How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chapter 3: My Father's Apocalypse "Iced Tea and Memories"

October 2009
            Yesterday mom and dad came over for dinner. Dad needed to get out of the house and I wanted to spend time with my parents without anyone else, but my husband around. After we ate, we ended up on the front porch. We Southerners love our front porches. They are extensions of ourselves. I made coffee and we settled into our favorite chairs. The conversation briefly turned to politics and the United Nations meeting being held in New York this week. Dad called Gadhafi an idiot.  We took turns taking good old American potshots at various leaders of other countries who we thought had surpassed idiot stature and leapt over into the land of certified morons.
            Our American duty dispensed with, mom and dad started talking about the past. Their past. They were so very young when they got married. Mom mentioned an old girlfriend of dad’s and said, “We saw her a few years back and the years weren’t good to her, believe me”, Mom gloated. They talked about their teen dates and how my mom had to be back at ten o’clock or my grandmother would “send the law out looking for us”.  They laughed over a night when one of dad’s friends got drunk and passed out in the back seat of the car. Mom and dad left him there while dad walked my mom to the porch of her house. My grandmother came out, eyed my father and asked, Do you drink, son?”. My dad hastily said, “No M’am, I do not”. My mother prayed the entire time that dad’s friend would not come out of his alcohol stupor, pop his head up, and ruin the lie.
            This is their past. A past I only know about from their stories. I was not there. But I have heard the stories all my life. I am beginning to question what is true memory, and what is merely the memory of the stories. Was I really there for some of them or have I just heard the stories so many times it just seems I was there? Later years when I was around, I know I didn’t pay attention to the stories if the happening didn’t directly affect or include me. If the topic of their stories were anything other than the major happenings I didn’t file it away.  Like most children, we think our parents have no life outside us and our needs. The day we discover that they too are people, is the day we start moving towards adulthood ourselves.
            Mom and dad talked a little about our time in Misawa, Japan where we were stationed in 1964-1966. Mom retold the story of how all the guys would go to AP Alley after changing shifts. The guys would rotate shifts between days and nights. The shifts went a week. When a shift ended and the guys rotated, they would all go en masse to AP Alley, which was a row of bars, and celebrate. Mom talked about how some women had to go to AP Alley and drag their husbands home. Mom said she never did that. She said dad would go to AP Alley with the guys, but he knew when it was time to come home, unlike some other husbands who would stay all day drinking and cozying up to the barfly ladies. I have an old worn photo of the guys lined up in AP Alley after a shift end. Dad had circled several faces with a black ink pen, but I have no idea who those men are.  Dad told me once they were all divided into groups they called “tricks” and that determined what shift you worked. The guys in the photo were part of dad’s “trick”.
            We sat on the porch and laughed at some of the stories. We reminisced. We smiled. We had fun together. The things I can’t possibly remember hold my parents together like glue.  I have heard these stories a thousand times and I never tire of them. Dad was animated and involved. At one point he looked at mom and asked, “Want to?”. Mom looked at him in surprise and said, “What? Now?”. Dad looked puzzled and said, “I mean, are you ready to go home?” Mom laughed and said, “Oh Lord, I thought I was going to get lucky!”  When mom and dad finally did leave about fifteen minutes later, mom turned to me and said jokingly, “Well, I guess we’d better get going. If we don’t leave now he might forget that he ‘wants to’”. Dad grinned a devilish smile. It was nice to have my daddy back for an entire afternoon. I know these times are going to become rarer as the clock ticks the days away.

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