Last month was the 28th anniversary of the death of my Dad. I was 9 when it happened so I don't have a lot of memories that don't involve his battle with his illness.
What I do have are glimpses. They are like short reels of film unspooling, and being viewed through dirty glass. They have a bright, fuzzy glow, and looking at them is not altogether unpleasant, but they do leave me feeling a little sad.
They are quick flashes. Like the way he walked carrying a five gallon bucket of water, left arm jutted straight out for balance, a slight wobble to his gait. How he sat on the floor watching Packer games, both elbows resting on the chair behind him with his bright white-socked feet criss-crossed over one another. Dad in complete relaxation.
I recall as a very small boy, and these may be my earliest memories, I would nestle my face against his clean white Jockey T-shirts, as he called me "his little armadillo" or "Robber-Dobb". Those shirts, to this day, were the softest things in the world and nothing smelled more pleasant. I chuckle when thinking about how I would climb into a wicker-mesh clothes hamper every day and "hide" on him. I can still see little gasps of light filtering through the base of the hamper, where the years had broken the bond between the side and the bottom, and I can remember yelling for him to come and find me. When you hide in the same place every day, it's not a hard thing for someone to do.
But that's all I got.
I was always jealous of my older siblings. Dad's stepchildren, who when in groups, alway had these extended, often shriek-of-laughter inducing stories to tell about him as I'd sit there and smile, on the outside looking in, too young to recall more than my glimpses through the smeared glass of my memory.
For a long time I hated them for that. That's something they never knew.
But that is no longer, for I've come to realize as I've grown older that we all have demons, often stupid, that we wrestle with in the MMA tournaments of our emotions. It's not their fault that I was too young to have vivid memories of the guy that out of all of us, I was the only one who could be called his "blood" child. Not fair maybe, but certainly not their fault, either.
And something else I've realized is those flashes of memory that I have, though they may be brittle and lacking substance, are indeed mine.