A Gift not Given

My father passed away two weeks ago.  He was a strong, energetic, imaginative man,dreaming and scheming new ways to do ordinary workaday chores in an easier way.  At the end, he was bedridden…an old man who ignored symptoms of something as horrific as colon cancer until it was too late to do anything but make his final days comfortable.

We always gave our Mom Mother’s Day gifts; that was easy.  Flowers, cologne, sweaters…she was easy to please.  Dad, now, was a different story.  What do you give a man who has everything, and that everything shoved haphazardly into his shop, the attic of the house, and the nooks and crannies of the basement?  I don’t recall giving him but one gift, which was a five string banjo my first husband and I bought at a pawn shop. It was added to his extensive collection of musical instruments, which included guitars, other banjos, mandolins, violins, a Japanese shamisen, a Russian balalaika, and ten accordions.  He left that five string banjo to me in his will.  As luck will have it, my grandson “Biscuit” is obsessed with banjos, so he will, in turn, be given that banjo.

If I woulda coulda shoulda,this would have been the gift I’d have given:

A movie camera

Back in the 70’s, my younger brothers pooled their money and bought a used Super 8 camera.  Most of their films consisted of compositions and comedic shorts that were quite clever, coming from 3 teenage boys. I’d love to see those films again, and get a chuckle out of watching the stop-action filming of the antics of the youngest on an invisible motorcycle. But, if my dad had owned an 8 mm movie camera back in the early 50’s and beyond, I’m sure there would be an entire room at the house filled with only tins of movie reels.  He would have had that camera going for every new baby, baptism, birthday, funeral,  family reunion and HAM radio picnics.  I’m sure he would have filmed the motor of any one of his vehicles running under an open hood, the guts of tv he was repairing, the progress of the cabin he and my mother built in their 60’s, and every single one of the hundreds of road trips they took over the years.  He would have filmed being on a plane as it took off or landed, the many countries they visited, every single church they entered as well as every tavern, pub, or bar they relaxed in. Every goofy foreign sign he sighted, every half-goofy person he encountered, and every single parade he went to. Every jam session, every Octoberfest, every Czechfest, every single dance where he either played in a band or danced with my Mom or both.  I wish he would have had that camera so that we can watch, in chronological order, the growth of our family and the aging of our kin. We can revisit all the places we lived, settle arguments about who that was in a skimpy skirt or what year it was it snowed on June 2.  We can remark on how much our children and grandchildren act like we did back then, laugh at the fashions,  and note how big those cedars in the front yard have grown.  But most importantly, we can, if only in the classic grainy 8 mm film style, have Dad back again and relive those now-cherished moments with him.