Remembering Dad

13 Aug

On another Friday the Thirteenth 73 years ago, my Dad was born.  He shares his birthday with Fidel Castro (who he couldn’t stand) and Alfred Hitchcock (who he greatly admired). Dad’s birthday is always a bittersweet occasion for me. Bitter because I feel sadness that he is no longer with us. Sweet because even though he’s gone, his birthday is a reminder that his life should be celebrated.

I have tremendous admiration for both of my parents. Now that I’m a parent myself, I have an appreciation for what a tough job it is. In a way, my parents had more parenting challenges than I have, simply because they had no idea where their children were coming  from. My brother and I are both adopted, and adoptions were done very differently back then. There was no disclosure, no sharing of information, no opportunity for the birth mother to even meet, let alone choose, the adoptive parents. It was by pure chance, a cosmic roll of the dice, that I ended up with the parents I got.

Fate did well by me. If I had been able to choose my parents, I think I would have chosen the ones I got. I did not appreciate them enough when I was a kid (because what child ever does?) and I would not attempt to claim that my parents were perfect. I can say, however, that if I am a tenth as good a parent as either my Mom or my Dad, then my kids are very lucky. I am fortunate to still have Mom. She may live on the other side of the world to me, but she is still mentor, adviser, critic when she needs to be, friend, confidante, and above all, Mom.

As I think about my Dad, I see snippets of my life played back like a slideshow. Me and Dad at a father-and-daughter square dancing event when I was seven. Going for a ride in his vintage sports car. Watching the Olympics with him when we were both bunged up with colds. Our shared love of reading that generated trips to the library followed by a cup of juice, and as I got older, coffee. The tax returns he did for me each year because I couldn’t figure out how to do them myself.

I made stupid mistakes in my youth. That’s what young people do. Their brains are not wired for wise decisions, which is why they need parents. Dad, being older and infinitely wiser than me, would see the mistakes coming and warn me. Being young and impulsive, I would do something stupid anyway and find myself in the middle of a crisis. Dad would always be there to help me pick up the pieces of my life, and he was kind enough to never say that he’d told me so.

I will never forget the moment when Dad saw his newborn grandson for the first time. He and Mom were exhausted, fresh off the plane from South Africa. They had come from the airport straight to the hospital to see George, who was then just one day old. As I placed the baby into Mom’s arms and then Dad’s, it was like slotting the final piece into a jigsaw puzzle to complete the picture. Grandparenthood fulfilled something in both of them, though it is hard to define exactly what. My sadness at the fact that my boys are growing up without their Granddad is countered by the knowledge that my Dad, for all too brief a time, experienced the joy of being a grandparent.

Dad died almost six years ago, taken from us all too soon by cancer. I choose to believe that he is still around, that from some vantage point, he is watching his grandchildren grow up. I choose to believe that when I participate in races, Dad – who was one of the top marathoners of his day – is running right along with me. I hope he is proud of me, and happy with the job he did as a parent.

Rest in peace, Dad. I love and miss you.
~ Cyril James Jessiman ~
~ 13 August 1937 – 6 December 2004 ~

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