Staying in touch across the miles, I have gotten into the habit of making a regular weekly phone call to my dad.
Typically it’s on Sundays, midafternoon California time, early evening New York time. I try to gauge it so I don’t interrupt his dinner; if by chance I call when he is getting ready to do the dishes, he is more than happy to take a break.
We just kind of touch base, he fills me in on his week and any doctor’s appointments he has had; I let him know what has been going on around here.
He recently marked the first-year anniversary of a fall on the ice that resulted in a badly broken ankle that kept him down and out for a long time. The fall was last Groundhog Day and of course happened as he was being extra careful, trying not to slip as he came out of a bookstore. They had to deal with some icy weather again the past couple of weeks and my dad said he felt it was best just to stay home and out of the elements, not wanting ‘Groundhog Day’ to repeat itself.
My brother and sister-in-law live not far away and my brother stops by almost every day to check in. Plus the neighbors keep an eye on things. When my dad – now in his mid-80s – got up on the roof this past fall to clean some leaves out of the gutters, the neighbor was quick to report that fact to my brother. My dad says he now can’t “get away with anything” because there are eyes on him everywhere. He also said he knows he has to go slower than in the past, have some patience with himself and eventually he will get done with the tasks at hand. Just not as fast as he would like.
Most days I also check the National Weather Service forecast for my hometown, click on the ‘radar’ to see what kind of weather they are getting right at that moment. It isn’t unusual for them to have wild temperature swings this time of year; a day or two teasing spring with temperatures soaring all the way in to the 50s (T-shirt weather in upstate New York, by the way) one day and literally dropping to near zero the next. They have dealt with their fair share of sub-zero temperatures this winter, too, though they have not had a great deal of snow. Most of the predicted big storms have veered further east or fallen apart before hitting upstate.
This past Sunday my dad had been busy in the office, going through papers and photos and trying to get some things organized. In reviewing photos, he found some from when his own mother and father were married – June 25 – which was the same date that he and my mom got married. Also, his aunt, his mother’s sister, was married on that date. Apparently it’s the family favorite.
He also found some of his dad’s old journals and records; basically a blueprint of his father’s life.
Not to mention photos galore, my dad said there are so many photo albums it would take you days to get through them all. Especially since each photo evokes a memory of a time and place; I remember vividly some Easter morning photos taken when my sister, brother and I were young. Dressed in our Easter Sunday finest, my sister and I also had small white purses and we were posing in the front yard, where you could see patches of snow here and there. Depending on how early in the year Easter arrives, upstate New York might still be under a blanket of white.
Though his plan was to get into the office to reduce the clutter by perhaps tossing some items, it didn’t really come to fruition. My dad said he basically moved things into piles … so maybe now there is some organization to the clutter, some ‘theme’ piles, but the clutter remains.
And at least I know I come by my own ‘can’t throw anything away’ mentality honestly; it runs in the family.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.