Saturday, June 16, 2018

Remembering our father: Pater Noster

Celebrating Fathers Day by re-posting a blog I wrote back on January 28, 2007. My father loved to visit the old churches in New Mexico. This is El Santuario de Chimayó:



The church at Acoma Pueblo:

Church at Acoma Pueblo 20100621

My fondest memories of childhood were not those of solitary pursuits. Not having someone there to share an otherwise awesome event seems to take the edge off the experience. Maybe it’s because I simply want to say, “Hey, look at that!” and feel the satisfaction of having another appreciate and later reiterate the experience. 

Frequently, it works the other way. So many times I might have missed what another pointed out or interpreted. 

I feel some sadness when I see parents showering their children with expensive gifts and elaborate parties. How often are the kids more fascinated with the packing crate than the contents? 

Yes, that Christmas when I received the full-sized balloon-tired two-wheeler persists in my memory, but I smile and relax when I think of those woodland walks with my father... 

...Tracking rabbits and mice in the snow and even finding the spot where one ended with wing prints of an owl and a splash of red...

...The day we encountered a young Great Blue Heron who could not become airborne because it was trapped among dense trees along the Passaic River—how Dad covered its head and mean-looking beak with his jacket so we could carry it out into an open field—the thrill of seeing the bird slowly rise on untried wings…

One Spring I attended a week-long medical refresher course at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. I invited my parents to join us, and they flew to Dallas. Mary Lou and I and our four children set out with them in our 1972 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon. Despite the demands of the curriculum, we found time to walk the trails and see deer, beavers, American Dippers and a family of Blue Grouse (now known as Dusky Grouse).


We had followed a direct route to Colorado, but after the conference I took leave for a few days to permit a more leisurely trip back to Texas. On the return leg, we spent two nights at Kachina Lodge in Taos, New Mexico.

The first night we watched Pueblo Indian dances, and the next morning we attended Sunday Mass at San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos. This adobe church, completed in 1815, is said to be the most photographed church in America. 

(Dad loved the old churches of New Mexico. This photo shows him, on the right, with his brother, Father Dan, on the High Road to Taos, visiting the church at Truchas/Las Trampas).

 

The ceremony was entirely in Spanish. It happened to be Father’s Day. The priest invited all fathers to join him on the altar to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Dad and I walked up and joined the congregation in prayer. I knew some Spanish, but Dad knew none. That did not dissuade him. 

He put his hand on my shoulder and launched into the Latin version of the prayer. While everyone else was saying “Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos, santificado sea tu nombre…” Dad was confidently announcing “Pater noster qui es in coelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum.” The Romance cadences were so similar that no one seemed to notice. That Father’s Day and all others afterwards held special significance for me.

During my working years I enjoyed beating the traffic and getting to the office early. I was able to close my office door and organize my day in peace and quiet before my co-workers appeared. When I retired from active duty I resolved never to sleep late. Therefore, when we moved to the mountains of New Mexico I set the alarm on my watch for 7:30 AM to nudge me awake just in case, but I rarely needed it. Dawn came quick and bright as the sun emerged in a blue sky above the ridge to the east.

So it happened that on Sundays, 7:30 AM Mountain Time was an ideal time for me to call my father, back home in New Jersey. By then he had returned home from early Mass and had finished his breakfast, and was in the middle of his morning papers. The chirp of my watch alarm was a gentle reminder, and rarely did I miss placing the call. If I happened to be a little late, he would ask about the reason for the delay. At Dad’s funeral, his younger brothers told me how important those calls were to him. Unbeknown to me, he arranged his Sunday morning schedule to accommodate my call.

We talked about nothing in particular, though we often filled the greater part of an hour with banter. Embedded among discussions of the weather, politics and sports were those “I wish you could have seen…” and “Remember when we…” moments that swept us back to those earlier days.

I last called Dad only a few days before he died. He spoke of how wonderful it was to have a hospital room with a view.

Now in the Eastern Time Zone, my wristwatch still chirps at 7:30. Though two hours earlier in real time, the sun already dapples on the surface of our lake. And I whisper a Pater Noster in remembrance. 

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh

11 comments:

  1. Well said about your Dad. He was a great Dad and I'm sure changed your life forever.

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  2. Memories are a sweet part of life. Beautiful stories.

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  3. What a moving post.
    I've been to that first church.

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  4. I'm so glad for your fond memories. I never had a great relationship with my father...partly his alcoholism, partly the broken home. He stayed with us for seven months in 2007 after breaking his hip. I came across a box of things of his in the closet I didn't know were there. Contained old photos, obits from cousins, aunts, uncles...and I got more nostalgic for...not nostalgic, because most of my memories aren't good ones...but mindful of how important family SHOULD be. This is the first father's day in many years I've thought of him. He passed in 2016. We hadn't spoken since he abruptly left Tampa in 2008.

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  5. Your writing is beautiful, as is your love for your dad. Your words touched me a lot. Thank you.

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  6. I too miss my father. His example taught me so much.
    Thank you for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2018/06/can-brussels-sprouts-be-edible.html

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  7. A lovely tribute to your dad. Nicely done.

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  8. Don't really have any pictures my Dad took - seems that people did not think I would want them. They were wrong!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  9. HAving had a father who took time with his children sets you for life.Thoroughly enjoyed the story of your father. Our son sent a sweet note to his dad for Father's Day thanking him for keeping in regular contact, and saving him for getting homesick for the USA (he lives in Holland, but had a hard time adjusting after 5 years in China). great post, Ken😊

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  10. I am sobbing as I try to type this through my tears … in many ways, you have described my Dad. He loved taking the road less traveled to see the 'real America." As a family of 7 children, we didn't have much in the way of toys. It was a joy to play with boxes, or whatever nature provided, such as crawdads from our creek. We had that same Olds Station Wagon! We may not have had many phone conversations, but my Dad prided himself on getting up early and writing letters to all us kids. I am forever sad that we lost him 20 years ago to a heart attack!

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  11. Lovely memories! That was quite a boat, I mean car!

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