, the rancid smell of decaying leaves, and the babbling of tiny creeks. We trudged through mud and muck, using sticks to turn over cans, old newspapers and leaves in search of glass bottles. Most of our trips were fruitless, but once in a blue moon one of us would get lucky. The fortunate child would run to dad with the treasure and hand it over, eager to learn of its history and value. The most beautiful bottles were blue or green with faded labels or raised print, hinting at their origins. Dad would hold it up to the shafts of sun streaming through the branches, and we would stare in wonder as it glowed like a precious gem. We learned to appreciate beautiful things. We learned that damaged items were even more precious because they showed the signs of living a full life.

As the years passed, dad traded bottle collecting for shell collecting. Each trip to the beach was another opportunity for discovery. In the early mornings you could find him out on the beach with his net scooping up the sand, searching for that perfect shell. Even at 72 he still saw the world full of wonder, as if through a child’s eyes.

Years ago when my children were young we had made a table runner for Thanksgiving dinner. Kevin and Elizabeth had used their finger prints to paint the turkeys and I had brought markers for everyone to write what they were thankful for. Grumblings could be heard as we gathered around the table. “I don’t know what to write. I’m not creative. This is corny.” But mom coerced everyone into doing it anyway. A few days later I was home unpacking from our trip, and found our holiday craft. I sat down and read what everyone had written. I came to dad’s name and thought, “Oh, this will be short.” My dad was not big on public displays of emotions, or even private displays of emotions. I figured he wrote something like, “I am thankful for family.” Or, “I am thankful for my children.” Or, if he was in an ornery mood, “I am thankful for beer.” What he wrote surprised me and made me smile. He had written, “I am thankful for a world full of wonder and adventure.” I am thankful that I had a dad that taught me to appreciate a world full of wonder and adventure.

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