Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dad Diaries: #4

About once a day, I forget my dad has died. I will think "Oh, I've got to tell Daddy..." and then it hits. Again. The pain of the loss is more a familiar feeling, but not a friend. Will it ever be, as some say? I don't know.

Most of my father's eight brothers and sisters passed before him. He was the middle child, but fared better economically than most of them and therefore lived a lot longer. I have 65 first cousins on my father's side - those Irish are a prolific lot. We didn't visit Pittsburgh, where my father was born and reared, very often, but when we did it was a blast!

From the time I was 10 until about 24, we had a Cessna 182 (1950's taildragger) airplane. We flew from Colorado to Pennsylvania a couple of times when I was in junior high (that's what middle school was back in The Day). Daddy would give airplane rides to all the cousins, which meant my mother, sister and I 'got to' stay at the po-dunk airport for hours, Oh Joy. Luckily, that also meant the aunts and uncles were also at said po-dunk airport, along with their 9, 10 or 11 kids, so it's not like we were lacking for playmates. My dad would do touch and go's, zip around and fly over their houses, and come back down to pick up 4 more kids. After hours, he started insisting he was seeing the same kids again and again. The cousin would insist, "Nah, that was Gerry, Eric and Marty you took last time, not us!"

Then we'd decamp to one of the Aunt's houses for dinner. There would be piles upon mounds of food. Four chickens would come sailing out of the oven. The piles of spuds were astonishing. Loaves of bread and quarters of butter would disappear, but not the pitchers of milk; every aunt had the same rule: The first kid who poured a glass of milk had to pour for the entire table, including high chairs and hangers on! Before the meal had progressed too far, the uncle would stand up and count and say "Ok, ok, ok; YOU - you're not mine and I've already fed you twice this week - OUTTA HERE! - ok, ok, ok, ok, Um - Oh, you're ok (me and my sister), Ok, OK!" The kid he had dismissed would go "AW!" but leave the table, and reappear for dessert later.

It was exhausting and exciting being around the swarm. There was an insistence on manners and some quiet (ha!) at the dinner table, but otherwise, it was total chaos. And my sister and I loved the few times we got to go visit all those cousins. Later, I got to go spend summers in Pittsburgh.

But, that's another story...

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