Friday, November 02, 2018

Remembering My Dad

I was up way too late last night and overslept. I barely had time to get dressed, eat breakfast, and round up the cookies for Anny and her crew before I heard from Dad and Jodie. I wanted to wear my black skirt, but I had no good shoes to go with them. I settled for black jeans, my dark teal long-sleeved t-shirt, and sneakers (and being warm).

It was cloudy, windy, humid, and way too warm, probably in the mid-70's, when Dad and Jodie picked me up around 10:30. Thankfully, other than a few sprinkles, the rain held off. We took the long away across the Pine Barrens, past Tuckahoe and Maurice River, onto the Garden State Parkway past Cape May Court House and Rio Grande. At least the foliage has finally started turning colors here. Some of the trees were really incredible shades of orange, rust, golden yellow, and lime green.

They dropped me off at Mom's house around noon. (Dad and Jodie spent the afternoon at the home of their friends Brian and Diane, who live in West Cape May.) Rose and her family and my brother Keefe and his girlfriend were already there, watching Trolls while Rose did Finley's hair. Keefe had come up from Norfolk, Virginia, where he currently lives. Mom didn't get in until later with cold-cuts to make wraps and sandwiches. I had a turkey-provolone wrap with spinach and pickles as Anny arrived not long after with her sons Skylar and Collyn, daughter Lilah, and boyfriend Jay.

One surprise was my Aunt Terri and her son Adam, up from the Smoky Mountains in Virginia. I haven't seen them since the late 90's, when Adam used to visit Anny regularly. (He and Anny are close in age and are good friends.) Aunt Terri is Mom's younger sister. We went to Thanksgiving at their house a couple of times in the 80's, and Rose stayed with her for a while in 2001-2002 when she was finishing school at American University in Washington DC. Aunt Terri knows I love to bake. She sent me the Betty Crocker Cooky Book that I get my Merry Christmas Molasses Cut-Outs and Cherry Coconut Bars recipes from for Christmas around 2000. I spent all of that Christmas Day looking over that book.

The memorial service was at Evoy Funeral Home on Breakwater Road in North Cape May, just five minutes from Mom's house in Erma. It's a beautiful old building with a pond and trees in front. I have fond memories of riding past it on my way to the Villas Library or to visit my friend Bridget in the 90's and early 2000's. I'd stop to get a Clearly Canadian at the Eckards across the street (now a Rite Aid) and wonder if it was just as grand inside.

It is. There was a nice, if musty, foyer with a fireplace when we entered. The brown and gold main room was filled with people. The line of people Mom, Keefe, and Rose greeted stretched all the way around the room and into the foyer. I saw Keefe's old friend Austin Carson and his mom Diane. Mrs. Carson was my teacher at Lower Cape May Regional High School in the 90's, and she became friends with Mom after Austin and Keefe got to be pals in pre-school. In fact, Austin helped Keefe with the flowers and decorations.

Grandma Ann, Dad's mom, is my last living grandparent. She's still very much alive and kicking at 91. (And she tells stories that are almost as good as her son's were.) Aunt Mary, Dad's vivacious younger sister who lives in Manhattan, was with her. They were joined by Dominique, the daughter of Dad's older brother Dennis, and her husband. Dennis and his family lived here briefly around 1990. I remember babysitting Dominique and how crazy she was about Barney the Dinosaur. I had to see a lot more of the videos than I would have preferred the winter I looked after her.

Along with several of Mom and Dad's current neighbors in Erma, I saw some of my sisters' long-time buddies. Sheila came up from Virginia; Colleen came from Harrisburg. They were Rose's best friends in high school, and they keep in touch with her via Facebook and e-mail. (And Colleen takes the train down from Harrisburg from time to time.) Joey is a teacher in Middle Township, representing him and his twin brother Jason, who just started a new job and couldn't get out of work. Anny's old friends Jenny and Rachel apparently live a few hours away, but keep in touch with Anny on Facebook and came down as soon as they heard. Dad and Mom were like parents to all of them.

The flowers were absolutely gorgeous, several of them sent by old friends of Dad's. One couple ordered a beautiful four-foot anchor made from white roses from a local florist. Another gave Mom a really lovely autumn bouquet for her living room.

It was nearly quarter of 3 by the time everyone sat down. Since it was so late, the pastor kept his speech brief. He quoted from the funeral home's obituary for Dad, talking about how Dad was a beloved "Poppy" to his grandchildren, and how he could relate because he had grandkids of his own. He spoke of Dad's 40 years as a fisherman, and how his loved ones always looked forward to when he came home.

And that's when I finally started crying...because it's true. We did look forward to Dad coming home from a fishing trip. He'd call from whatever boat he was working on, and we'd all gather around the phone, hoping to talk to him. And when he came home, in his oversized canvas work gear, he'd give us all hugs and kisses before his wife reminded him that he smelled like fish and that he needed to get in the shower.

I closed my eyes and just let the tears fall. Daddy is never going to come home again. I'll never get that fishy hug, or hear him tease Mom and call her "darlink." He'll never take me for a ride around Cape May on his motorcycle, never hug his grandchildren, or go fishing with Keefe or put Anny on his shoulders or play catch with Rose. Mom held my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, but I couldn't open my eyes. I couldn't face her, or anyone.

Daddy, I know you're in a better place, but...I miss you. And I always will.

I'd recovered by the time the pastor finished. Rose, Anny, Keefe, and I looked over the three boards filled with old photos of Dad Keefe and Mom dug out of our family collections. There were so many wonderful memories! I saw one of him and me from probably the early-mid 90's, from the giant pink-framed glasses I'm wearing. There was one of him holding Anny as a tiny infant, with a 6-year-old Rose perched on the arm of his favorite chair, I think from right after we moved to the house on Maryland Avenue in Cape May. There were a couple of him in his younger years in the 70's, complete with tube socks and a giant Afro.

Poor Anny was still crying. Rose hugged her...and I hugged them as hard as I could. Keefe looked over, said "what the hell," and threw his arms around the three of us. We stood there for a few minutes, laughing and crying and holding each other. It felt so good.

Jodie and Dad picked me up around 3:30. Almost everyone else was either going home, or back to Mom's house, including Mom and my sisters. Keefe was the only one who was moving on to the Red Brick Ale House, formerly the Bayshore Inn, Dad's favorite watering hole after we moved to North Cape May in the 90's. I think the after-party was mostly for Dad's old fishing cronies.

They dropped me off at my place around quarter after 5. I wasn't up for much more than scrambled eggs with cheese and mushrooms and Cranberry Flummery for dinner. After I ate, I pulled out my own collection of photos, looking for non-holiday pictures of Dad. Actually, along with finding pictures of Dad, I finally dug up some pictures I thought were lost, including the photo of me in my Velma costume from Halloween 2010.

I went for a walk in Wildwood Crest one day when I was bored around 2003-2004, during my time in Wildwood. Since I had extra pictures on my camera and this was the height of the hotel demolition spree there, I took photos of some of the vintage 50's-60's hotels before they were gone. Of the six or so hotels I photographed, two of them, the Three Coins and the Tahiti, were eventually victims of the wrecking ball. (I swear I took more photos, but I may have given some to Dad-Bruce, who used to work as a lifeguard in Wildwood during it's 60's-70's heyday.)

Watched episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood while I looked over the books. The show's premise was simply. Kindly Fred Rogers introduces kids to his home, his fish, and the unique residents of his neighborhood (inspired by his real-life neighborhood in Pittsburgh). My favorite of the real-life residents was the storyteller, who invented a sweet tale of a bubble that entrapped a king who thought it was bad. No one could get him out...except his daughter, who treated the bubble like the toy it was.

The second half of the show focused on the Land of Make-Believe, a world where puppets and humans interacted. This is where the piecemeal episode selection became a problem. The Land of Make Believe story-line ran throughout the week. Characters would refer to events in episodes that weren't included on the set. It was nice to see all the characters again, though, especially my old favorite Henrietta Pussycat. My favorite episodes had King Friday convince Lady Elaine to return to the Land of Make Believe with her revolving museum after he lifted a rule that banned play, and the rather sweet segment that had Lady Aberlin helping Daniel Tiger to test his new string walkie-talkie, then staying with him when it started to rain.

Finished out the night after a shower with Ant-Man and the Wasp. Why wasn't Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in Avengers: Infinity War? He was under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War. With only days left until he's released, he receives a message from Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfiffer), Hope's (Evangeline Lilly) mother, the original Wasp who is now trapped in the quantum realm. He passes the message onto Hope and her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglass). Despite not being happy with Scott over the Civil War incidents, they agree to get him out and leave a decoy so the FBI won't know. Hank manages to create a tunnel into the realm, but they need a special part to make it work. Unfortunately, the black market dealer they buy it from double-crosses them when he realizes how much money he could make off the suits.

Things get even worse when a young woman with unstable molecules (Hannah John-Kamen) appears to go right through them, shrinking Hank's lab to the size of a cube and taking off with it. She's the daughter of  one of Hank's former partners, who killed himself and his wife and damaged his daughter's molecular structure with one of his experiments. Now they have to get the lab back before the tunnel to Janet closes, all while making sure the FBI doesn't know Scott's out of the house.

While the whole "quantum tunnel" thing was a little strange, this was mostly just as much fun as the first movie. Lilly and Rudd in particular were having a great time as the couple who are still figuring out how to work all this shrinking and growing. (And Michael Pena was just as much fun this time around as Scott's goofy buddy Luis.) If you need a few laughs in your superhero films after the darkness of Justice League and Infinity War, you'll want to give this one a look.

(And incidentally, we did get lucky in one way. It didn't start really raining hard here until around 7, by which time I was already watching Mr. Rogers and long at home.)

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