I’m looking at my father’s “Last Will and Testament” of 1972, written when he was eighty years old and six years after I, the youngest child, had left home. I stumbled across the will around this time last year, tucked in among a cache of letters I’d probably dragged into my attic in the late ’80s. By then our dad had been dead some time, or what felt like it. Gotta say—finding that cache blew me away, because the father I met therein wasn’t the father I knew.
So hereupon—the Preamble. Funny; “preamble” is the only header in the entire doc. Granted, later my father does appoint me as the executor of his estate, but methinks a lawyer would have approached this differently. No matter; the man is dead. I inherited only his dreams, and of those I partook little—though this last point is arguable. With luck I’ll get to it some other day (should I remember what I meant; already it’s slipping away).
The father I met and the father I knew
The will begins thusly (thusly, hereupon, herein; all a nod to my father’s probable proclivities in matters such as these. On the other hand, maybe I’m indulging in the same sort of embroidery he’d have stitched together, were he in my shoes):
“Preamble: About eight years ago, I experienced another in a series of financial crisis which have punctuated my career as a freelance inventor, and inventioneer, of new ideas and projects, some of which have already proved of considerable value, not only commercially, but also sociologically and environmentally, as an effective means of combatting pollution and the environment, and of conserving the natural resources on which will depend the well-being, and even the survival of future generations—including with “future generations” those already present and enrolled in kindergarten.
“About eight years ago, I had reached the end of my rope, financially; I had planned an important trip to Syracuse when, abruptly, I found it was impossible even to fill my car’s gas tank, due largely to my ow lack of ordinary business commonsense. For years, I had been in the habit of talking with my youngest child….”
A preamble to a dream
Ah. Here’s where this veers into the realm of the surreal. For a while, anyway, and for me. (For you, dear reader, just know that fabrication—making up reality on the fly, both in writing and speech—runs a bit too close to the bone in my lineage.)
But let me pick up where I left off.
“…talking with my youngest child, Mary Ada, frankly discussing my problems—my hopes and dreams, my difficulties and disappointments.
“Mary, I’ve reached the end—the end of my rope—the end of everything—what can I do? “Just wait a minute, Daddy!” She ran up to her room, and brought down a birthday present from many years ago—her piggy bank. She unlocked it and emptied its contents on the table. Methodically she counted every bill, and every coin. $16.87! She had always been a thrifty little Scotch lassie. She shoved it all toward me. She insisted that I take it all—every penny! “Go to Syracuse, Daddy, and God be with you.
“I went to Syracuse. God was with me, and a little girl’s prayers guided me. Subtended herewith is a photocopy of some of the ‘instant’ results, or dividends, which accrued from this investment made by my junior partner.”
Let’s stop there. My father’s intentions were good. But the storyline? Patently false. I remember no such conversations. I have a slipshod memory; true enough. But about this, more than five decades ago? Assuredly false. True, I have vague memories of riding with him on the occasional trip to Rochester or Syracuse when I was a kid. For all I know he spilled his dreams while I stared out the window. But frank discussions? Ahhhh….
The Last Will and Testament thus far: not what happened. No piggy bank that I recall. This sales trip presumably happened in 1966, the year I graduated from high school. By then those occasional trips would have been a thing of the ever-receding past; by high-school more worrisome things had taken over my life and my mind. Meanwhile I’d variously worked summers since I was 15 as a chambermaid in a motel, a hot-walker at a racetrack, and a bench-worker in an electronics plant making circuit boards for televisions, radios—and for all I know, computer motherboards. I had a bank account. I was thrifty because it was what I’d learned to do.
Sure, I gave him whatever I had on hand. He was my dad. But I didn’t count every bill, every coin. If he says it was sixteen and change, maybe it was. But neither did I say “Go to Syracuse, Daddy, and God be with you.” Like I said, my memory is nothing to write home about, but—no. That’s just not what happened.
Meanwhile…well, let’s not go into my state of mind back then; I might touch on it later. Still, having inadvertently opened that can of worms let me say that I don’t think I prayed much anymore; I was the youngest child and for the three of us left in that rambling old house, life was a little too harsh for prayer. Let alone conversation.
Yet that cache of letters I found? Go back two-plus decades to the early ’40s and those letters revealed an entirely different man. A man who had reason to dream.
So now I’m thinking the dad I knew in the ’50s and beyond was deeply depressed. Had to be. Which is plenty enough for now. Oh—except for this: now I understand my father’s undying conviction that Nixon would go down in history as the greatest president ever. With which I shall close. I’m hungry; it’s nearly suppertime—it’s time.