Saturday, May 26, 2018

This One is for you Dad

I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children
who take pleasure in one another.

In our dinners together, the dead
enter and pass among us
in living love and in memory.


And so the young are taught.


~2005~ Wendell Berry (a favorite poet)


Always looking further where he could go. Here is my blog post I wrote about him for Father's Day after his death one year ago. His journey to becoming a great father is an interesting one. Fatherhood: The Impact of a Dad

Occasionally there are landmark dates when we have been separated from death with our loved ones. When a loved one has been gone one year, we square our shoulders and say we have survived one year, four seasons, without them. The years inevitably pass, but our memories linger of their laughter, hugs, and conversation. We can almost hear their voices call out--begging us not to forget them. These are moments when we tightly knit together those stories so the memories will never unravel in our hearts. Sometimes, and often on those anniversaries of death, we allow ourselves to think upon their cherished faces and what they mean to us. Today is one of those days for me. 

A year ago today I received a call in the Paris Airport that my father had passed away. I was jolted, almost soul-broken. I did not make it see him in his last failing moments. On the endlessly long plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean to unite with family, I shamelessly sobbed in front of a few strangers. I remember the Vietnamese passenger next to me who saw some tears. She kindly listened to a few stories about my dad I had in my reservoir to tell. 

Interestingly enough, as the plane landed, a sweet peace came to me: I remembered that I had spent the previous summer at my parent's home laid up with a broken ankle for almost two months. There had not only been hours and days of conversation. But we had tediously edited and read the memoirs of his life that he had so painstakingly written. With his last breath, there would still be stories, instruction, and laughter he had penned. His voice had not vanished in the air.

I had pleaded for him to write his life story for years. For a long time, he demurred my questions--waving off any sign of commitment. To write about his childhood during the Depression with a dysfunctional family was too difficult for him to excavate. He did not want to dig up the old pain. However, in the five or so last years of his life, he spent an uncommon amount of time in his study writing longhand on his yellow tablets of paper. He never touched a computer--preferring to write in his almost indecipherable handwriting. 

Dad told us that writing down his story healed his heart. In the last month, before he died, he revealed to my mom, "I am ready to meet my dad now. I know it all will be different now." With the deep burrowing of memories, he had surprised himself with some happy moments of his father. He was ready for a reunion. So much pain had been unleashed by the simple act of writing down his life.

Dad was more productive than we would all have ever imagined. There will be three volumes of his writing, and this summer I hope to finish all the editing. The past months have been gifts of hearing new stories, quotes, talks, ideas, and lessons from my father in his famously almost undecodable writing. He wrote away the scars and wounds and discovered mountains of blessings that he had long since forgotten. Old friends and even conversations with strangers appeared to his memory that had given him pivotal influence. It seemed that he was forming a picture in his mind with a dot-to-dot game. Chapter after chapter all the incredility or confusion came together. It all made sense--even the challenges. Healing came to his wings. 

So today Dad I will be doing the things you loved, which of course, I do regularly since I am your daughter--swim, eat some watermelon, read and write, learn a few words in another language, and throw my head back and laugh loud. Love you, Dad. Until we meet again. Thanks for the gifts of your words that did not end a year ago. Love, Mar


In front of the Met in NYC. 


  Here are the first few paragraphs of his autobiography from his youth. Perhaps it will spark you to write your stories that need to be excavated. Or maybe you will beg a few loved ones to write theirs. Thanks, Dad. Your voice will always be loud and crystal clear.

"I promise that I’ll keep trying to learn from all these experiences and be better for them. I have called my life history an interesting one. We all have interesting lives. We were not sent down to a dull planet. It may be ordinary in its size compared to many worlds in the cosmos, but it is filled with fascination. Get a paper and pencil, put down your thoughts, begin to write, and the mental pictures will come rushing in. Go to any city and look up any name and you will see the name of an interesting person.
Recall, ponder, select, seek, and record your life. See in your mind’s eye the people, places, experiences, folly, success, happiness, loneliness, and the hammering of life shaping you. President Kimball said, “Write history, and perhaps the angels will quote from it.” Listen to stories because if a person thinks enough of you and what happened to them, it is in all probability an experience you can learn from.
We know that the great ones on the other side of the veil desire our completeness and success. Emerson said, “Former great men and women call to us affectionately.” We have so much good in our bloodline that I feel the strong who have desired our success will help us in a transfiguring way. I find myself thinking that we stand on the shoulders of giants.
Here and now isn’t all there is. You are living an eternal life, but sometimes the sum doesn’t seem like it will fit the whole. Write down your experiences so others may learn from them. As C.S. Lewis said, “There are really no ordinary people.” When we all cross the river and go to the other side, we will be happy we had all the experiences we had and the connections we found. Endure to the end, make good choices, and you will have an interesting and fulfilling life." 
                                   --Dennis Keith Myres (July 24, 1934--May 27, 2017)


Dad could never get enough of his grandkids. Here he is with my four sons, but he had 54 grandkids who he loved to joke with and mentor. His family and people were his greatest hobbies.