June 21st, 1980 – Russell Ernest Forster died of cancer in our living room atop the hospital bed that became our living room set for the last many months of his life. His end days lasted excruciatingly longer than anyone would have ever been able to predict, so long was his grasp on life, he lived long enough to see his firstborn daughter bring him his first born grandchild: Carl Russell. Carl was born *May 29th and when they brought him home to meet my Dad, we were all gathered around to watch the blessed event. They laid this perfect baby boy beside my Dad in his bed and his hand could barely reach for the child as my Dad had been devastated physically by the cancer almost beyond recognition. As my Dad steadied his gaze into the beaming eyes of this new life, his heart swelled and his lung expanded to their capacity and out came a guttural and moaning cry of a heart breaking and making simultaneously. My Mom still believes in the moments just before his cry, a piece of his soul gave itself to the boy. It can only be helped when believing this to see who this boy grew up to become, using a gift well beyond average to machine and tool and tinker and design and fix any vehicle on wheels. Carl is quite prolific in the 4×4 world of specialized gears and gadgets and mystifying machinery. All of which came from his hands and mind working like they have always known how to do it. So yes, some family fables are quite easy to propagate when the material is so easily woven together in a picture that feels as close as we can get these days, to a hug from our Dad, the greatest man that ever lived.
I write this knowing I have exactly 2 followers who will read this, none of which are personally attached to any of the words I write here. My family and friends have long since grown weary of my verbose emotional rants. I have too, which is marking the months since my last post. The problem is, I just have too much to say and before I even begin to write, I become tired at all the ground I could cover if only I would write. My kids, my new exhausting puppy, my husband, my aging soul, my broken church, my broken heart, my great big God, my breakthrough with EMDR, my future, my today, my past. Well, for now, it’s my Dad, yep, I’m talking about him, the greatest man that ever lived.
I am the age my Dad was when he died. He found out he was definitely going to die and fairly soon at the ripe old age of 46, though he ended up making it much longer than expected and reached his next year of age: 47. How could it be that he was my age and how did he grow into a whole hearted man while I still feel so unfinished? My Dad loved his kids, there are pictures of him holding us as babies and his eyes are crying out the happiness of the soul of the universe. He was such a good Dad. He gave us his mind, he gave us his time, he encouraged wonder and awe, he relished questions and devoured encyclopedias. He would always call me Polly Ann. I loved hearing him say it, except when I was on the roof, then I winced and wished I could really turn invisible instead of just pretending.
My whole life I have searched for someone as exquisite as my Dad. I have never found them. There was only one like him. I did not know he was brilliant. I thought everyone was that smart. My adulthood has been marred and marked and scarred by my unquenched thirst to be in the presence of the quiet brilliance which surrounded me in my youngest years. My brother has this mind, perhaps my sister, but they do not pour it out for me like he did. I find myself in successive strings of disappointment when I inevitably discover what had shimmered the light of brilliance in someone, reveals itself as a mere streak of intelligence, or more often, a very narrow strip of expertise that has been so well hewn by narrow focus, that it can only hold one color of the rainbow and my heart is drained of the other colors into the sand.
Losing my Dad at age 10 was the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me. And the strange thing about that large statement is, it is an invisible open wound that still bleeds, but no one generally recognizes it and the days of sympathetic words or soothing compassion are long gone. Well actually, even then that was slim. Certainly I got this from my Mom and my Aunt, but mostly, people don’t know what to do with kids that are brokenhearted, so they tend to encourage you to tell them you are okay and not really that sad, so you just do that because it makes them feel better.
I still cry my eyes out every year on June 21st. And I don’t cry my old woman tears, I cry the tears of a 10 year old girl who cannot imagine the world without her Dad making things okay and protecting me. Who is going to teach me about the stars, because I still don’t remember them all. Who is going to show me how to fix my car. Who is going to look at me with eyes that are so completely satisfied and filled with Joy at seeing his own flesh and blood. Who is going to make me feel like the strongest girl in the world. Who is going to give me a glimpse at how vast the Universe is and how long forever goes.
Well, I did learn how long forever feels. It feels like the next morning after your Dad dies and when your eyes first open, you forget he died yesterday. And then you remember. And it seems really hard to get out of bed, because then you’ll know for sure, he really did die and the living room is empty. That is what forever feels like.
June 21st, 1980 was Summer Solstice. It was my Dad’s favorite day of the whole year. Darkness at its most defeated. The Light wins, hands down. I love that my Dad loved poetry and had many of his favorites memorized. I love that he was a policeman in North Dakota. I love that he read the entire set of Encyclopedia Brittanica, cover to cover, because he wanted to. I love that he always dressed very simply, but very neat. I love that he could do one arm push ups and could fix absolutely anything that could ever break, except my heart. I love that he loved my Mom for her character and courage. I love that he willingly marched into Korea because he knew he should. I love that he couldn’t turn his back on a hurt animal. I love that he sat up all night with us kids while we witnessed a cicada transform from a crawling creature, into a flying beast. I love that he wanted more for his Mom and he kept wanting even when all hope was lost, even though this hurts more than not caring at all. I love that in spite of the horrors of his own childhood, he was brave enough to try and give us the kind he knew a child should have.
If you ask me I would tell you I had a great childhood. Things got patchy after he died, not all very storybook, but the years when we were all together were truly a dream come true. It was a beautiful time and a beautiful place to grow up and discover the world. Things were not perfect and there was certainly the expected hiccups and mishaps and disappointments. The big city is fill of potential harm and some did find us occasionally, but the memory of my childhood is sweeter than any I could try to manufacture for another.
I try to share my Dad with my kids, even though they will never know him in the flesh. I feel like my relationship with him has only continued to deepen and grow and so I hope for them as well. I pray they will know the greatest man I’ve ever known. Perhaps they will never know him like I do, but maybe they wouldn’t if he were here anyway. We each will have our own experience with one another and it is in the heart that desires where this may grow.
As I type, my mind is deleting word and after word, thought after thought and my writing has become a heap of trash. I am not meant to write – at least not for now. It won’t come out right anymore. I am conflicted. In my resistance to write my conflict, there are breaks in sequence and thought and spirit all along the way. I am a failed idealist.