I remember standing on a dock on a lake in Wisconsin. I was maybe seven or eight years old. We were literally on our way out, annual camping trip over, but we hadn't fished. The weather had been bad or something; I don't remember. I think my shirt was orange or red. I remember orange and red, anyway. I do know that the sunlight sparked on the water. Or was it gray and gloomy and I am conflating memories? Either way, my memory today is of sunlight sparking on the water as we caught tiny bluegill after little bluegill, hoping for one just big enough to keep. Not that we would have kept one anyway, since we were leaving, so I don't know why we were determined, but we were. (We being me, really; I don't think my little sister, at four or five, really cared and my parents certainly knew we weren't keeping any.) I suppose there was always an outside chance we'd take one home if it was perfect; but, of course, as anyone who has fished off a dock populated by little bluegill could tell you, they were all too small. So we fished (not for long...we were leaving after all) and tossed back fish and left.
I don't know why I have that memory. Nothing of note happened. It wasn't the first or last time I fished off a dock on a camping trip with my family. I genuinely don't know why.
But I'm glad. I'm glad for every memory that I associate with my dad. We were very close and he died very tragically and way too soon. Not so soon that he didn't walk me down the aisle, and that memory is there, too...my dad tripping over my train as he walked back from walking me down the aisle, just like he did in the rehearsal and we all laughed and said he should be careful not to do it in the actual wedding. But he did, and we laughed again, inwardly, because we were all trying to be serious, of course. My dad was not a clumsy man. He was always incredibly capable and able. There was nothing my father couldn't do. Well, except not yell when he lost his temper, which he did all the time, but I was just like him and so I understood, even if it was really awful because my dad was booming and dark and, therefore, scary, even though he would never have dared to lay a hand on me. (My mom would probably have killed him on the spot. Not for any reason other than that she was just a tad fierce about her children.)
Anyway. Memories. Sometimes the little ones matter. Sometimes the little ones are what you have. I take it back; there is one memory of my dad I'd like to forget. I stood and looked at him in the casket at his funeral and I did it, and I really looked, because it seemed the thing to do, but I hated every second of it and I couldn't get out of there fast enough because my father was DEAD and that wasn't really him and yet it was and I just had to get out of there. My poor husband, trying so hard to support me and bewildered by my sudden rush to leave at the end because I had to get out of there because I kept seeing my father in his casket and I was going to lose it and I couldn't explain.
I was nine months pregnant. My dad, in a rare reaction to the medications he'd recently been on, shot himself the day of my baby shower. He was not depressed. He did not, in any way but technically, commit suicide. My long awaited first child was born not even a month after my father died.
The last memory I have of him is saying goodbye. He'd come to our place to go through some old records they'd left with us before we got rid of them to get any he wanted to keep. He picked a few out to take back with him. He put his hand on my belly and smiled at me and walked to the car. The last thing I ever said to him, as is and has always been my habit with the people I love, was, "I love you! Bye!". That one I wouldn't throw back for anything. That one kept me whole and sane in a broken and insane time.
P.S. Oh, I remember! We fished till my sister caught one, because she really wanted to. It may have been her first time fishing, maybe. Now, throwing little sisters back...that I could kind of get behind. (Just kidding, Kate! Really!)