Maybe you read my post of January 8 re: my father’s Last Will and Testament—the document tucked away among a cache of letters I’d stumbled across in my attic. Here’s the gist of what I said: finding that cache blew me away, because the father I met wasn’t the one I knew.
It’s not like I lacked for memories. But good grief—the man was born in 1892. Not that I’m any spring chicken now, but still, it was like growing up with a grandpa. As for older parents generally? Other than the occasional genetic mishap (btw, men churn out vastly more sex cells than women do—cells whose DNA have the potential to mutate), no, I don’t have anything against the older-dad thing; after all, some older dads are more stable.
Mine was not.
As a child I naturally lacked a suitable appreciation for certain… ahhhh. How to say? For certain eccentricities; is that the right word? Misplaced assumptions? Embroidered versions of reality? Fabrications? Downright lies?
Truth, lies, or fabrication?
OK, not lies. But while I don’t believe that my father lied, he assuredly made stuff up. Fabricated reality to fit his worldview. And don’t we all? Some of us are just luckier than others; have neurons more attuned to reality-checks or giving others the benefit of the doubt or forgiveness or mercy; whatever it takes to heal wounds, be they personal or political or anything else. That he was a clergyman? It’s not like being a minister gives you a green card for mental health.
So. Let’s review. I noted that for years (or so he said) he’d been in the habit of talking with his youngest child—that youngest child being me. OK, I’m totally clueless as to why somehow I ended up as his favorite child. And I have no memory of these conversations. Honestly, I hardly knew the man.
So. That Last Will and Testament. He had written: 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.” Fabrication, pure and simple.
I’d found other letters from roughly the same era; letters my father wrote to one of his older sons of an earlier marriage, one of which accused my mother of having “de-Christianized” his children. Uh…really? (Sure, maybe one of us eventually let go of religion, but our mom had nothing to do with it.) So… the love my mom and dad once shared—those love letters were scattered through the cache too—went south in a big way by the time I was, what, six years old? Maybe someday I’ll spill those beans because they were scary bad, but not now or anytime soon.
Last Will and Testament, continued
Now back to that will: I’ve not up-cased “will” because—well, just because. Testament? He left nothing of tangible value, true. But by the definition of testament as a statement of fact or worth, well, in that sense it was, sort of. He continued:
“But more significant are the long-term results and dividends, not only financial, but sociological and ecological, as a means of combatting pollution, and conserving natural resources, and protecting the environment essential to the survival of the human species. As this is being written, in September 1972, dramatic new developments are taking place. New partners are unexpectedly appearing, and volunteering their services. And the Unseen Partner whose presence has always been near; whose ‘still, small voice’ speaks in the silence of the night, to all who are willing to listen, explaining mysteries that human wisdom is unable to solve; and whose strong hand, if we will grasp it, will keep us from falling, will guide us through every crisis, and bring us at last to a new promised land.”
OK, I’m coming up for air. Skipping to the last page. Man, he had but known—but hold that thought. He continues “I have been the inventor of a number of devices and processes, already mentioned,which have proved to be of considerable value, financially, as well as sociologically and ecologically. However, due mainly to the fact that I was “put through the ringer” by a Wall Street wizard whom I trusted, I am today without property or income, except for a monthly social security check, and for public assistance in the far of “food coupons” for which I am deeply grateful.
“Needless to day, the experience of seeing one’s life work, devoted to the public service, end in financial disaster, has been a bitter one. And yet, in this very experience I have learned something with fills me with incredulous astonishment and wonder. It was in the very hour and place of my bitterest humiliation that I found the Key Persons who are in the strategic position to adopt and sponsor our Project for Urban Climate Conditioning which is the vital first step toward averting the catastrophe which now threatens the well-being, and in fact the very existence of an entire generation of little children.
“‘God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform!’ Thank you, dear Lord! And thank you, all you wonderful partners, who have lent a helping hand, and a guiding word, and an encouraging smile, and a lift when all seemed lost!”
And that’s pretty much it as far as my dad’s testament is concerned. Of course, this just scratches the surface. Four paragraphs back I wrote …if he had but known—but hold that thought. Well, I’m not gonna take up that thread right away. It must wait for another day. Which is where—abruptly—I will leave this post. Except to append this one last photo. The date doesn’t match that trip to Syracuse that I emptied my so-called piggy bank to fund, but no matter. Where did the money go? My mother might have wished she knew.