my father died exactly ten years ago. on october 17. since then, i notice the number sequence 10/17 everywhere, all the time. i have an uncanny knack for checking the time at 10:17 in the morning and at 10:17 in the evening. one of my closest friends in the world lives at 1017 _________ street. i land on cell number 1017 in excel spreadsheets over and over again.
logically, it would make sense to me to hate that number, hate that reminder, hate it when october 17 rolls around every year. but i don't. i think i actually like it. 10/17 is now and forever linked to my dad, and so 10/17 makes me think of him, every time it shows up. and i like thinking of my dad because i had a spec-damn-tacular dad. every year, on october 17, i spend the day celebrating him and connecting with his memory and hanging out with my family.
this year, that celebration feels different to me, because this is the first year i've been a mama. this is the first year i've had this amazing daughter to take to one of her granddaddy's favorite breakfast places, to look up at me while those quintessential chamblee expressions form on her face, and to love with the same overwhelming, unconditional love i know my dad felt for me. but this is also the first year i've had this incredible new human being who will never sit on my dad's lap, grin up at his slow smile, and crack up when he talks in his donald duck voice.
i never knew my granddaddy on my dad's side. he died before i was born--before any of his grandchildren were born--just like my dad did. i remember feeling awkward about that grandfather as a kid because i didn't know what to call him (no grandfather name is established when there are no grandchildren yet.), i didn't know if it was okay to ask about a dead person, and i didn't know if he would've liked me or not. i want to help my daughter and her cousins know their granddaddy in some way, so in the spirit of celebrating him on october 17, i offer this:
my daughter and my nephews,
your granddaddy on the chamblee side...
checked everything in the house--but most especially the stove--at least six times before he left home
loved to eat breakfast and desserts from "the list"
wrote poetry for your grandma
made banners for his children on their birthdays and hung them in surprise places around our house
grunted when he was confused, mad, or in a tough spot
banged on the window over the kitchen sink to get our dogs to quit barking at least one million and seven times
washed the dishes but almost never put them away
couldn't stand whistling
trained us, all our cousins, and several unsuspecting friends that there is absolutely no smacking your food at the dinner table
wrote me a letter every single, solitary day when i was away at governor's school one summer between junior and senior year
taught us to drive at the farm on tractors, a go-cart, and an old chevy truck
once conspired with my siblings to hide breakfast from me on sunday morning before church because i was so hard to wake up
built a pond with just a scoop and a whole lot of trips back and forth
was a dreamer, a visionary, a schemer, a philosopher, a mediator, a stargazer, and a salt-of-the-earth farmer down to his toes
could be infuriatingly slow to speak but was frequently the one people listened to
laid down on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator when he was sick with the flu once every year
could make me laugh when i was mad better than anyone
was astonishingly smart but didn't show it off
had the best smile
would have loved to ride with you on the tractor at the farm
would have loved to listen to you laugh
would have loved to help you make a scarecrow at halloween
and that's just a start. ask me more anytime. i'll tell you everything i can remember.