We’ll raise a glass to you tonight. Hope you’re enjoying your afterlife.
My dad was born 93 years ago today. Or according to him, tomorrow. He always claimed that he was born just after midnight but the doctor who delivered him was drunk and wrote the wrong date on the birth certificate. Also, according to my dad, he wrote the wrong middle name too. It was supposed to be Manville instead of Manuel. I have no idea if any of that is accurate, but that’s what he claimed. I also don’t know if I am remembering it correctly.
Nonetheless, March 7th is the day we always celebrated his birthday.
A while back, going through papers, I found a couple newspaper blurbs that I wanted to share/keep. In a way they are completely different but in another way they are similar — possibly something that proud parents asked the Elgin Daily Courier News to share. Another similarity is that they are about two men in my life, my father and my husband.
I put the article about Dean on the refrigerator and Clare drew his likeness on the whiteboard when she visited in December.
One morning, during our annual Christmas visit to Illinois in the late 1980s, we awoke to trees covered in feathery crystals — a true winter wonderland. We exclaimed at the beauty and made plans to take photographs of the frost. We wondered what this was — we’d never seen Jack Frost’s work quite as lovely as this. Then Dad, matter-of-factly said, “Hoar frost.”
We looked at him and shook our heads. We’d never heard of hoar frost and how could he possibly know what this phenomenon was called? At some point we looked it up or talked to other people (no Internet on our phones back then) who confirmed that Dad was correct. If I recall correctly, he seemed rather proud that he knew something we didn’t.
I never forgot how beautiful this was and, while we occasionally see something similar on the grass in the Pacific Northwest, we never saw it as beautiful as it was in 1988. I hoped we would get it in Bethesda, but we never did.
We were recently in Illinois and besides spending time with family, and Dean being recognized by our Community College as the 2019 distinguished Alum, we visited some places that meant something to us. One of those was the cemetery where my father is buried. We almost passed it by, but I figured we were right there, so I asked Dean to stop. I trudged through the snow and placed a coin on three gravestones: my Grandmother and Grandfather Patrick’s joint gravestone, my cousin Jim’s gravestone and Dad’s gravestone. I told them hello and that I loved them.
Going back to the car I felt the only grief/nostalgia that I’d felt during the trip so far. Normally I have a lot of feelings when visiting my hometown, but this trip I’d had none until that cemetery visit.
The next morning I awoke to hoar frost. The trees and bushes were covered in white feathery crystals. Dean had already been outside taking photographs and I went out in my pajamas and stockinged feet to take a few pictures. Later I took a video as the frost began falling off the trees.
After marveling at the frost I remembered that first time I’d seen it and fancied that Dad did this for me because I visited him the afternoon before. He knew how much I wanted to experience a hoar frost again and he used his weather superpower* to give it to me.
*The day we buried Dad there were tornados in the area that morning — one less than a mile from the cemetery. We joked that Dad wanted us to know he was pissed off.