I’ve written about my dad and my family growing up many times on this blog.

About his story as a first generation immigrant raised in the blue-collar community of Paterson, NJ. In the mist of the Passaic Falls that drew his parents from Ozorkova, Poland to work in the silk mills there.

So much time has passed since his death that the melancholy of loss has become more pensive, more useful and inchoate at the same time.

I’ve turned the ache into thought, longing into something that I can hold onto and pull out as needed.

This morning with his image in my mind, I’m thinking about how our lives are shaped and powered by composite memories of people and events even as they change and crystalize over time.

My memory of my dad is so transfixed by the passage of years. So nuanced by a lifetime of my own experiences that have transpired since we laid him to rest.

It is less about a litany of learnings than one image that I see when I close my eyes.

It’s become clear to me as I get older that memory is not about the past, it is what we carry forth into the present as character and strength from what we’ve learned.

Being old by definition is spending your days looking back as the best part of the present. Being alive is longing for the new, taking what we’ve experienced as pieces of ourselves to pave a new future.

When I think of my dad, the picture at the top of the post captures it for me.

Me, probably seven or eight years old, him in his late twenties at the time.

Snuggling into him on a family vacation to the Thousand Islands.

Me, the precocious middle child grabbing a moment of ownership and connection from my always busy, ever attentive, forever teaching father.

It feels like a lifetime ago.

Loss though is not what I iconize about my dad.

It’s more a hyperlink to a place in time. A wrinkle that you can crawl into as needed and peel back parts to feed what is ailing you. I stare at this picture often, a scan of an actual Polaroid that my mom took and noted the place and time on the back in pencil.

It makes me think about how lucky I was to be brought up in a family that truly cared, that made sacrifice normal, that worked like crazy, that did everything they could for each of us.

This is a pictogram of love. Of safety. Of security. And of thanks.

This is the good stuff of life, these memories as fuel for the future.

They become more rounded at the edges over time, more framed images than motion pictures with a plot. But still, a narrative that belongs to me alone.

This is a composite of memory.

Of want and need. Something that I deem sacrosanct that holds me tight. And gives me strength.

I feel lucky.

He was a really good man and a great father.  I don’t miss him as much as I try to be as good a person as he was.

In retrospect, life is as we craft it in our thoughts.

Can you hold 50 years in a snapshot of something that feels out of body even if the body was your own?

A lifetime of experiences, reflections, and uncertainties in this framed view of where you came from and where you are going?


Happy Father’s Day to all.