Monday, July 18, 2011

The Silouettes

My mom and dad, Liz and Ken, were decent people. Mom was born in Michigan during the year of the great Market crash of 1929. Dad was born on a rural farm in Kentucky three years earlier in 1926. Completely different people, somehow destine to live a life together. They raised three children and died 17 yrs apart. They lie side by side now in a small cemetery that has been engulfed by progress.

When we laid them to rest, the cemetery was small and quiet, located on a large parcel of land. It was surrounded by pastures and fields. Two lane roads running on either side would often find farmers hauling produce or animals to their next destination. Today, it seems like such a small place, crowded in the landscape like someone crammed in an overfilled elevator. But its their home now. Its also a place we seldom visit. I see their graves as a place where their unneeded bodies are housed. The essence of them, that which made them who they were left at the moment of their death. Where they went, I do not know. I just hope its beautiful, peaceful and that they are enjoying their second life.

My dad, Ken, was a farmer at heart. As far back as I can recall, he had a garden. Not just a place where he grew a few tomatoes and squash. His garden was a work of art, an edible masterpiece.
Never having much money for food, my dad provided a bounty for our table. Never once did we go hungry and they are the best meals I can remember. Ken was a simple man, honest, decent, hard working and a bit of a prankster. He was also very quiet.

Most of my memories of my dad are of him sitting silently outside. He had a studder which I'm sure inhibited his desire to talk. I guess he learned to listen more than talk because of it. But his silence was a wall for me as a child. I never really understood why he didn't say much and I think I always wondered if he really liked me or the rest of the family. Why else would he remain such an island apart from us?

Liz, my mom, was different. A very strong willed woman, the oldest of seven children, seasoned during the depression and second world war. She often told us about how at age 16, she had quit school to go to work to help provide for the family. She was working in that Dime Store when she heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. It was a "do you remember where you were when it happened" moment for her. We all have them.

Their relationship was complicated. There were many times when I was sure my dad was outside to be away from his wife. It wasn't until after both their deaths that I learned their "love story" and how I came to be. At some point I will dive into that tasty morsel but I will need my older sister's help. She was the witness to that period of time.

Not a single parent comes without a story or baggage from their journey through life. Its riddled with mistake and triumphs. It is human and expected. It is also the story of each old man and every old woman. Their wrinkled faces etched with the joys and sorrows of their past.

I loved my parents and all their faults. I loved them for never leaving me until their bodies failed. I love them for providing me with a home, food, security and support. They did their best and that's more than enough for me.

I am the middle child. I am the peacemaker. I am a little of my mother and a little of my father. I am the product of all they gave me. I am constantly learning how wise they were and how much I should have learned if only I had asked the right questions.

With them gone and the contribution of generations silenced, I am learning all those answers on my own.


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