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March 2, 2012


Pops - A Story About My Dad

I was asked to tell a few stories about my Dad. Sitting here wondering what to write, your life starts flashing back like a Kodak film commercial. Song stuck in my head: "Memories, light the corners of my mind; misty watercolor memories of the way we were. Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind; smiles we give to one another for the way we were."

Where do I begin?

Flashes of my father, crew cut, white shirt, skinny black tie, drinking bottles of warm Old Milwaukee beer (since my grandparents never put it anywhere but the back porch), and arguing politics around my grandparents kitchen table. I'm standing next to him, arm around me, a kiss, and a sip of beer. I go on my way. I forgot to mention, big fat stinky cigar in his mouth.

Moments continue to crash my mind as I remember an afternoon sitting on the back steps outside in the summer sun, eating crab legs with my Dad, brother, and sister. Laughing in the car, a long time ago in Nashville, TN, we ended up on a new freeway not open for traffic, and couldn't get off because the ramps weren't open either; we teased him about that forever. I reflect how he held my hand, as tight as he could, on my first roller coaster ride; maybe he was more scared that I was going to fly out than I was. I remember that he never called me Susan, just "Charlie Brown."

My mind spins with memories of a time when as a family, we stepped up and helped one another. My brother, not use to living with us, realized that my father went to the grocery store several times every Sunday morning; we called him "Rover". Another burst of memory of him grumbling about some idiot who left their eye glasses in the bottom of the swimming pool. Not only were the glasses his, but he fell in the pool as well. A grin stretches my face as I recall a tug a war over a sandwich with Abby, a beloved Dalmatian with a bread addiction. "Hey Pops, Do you really want to eat that, now?" Abby won that round.

Imprinted on my mind was sitting in his work room in Oklahoma talking about current events and such, sharing a beer and a few laughs. A chuckled escaped when he took a hammer and pounded on the bench, so my Mom and Grandmother would think he was working. He would remind me that I should not carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. Sitting, watching him make a cradle for my niece Amy or the corner cabinet to put his "stuff" in; my mother kept moving his "stuff". The cradle has been shared by many babies since and I have that cabinet in my home now. It is cherished, as are the hours I spent sitting on the stool watching him work, talking. We shared a few beers and some life lessons during those hours.

My mind glitters of the morning I was married. We had breakfast together that morning. I think back now, he seemed nervous. And the look of fear on his face, just as we started to walk down the aisle, the memory makes me chuckle as I remember how I laughed all the way down the aisle of the church. I had never seen that look on his face before, he was always so strong and composed.

The memories flood of my Dad out ice fishing with my husband, an arm around Bob after the day, and the smile on his face. I think how grateful I am that I married a man that could share my father's interests. Stories of how he would lay down in the sled for a nap, you would hear the snoring across the lake. He loved being out on the lake with the guys.

Flashbacks of the smiles and stories when just the 'boys' went to the NASCAR race make me laugh. How they would tease him about his pajamas, "the dazzler" the boys called him. And the teasing he endured about how much he ate; and the time he consumed several free samples of oat cereal which made him use the restroom, often. He just couldn't understand why. And despite just having his knee replaced he insisted on going to the race at the Milwaukee Mile, race hat on, cane in hand, and the hose to keep his circulation in his legs going - we called him Mr. Peanut. How he sat with his arm around his son and grandson and kept repeating, "Three generations, three generations" - and the opportunity he had to share a race day with four generations.

But the memories that make my heart sparkle are the ones he spent with his grandson, Bobby. How they walked down the street hand in hand. There was always time for building and fixing stuff, together. There were frequent trips to the zoo, the park, the Mitchell Park Domes, the museum, trips to buy poinsettias for Christmas just to see the giant train set. They were two peas in a pod and went everywhere together.

Another picture flashes through my head of Papa Dano and Amanda still in their pajamas, wrapped in robes, talking and eating breakfast. Sitting at the kitchen counter, they captured a memory over a bowl of cereal. Memories keep pouring back as the kids laugh about the time grandpa was checking everybody's shoes for dog poop, "Somebody stepped in poop and dragged it in the house, dam-it." Yeah, it was on his shoes.

And a more recent event that I will hold in my heart and always treasure, the day his granddaughter got married for just a little bit he danced with Amanda and with my mother - for just a moment we got to see the man that he is. And out of the blue, he said to me, "My granddaughter looks beautiful today!"

As I sit here and remember, I take to heart the quote, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." That simple quote is reflected in every photo tucked in a drawer somewhere, and is magnified every time you take a moment to peek back.

--- Copyright © 2012 Susan Nuernberg
Susan is a wife, mother, and works full-time. She is painfully watching her Dad drift away yet she knows he wouldn't want her to be sad.

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