He was sitting at the next table during this year's "eating out" Thanksgiving dinner. A younger version of my dad's face with his distinct hairline, worry lines dividing his bushy eyebrows and creasing his forehead.
Hoping my glances wouldn't be noted for their frequency or rudeness, I double, triple, quadruple checked whether it was Dad reincarnated, a distant relation perhaps or just an uncanny resemblance. They say we each have a twin. This twin took a serious interest in his meal just like my father.
The next morning, I'm damning my reticent nature that kept me from approaching Daddy reincarnated with a simple "are we related?" A brief, we're just on our way out the door, interruption to his table conversation wouldn't have been too rude. But, no. I walked right past. Now I'll never know. Despite the missed opportunity, I am thankful for the triggered memories.
I miss the steady reassurance of seeing Dad every day, sitting in his favorite spot at our kitchen table. He made that table for our large family from two oak doors glued and bolted together in the center, the outside edge formed to a perfect round on the jig and later wrapped in a modern Formica pattern.
Daddy's spot, his personal version of being "in a state of eternal dibs" predates Sheldon Cooper.
His line of sight, from this seat, included the front and back door (an arguably perfect feng shui alignment), and with a slight turn toward the back window he could track the neighborhood activity of which there was plenty. And all the while, sipping his Meister Brau and watching Mom's supper preparation in her modern 60's kitchen. Daddy's spot, his personal version of being "in a state of eternal dibs" predates Sheldon Cooper.
In summer, Dad's favorite spot shifted to the breezeway just outside the back door. Although he couldn't see supper cooking on the stovetop, his ample belly growled with anticipation for the meat, potatoes, and vegetable aromas escaping the screen door.
Whatever the season, Sunday nights' Lawrence Welk champagne bubble hour necessitated a change in the seating arrangement to be nearer the console TV. Welk's direction of the big band always started with his ostensibly two-syllable count off of "and a one-a and a two-a", signaling one of us four sisters to hop onto Daddy's white stockinged feet for a slippery spin across the polished hardwood floors. He smiles and holds our tiny wrists and then, at song's end, gently balances a ballroom-like dip with a kiss on the cheek. Ahh.
Dad was a funny and hard-working everyman type of guy. Grandma's tribute to her second son's appetite for food and life are summed up in this excerpt from her poem entitled "Eleven Roses".
"My second love is Merrill. The funniest kid from head to toe. We often call him Mighty Moe. Charlie calls him eat-a-more, 'cuz he ate up half of Gaffner's store."
Raising a brood of 5 kids on a truck driver's wages was no easy task but in the 60's, anything seemed possible. An excellent father who subtly taught my siblings and me numerous life lessons.
He'd miss sitting at the big round table with his beer glass full, but it would be worth it.
One year, with Christmas fast approaching, our household funds were running low. Dad and Mom decided there was only one way to keep Christmas as the memorable gift-giving ritual we'd always enjoyed. He would moonlight for extra cash by driving semi a few nights a week after his day shift. He found an opportunity with a gravel company in a nearby town. He'd miss sitting at the big round table with his beer glass full, but it would be worth it.
Unfortunately for Dad, after several weeks of this extra work he experienced his first truck driving accident. There were no injuries, thankfully. However, the accident was serious enough to make the evening news. He had sacrificed time at home and his perfect driving record, but boy what a Christmas we had that year. To save costs on the trimmings, Mom put our names on each of five large, thick red plastic bags filled to the brim with gifts. It was the best Christmas ever.
Missing Dad's steady presence will not end, but it was a joy to "see" him, appetite still fully engaged, sitting at the next table. Cheers, Dad.
How has it felt for you when you think you've seen a loved one reincarnated or sharing a strong resemblance? Do you find it disturbing or reassuring? Feel free to comment below.
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