57: Handstands

57: Handstands

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Handstands

Love is missing someone whenever you’re apart, but somehow feeling warm inside because you’re close in heart.

~Kay Knudsen

Father’s Day approaches and I am a little sad that my dad lives 3,000 miles away. I would love to barbecue burgers with him and pepper our conversation with reminders of the stellar job he did raising three daughters as a widower.

I was eight when my mother died. My sisters, Mary and Kim, were nine and eleven. My mother fought cancer for two years, and during the battle my father made my life amazingly cheerful. He tucked us in by shining a flashlight on his hand, casting shadows of bedtime creatures on our wall. He took us candlepin bowling and easily convinced me that renting used shoes was luxurious. His endless cheering as the only spectator of my underwater handstand act at the beach made me proud. His idea of after-dinner entertainment was holding the transparent lid of a pastry box against his face and performing a one-man television program.

My mother was nursed by her sister and my father while cancer diminished her abilities to walk, think and remember. When my father — a social worker at the time — was not at work, he spent every available moment at my aunt’s with my mother. I cannot imagine how he salvaged a fulfilling childhood for us. But he was there, diagramming sentences, working on book reports, reading, and taking us to movies. I have memories of my tired father half-smiling through a trip to Disneyland, a Monopoly marathon and several jigsaw puzzles.

I recall taking a business trip with him to drop off two foster kids at their temporary home after getting them ice cream. There was always spaghetti, soup or something simple at the end of the day.

Then there were our teenage years when our mother was gone and the questions of female pubescence abounded. My father attempted to act casual in the dreaded health and beauty aids section. I wonder how he managed to get time in his own bathroom.

Last Father’s Day, I flew to Kim’s home in Pittsburgh and we drove to Boston, meeting Mary and my dad. It was the first Father’s Day in years that my father had all of his “babies,” a nurse, a reporter and a freelance writer, with him. Kim’s teenage son, who is my father’s favorite person lately, was with us. My dad had tears in his eyes when Kim and I appeared at his door after his day of work at the post office. He will have another weepy moment when he meets Kim’s newborn son later this month.

This Father’s Day, I cannot travel to Boston. I will celebrate by phoning my dad to talk about books and tell him for the millionth time what I will do in the event of an earthquake. And I will finish celebrating at the beach where I will honor my father’s support, unconditional love and survival by doing the best underwater handstand I can muster.

~Amy Lyons

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