My dad had a belt buckle that said Big John. For most of his life, Dad was a big man. He used to drive trucks but got a job at Mayflower when we were little so he could spend more time at home. He moved furniture for a living and broke his back most days to provide for us. I can picture Dad in his green Mayflower uniform. He always looked tired and his legs were swollen from all the heavy lifting and time on his feet.
I remember Dad bringing home the oddest treasures that people would give him: paintings, dolls under glass, books and used lamps and furniture. Most of it was junk but Dad, who was a collector by nature, loved the stuff.
"Look what they gave me girls," Dad would say to my sisters and I. "This is a collectible." I would usually look at it and shake my head and Dad would say in his usual resigned way, "When I'm gone Jenny this is gonna be worth big money, big money." When he died, we put his collection of VHS tapes, beer steins, used horror paperbacks and Readers' Digest magazines on a table for the seniors to pick through. The stuff was all gone within minutes.
My dad died more than six years ago from pancreatic cancer that ate him away in four short weeks after diagnosis. Most days, I have to shake myself and remind myself Dad is not here because I still feel his presence so strongly. In my writing, it is his character's voice that I hear the loudest. I often hear Dad saying my childhood nickname, "Jenny. Jenny. Jenny." It is a refrain in my head.
Some days, it is like channelling Dad's spirit to write. I want to get down all the good things. The rummy tournaments Dad would have with my sisters and I when we were little. The Friday night movie nights at the drive-in. The trips to the Pizza Hut with the black and white little table TVs that Dad would plug with quarters while my sisters and I watched Different Strokes with pizza sauce dribbling down our chins.
I can't memorialize it all. I wish I could. That is what is so ironic about life. While you are living it, life is hard to appreciate and it is difficult to remember to tell those who live life with you how much you care and how much you appreciate them. It is easy to forget and later much harder and bittersweet, to look back and wish they knew how much you yearn for their presence.
And, how much you wish that voice saying your name was real.