It’s Father’s Day today so I’m thinking of mine. I’ve spent more than half of my life without him. It never gets easier, especially knowing that there are important people in my life who never got to know him: One of my cousins, most of my friends, my husband and his family, my son, my daughter…
The hugs they missed, the laughter…It hurts, but it does make me cling to my own memories of him and be glad I have them.
.Jeremy Lyle Brown. Jerry. Daddy. My dad. Photos of him often show someone sitting apart from the rest, a shy smile on his lips (or a big smile, usually when he was at the beach or with family or friends). He was naturally introverted, but friendly. My mom told me once that he was one of those special beings who had a way of making you feel that you were the most important person in the room when he spoke to you. Knowing him the way I did, I can understand that. My dad loved people and was genuinely interested in getting to know people, all types of people.
He was infinitely creative and funny. Neighbors remember hearing the furious click click clicking of his typewriter through the open kitchen window. He encouraged me to write stories. Our combined masterpiece, which I drew and he wrote based upon my dictation, was called The Two Little Seawaters, a tale of two underwater creatures who swam around and played with their friend Fifi (a bird).
Sandcastles at the beach were his specialty. A cardboard box, after serving its purpose, was often transformed into something else: a boat, a house, but I think his favorite thing to make were castles, which my dad (in true Jerry Brown form) dubbed “Destinies.” I loved these cardboard castles. They were so interesting, they were so him.
My dad was a master of the art of the birthday party. When I was little, he would put on puppet shows in the backyard with a stage he created and the collection of hand carved puppets that my grandfather had accumulated for him when he was a boy. When I grew older, he upped the ante. The most memorable party was the mystery party. My dad loved a good detective story (Raymond Chandler, Twin Peaks, etc.). Clue and 221 B Baker Street were two of our favorite board games to play together. So, for one of my parties, my dad got into character and dressed up as the senior detective in hat, tie, and shades. Mom played “Madame X,” the beautiful woman with a secret, and my grandma (who lived with us at the time) was the rich, dowager duchess whose jewels were stolen. He split us junior detectives into two teams, provided detailed dossiers, enlisted neighbors as informants, and let us loose on a mad hunt for clues throughout the neighborhood. I can say, without hesitation, that my birthday parties were the best. I think my childhood friends would agree.
I never thought of asking for anything physical that belonged to my dad. I have a few shirts of his that I do treasure and wear when I want comfort, but some have holes in them now; they won’t last forever. The ink on my memories of him may be fading, may be full of holes too, but I won’t let them disintegrate like those shirts. Writing this helps, I know it does. I’ve been to his grave a couple times, but I have never felt the need to go. I think of my dad in terms of castles made out of cardboard, bedtime stories where all of the characters had a voice, of wry grins, and belly laughs. He is not, and will never be, a marker and some grass in a quiet field.
This post is rambling; there is too much to say. So I’ll end it here. I wish we had had more time together, but I’m thankful for the 11 years of love, laughter, and cardboard castles…