One of Island Boy’s Pre-K teachers told me that Grandparents’ Day is being celebrated in October this year. I told her that IB would not have anyone attending.
My in-laws live downstate and don’t travel much anymore. My parents are both deceased.
My parents were exceptional human beings. I know that there is a tendency to exaggerate about how wonderful people were after they have died. In this case, however, we do not exaggerate.
To capture the essence of my father we like to quote Jane Austen: “He was the kindest and best of men.” I don’t remember him ever saying an unkind word about anyone. My father quickly, quietly and rightfully earned the respect of anyone who knew him. For this reason, we gave Island Boy my father’s first name.
My father was one of the smartest people I have ever known.
Pop was a collector of decorative owls (the mascot of his alma mater, Rice University). IB has these owls displayed in his bedroom.
He was a rare person who never made anyone feel that they were less intelligent than he was. I adored that about him.
If you didn’t know my father well, you may have thought him stern and reserved. He was certainly reserved and always in control. He rarely lost his temper. In fact, I only remember him losing his temper with me once. I absolutely deserved his anger as I was being incredibly disrespectful to my mother.
Stern? He was when he needed to be. He could stop me or my sister with “the look”. We laugh now when we think about receiving “the look” as children. We would be at a party and be totally enamored of the food. Reaching for one too many treats and we’d be greeted with “the look”. We would freeze, mid-grab, and slooooowly retreat away from the food. I don’t think either of us found out what was on the other side of “the look”. I am thankful for that.
On the other hand, when he was pleased with something you did, his smile made you feel like a million bucks. I will never be able to accurately describe how his praise made me feel.
His sense of humor was brilliant. He could tell a tale that would leave your sides aching. In turn, he appreciated a good story.
My father’s professional life was in academics. At his retirement, someone commented that no one ever ran meetings as successfully as my father did. If he called a 45 minute meeting, he held a 45 minute meeting. His meetings never went over their allotted time. He listened carefully to people. He moved them along without making them feel rushed. Everyone left feeling they had accomplished something, went away knowing what needed to be done next or thinking about a some new aspect of an issue.
My dad played the guitar. I won’t say he was gifted, whatever that means, however he worked diligently to learn to play the guitar. When I was growing up, he played every day when he got home from work. He enjoyed playing folk music, blues, some rock, country (from singer songwriters, not just “country music”) and bluegrass. He had a great voice too.
My dad was handsome, distinguished and physically fit. At his wake, his co-workers clambered to see photos of my dad in jeans. “Dr. Marshall in jeans?”, the ladies squealed. The Major has said he thinks about the way he dresses with my dad in mind, even for a simple trip to Target. The physically fit part? In his life, he played tennis, racket ball and worked out at the gym. Yes, my dad was a runner.
My dad and my mom were exceptional together. No if, ands or buts about it. I can honestly say that I never heard them argue once. It was very special to see them steal a kiss, holding hands or come upon them dancing in the kitchen. I don’t mean it was a rare event to see those displays of affection. I just mean it was special.
My mother said the secret to their marriage was that they always considered the other person’s feelings first. I have to work to remember that.
My mother was a people person. She could talk to anyone. She would talk to anyone. She loved talking with anyone.
The Major liked to say that my mother brought the game “Six Degrees of Separation” to a new level. She was always looking to bring people together in the world. She was brilliant at it.
My mother was a middle school art teacher. It takes a special kind of person to be a middle school teacher. All of her students loved her. She had a special affinity with the ESL kids. Again, the Six Degrees of Separation. She longed to learn about and connect with everyone.
My mom knew every person in her school. Every faculty member, staff member, support staff and worker in the building. She knew about their lives, their families and what was important to them. She proudly introduced us to everyone in her building when we visited her. Of course we heard about how special mom was.
My mother was thoughtful and kind. She would go miles out of her way for someone. She would pick up little things for people that reminded her of them. In return, when I lived in Manhattan and even Queens, I was expected to travel up to Zabars to get several bottles of Olive Oil for her.
The bruises I would find from the bottles banging against my legs. Ouch!
Let me tell you, it was no picnic to carry those heavy bottles on the NJ Transit for her, along with whatever I was bringing home. I would do it without complaint (don’t smart mouth me, Major, sir) because I knew she would do the same thing for me without hesitation.
My mother was a true gourmet cook. She and some friends put together a monthly Gourmet Group together back in the early 70’s. As a result, I grew up with an appreciation for good food. Fresh baked bread was a staple in our house. To this day, I can’t seem to let go of her cookbooks.
Anytime I had a problem or a concern, I could always call on my parents. Between the two of them, I would get phenomenal advice. The clear cut, rational advice from my dad combined with the heartfelt, personal slant from my mom.
I miss my parents a great deal. They had many health issues at the end of their lives. They never complained. They both died too young. I do not dwell on those facts. They had a life that most people only dream of. They were the happiest and most positive people I have ever met. I try to follow their example every day of my life.
I wish they had the opportunity to meet Island Boy. They weren’t the type of grandparents who would have made a special trip for Grandparent’s Day. In fact, my father would have rolled his eyes at the very notion of Grandparent’s Day. They were, however, the type who would have been so much more to their newest grandson. They were the type that their grandson could look up to and try to emulate.
I hope that Island Boy will learn many of the lessons that my parents taught me over the years.