Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
“How can you still love your father?” At first, I wanted to respond with something clever after hearing the totally stupid sentence coming from another woman. Why is time a factor in how long love continues? But I chose to not answer.
My mother took my childhood bruises and treated them so infection might not set in; my father kissed away the pain. My mother washed my thin blonde hair and combed out the snarls; my father told me how it glistened golden in the sun. My mother hand-sewed pretty dresses she also designed; my father captured moments with a camera that was always ready to take a fleeting instant and make it permanent. When I was ill, they took turns staying all night at my bedside; I was too young to wonder how my dad managed to go to work the next day or my mother got my sisters ready for school.
Early adolescence, I hand knit a pair of bold-color plaid socks for my dad. His work suits were beautifully tailored, his socks held in place with garters, and trousers held up with suspenders, as was the fashion then. His felt hat with wide grosgrain ribbon complimented his outfit. Weekend clothes had him in a plaid felt hat, and slacks with a belt. I assumed he’d wear my shocking socks then. Instead, he put them on, smiled and his dimples winked, looked at me with his powder blue eyes, and nodded his head. He went to work in them, and probably allowed others on the Long Island Railroad to notice what his daughter had knit with her own hands.
In taxis, returning home from Broadway musical shows, there were two ‘jump-seats’ that pulled down and passengers using those rode backwards. He didn’t like riding backwards but he and my mom took those seats so their three daughters could ride on the cushioned regular bench-seat. I never said ‘thank you’ as my comfort was always considered, and, as a child, didn’t the world revolve around me?
We explored the farmland of Long Island, the quiet streams in the Pocono Mountains, sat outdoors on a summer night listening to opera at Randall’s Island, planted Victory Gardens in our backyard, stood around the piano each night singing as my mother played, danced in the living room to the individual recordings where the turntable was concealed inside a pretty cabinet, and marveled at the tiny new wonder of television in the late 1940's. He put a ballet barre in the basement when I took that dance class, erected a real theatre curtain down there when I began to write and perform skits for the family, presented me with a wooden case of oil paints and sable brushes when I wanted to paint, gave me a funny note and money to spend on my dream figure ice skates, and gave me a different independence with my balloon tired/ no speed bicycle.
My mother listened, lectured, advised me when age twelve was becoming thirteen; she was never too tired or busy for me. My father read philosophy to me, brought my mother flowers, constantly told her how much he loved and valued her, showed us that our family was a gift given to him. He had character and personality that I eventually wanted in a mate and the kind of father I wanted one-day for my own children.
He felt one’s speaking voice should be free from any specific inflections and bought a fat-reeled tape recorder. When I was preparing a speech in early high school, I spoke into the machine and could clearly hear that I needed to drop my pitch as a microphone seemed to make it higher. He also used that recorder when he was taking 16mm home movies so we’d have some sound of what he was filming; he told us one day there’d be a device to capture both sound and movement for home use.
He took me to summer camp in the Berkshire Mountains when, one season, I started after the session had begun. I never even thought about his long ride back, with his left arm getting sunburned from having it against the open window. He drove me to another state and even unloaded all my possessions when I left for college; I never thought that he might not have been fit enough to climb the 5 flights of stairs constantly in the no-elevator building; I lived on the 4th floor but all the trunks had to be brought to the basement and unloaded by hand there. He went up and down, and I simply put items away at the same time. I was 17 and life was an adventure with loving parents just continuing to do what they’d always done making me feel important and safe and happy.
How can I still love my father who has been dead all of my adult life? Why would that loving expire just because life ceased for him? As a grown-up, I realize that he missed living, seeing his children grow, aging with my mother who never even looked at another man for the rest of her life, sharing in the wonders of technology, holding grandchildren in his arms, exposing his family to the wonders he felt constantly surrounded us. I’ve learned, with age, that I am not the center of the universe but so appreciated that, for a period of time, I was.
I miss him still. When a magnolia tree blooms, I remember the one he and my mother planted in 1941 when it was a twig, and the pleasure he had watching it get larger. When I see works of philosophers, I remember his appreciation for words. If a scent of lavender passes my nose, I recall his after-shave aroma, just as I can still see the mug of foam and sable brush used to lather the shaving cream on his face. I like myself, value my family, appreciate my intelligence, enjoy my abilities at sports or art or writing or music, for examples, and these came about because of my parents. Why would time stop feelings?
©2006 The Jewish Press
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