Passage of Time

With the impending arrival of Father’s Day tomorrow and Mother’s Day in the past, I have done a lot of reflecting on my own experiences with my parents. How they raised me, their only daughter, in the late 50’s and early 60’s while keeping a deep and very dark (to them) secret.

Shortly after my mother passed away in October of 2008, we found out that she had given up a baby boy for adoption in May/June 1956. Had she given birth to that baby boy, she’d have been ostracized. She’d have been labeled a strumpet, a hussy, a tramp. She would not have been allowed to marry my father if anyone had known. My father, however, would have been left to continue his life as before.

Being the next child born, and a girl, I can only imagine that I was a disappointment and it explains a lot about how she raised me. She was disconnected, aloof, often angry, not encouraging or loving. She was always heavy … keeping a layer of protection around her. Please don’t get me wrong, she fed me, did my laundry, drove me everywhere. I didn’t want for anything. Except her love. None of this was my fault, of course, and I didn’t know that I was getting treatment that was different from my younger brothers or my peers. But it was different and I was scarred by it. (Thank God for therapy!)

I say this today because I realized recently that many of my friends on Facebook seem to miss their parents and were deeply loved by them. Sadly, I don’t have that same feeling. I’d love to have them back to ask them questions about why they did what they did. Why they kept the secret after we were adults. Why they never told me they loved me or were proud of me. (They really didn’t unless it was after a fight and then it would be, “of course we love you” said in anger and frustration.) My brothers had a different experience. Psychologically, I’m certain that it was because I was the first born “after the adoption” and I wasn’t a boy.

I was encouraged to find a husband and marry … that’s why a girl goes to college. I was born to have babies, that was where I would find happiness and fulfillment.  I was taught to iron and sew, to play the piano and guitar. I was given ballroom dancing lessons at Mary Jane Spencer’s. My peers were encouraged to pursue a career, told they could do anything that they set their mind to. I didn’t know that until I had children of my own … and had been in therapy for depression and a failing/failed marriage that lead to an ugly divorce.

img_0121.jpgToday I am happier. At nearly 60 I am feeling comfortable in my own skin. I am grateful for the life I was given and I know that my parents never meant to cause me harm. They did their best. Sadly, it wasn’t good enough to give me wings to fly. I had to find those for myself.

Today, one of the things that makes me happy is yarn. Everything around yarn. I love people who use yarn in their creative endeavors. I love the animals who provide the fibers and the process that leads to the yarn being available to buy. I love feeling it and working it into a garment. I love the shop keepers and the customers. I  am grateful for the shared wisdom of women and men who share my craft and the love of yarn. I love that I have found a wonderful man with whom to share my life. He loves me as I am even when I don’t.

Life hands you some bizarre twists and turns and I’ve learned that it’s all about what you do with them that makes you who you are. I am grateful for them all because I like where I am today. I wouldn’t be here without all those experiences. I’m strong and resilient and happy. I’ve started over many times and I’m sure I’ll start over again.

Speaking of starting over … I started something new yesterday.

IMG_3065Born out of frustration with the fit of my nearly-done Malabrigo sweater, and in an effort to use some of my stashed yarn, I cast on the Brambling Shawl.

The Brambling Shawl by Bristol Ivy was one of the projects in A Year of Techniques. It’s a study in Intarsia – the use of two colors in the same row. The yarn used in the pattern (and that I bought) is Fyberspates’ Cumulus. It’s a lovely blend of baby Suri alpaca and Mulberry silk. The project calls for five colors (camel, slate, plum, sea green and silver) and is worked from tip to tip with increases and decreases to make a triangular shawl. I’ve just gotten started and have yet to add the second color, but I love being able to learn a technique with practice.

So, tomorrow I will celebrate my husband who is a great father. Patient, loving and kind. I will also celebrate the fathers in my life, my brothers, uncle, cousins, and my own dad who did his best. He did teach me to love pistachios!

Gone knitting!

 

Fathers’ Day or Father’s Day?

On this father’s day, I celebrate my dear old dad. He lived a “charmed” life but even lives of the very fortunate have some heart ache. My grandmother had a “nervous breakdown” after my grandfather passed away. The children were divided up amongst friends of the family while she was institutionalized. Her heart was broken. Dad was an attorney in Hartford for a successful law firm that became one of the biggest (and some would argue, best) in the state of Connecticut. He was admired and respected. I didn’t really understand who he was until he was gone and people shared some of his stories with me. Stories that he never did share.

In dad's writing ...

It was a secret he and my mother kept until their deaths. 

I found this cartoon among my mother’s papers when we cleaned out her house. I didn’t understand it except that we’d always heard the story that dad wouldn’t marry mom (a legal secretary) and he was dating others so mom moved to California to get away from the heart ache. Today we know that the truth was a bit different – mom had become pregnant with my father’s child and moved to California to conceal the pregnancy. Once the baby boy was born  (on Mom’s birthday, May 28, 1956) and put up for adoption, she returned to Connecticut and in September of 1957 my parents were married.

The cartoon above now takes on special meaning in our family. This must have been when mom was returning to her life in Connecticut. My future parents had me in July of 1958 and my two brothers in 1960 and 1963. We, too, lead a charmed life according to most. I’m quite sure that their secret burned a hole in my parents’ hearts and in their marriage, too. Neither of them ever “forgot” that baby boy. It was a secret they kept until their deaths.  When my father died from a heart attack, they were in the process of being divorced. My mother followed him in death in 2008 after ten years with Alzheimer’s Disease. Is it possible that their secret had an affect on their lives and their deaths?

My dad was born in 1922 and if he was still living today he’d be ninety-four years old. I miss my dad today. I miss him often. I wish he was here to see my kids “adulting” and to see all four of his kids all together. I would love to be able to introduce him to my big brother who I found nine years ago and who has been integrated into my family with my “new” (and only) sister. How fortunate we are to be add siblings in our 50s! I think dad would be proud of us all and he’d be thrilled with his ten grandchildren. He’s missed so much in the thirty-plus years that he’s been gone. I still think about calling him when I have questions or challenges. He was a wise adviser, a great provider, a good man. I have fond memories that I hold dear of Saturdays at his office, automat lunches, watching for the church steeple on Sunday mornings for a penny. Smelling the “root beer trees” in the woods around our house and his battle with squirrels who always won. I cherish the memories.

rrsailingHe was only three years older than I am and I sure know that I’m not ready to die yet. I imagine he felt much the same. I hope that those of you who still have a father in your life take the time to spend time with your father today and as often as you can. (Your mother, too, if you’re that lucky!)

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I sure do miss you.

Gone knitting.

 

Fathers’ ? Father’s? … A day for Celebrating and Remembering Dads!

Everybody has a father.

My father had a father …

He looks like he was the penultimate lawyer (and I think he was an excellent patent attorney). He was gone before I was born so I never knew my father’s father. He must have had a more relaxed side, too … here he is resting while my grandmother does the dishes on a camping trip in Rye (NY?). I think we’d have called him “Grandfather”!

My mother had a father …

This is Grandpa Jack making up a bouquet of pussy willows. I didn’t know him either. He was gone before I was born. Mom was only 14 when he died and her younger sister was four. Oh, the stories about Grandpa Jack! He was a milk man and at one time drove a horse-drawn milk truck. He must have been an entertaining guy … here he is wearing a woman’s bathing suit! (Nice legs, Grandpa!)

I had a father …

He was a really great provider and a dedicated gardener. He was a handsome guy! I remember loving to be out in the woods with my dad. Puttering – picking up sticks or trimming bushes. He’d cut a branch of a birch tree that smelled like root beer. Or a big green leaf that smelled like skunk. He almost always had a cigarette in his hand. He would bring us to church (“I see the steeple” would win a penny) and sit in the car and wait to pick us up, reading his Sunday paper and smoking cigarettes. He had a running battle with the squirrels in the back yard who would rather eat bird seed he put out for the birds than the corn he’d put down for them. Mostly the squirrels won but Dad seemed to enjoy the exercise! He loved Maine and was quite a good photographer. He always came in from (snow-) blowing the driveway covered head to foot in snow and stamping his feet. He always rubbed Nouki’s belly at the top of the stairs as he went up to “change” after work. He cried when he had to finally put Sam to sleep. It was the first of two times I ever remember seeing him cry – the second was at his mother’s funeral. He would buy my the pink pistachio nuts that stained our fingers if I went with him to the store. Sometimes on Saturday, I got to go with him to work – and we ate lunch out of the machines at the automat in his building. It was a treat to spend time alone with him because it didn’t happen often. Dad drove American-made cars, mostly convertibles. I remember a Sunday drive with the top down when Jeff was a baby and a cloth diaper (burp cloth) flew out of the car … we all laughed and drove on. He liked coconut ice cream cones at Ho Jo’s and eating fried seafood at Burt’s. He always wore a suit to work with a white shirt and tie. He called me, “monk” (short for monkey). Oh, how I’d love to hear his voice today. Memories are comforting and there are many. I was lucky to be his little girl.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I still miss you all these 27 years later.

Gone knitting.