The other night, Marc mentioned that he has no real memories of bedtime routines from when he was a child. He then asked me if I had any and it started a cascade of memories of my late father that have refused to stop.
Probably some of the most vivid memories that I have of my dad are those having to do with the hours of darkness. I wonder if any of it had to do with the fact that he was legally blind? Geoff, as he had me call him, loved the cool evenings on the African Highveld. When you live just south of the Tropic of Capricorn, at 6,000ft, well away from the moderating effects of the ocean, the days are hot and the nights cool.
Geoff was a Celt, through and through. His blindingly white, freckled skin, pale blue eyes and shock of red hair made him particularly unsuited for the harsh African sun. You could see him wilt in the heat and come alive at night. My mother, on the other hand, loves the heat and the sun and goes to sleep pretty soon after the sun goes down.
As a child, I suffered from dreadful insomnia. I don't think I had more than 4-5 hours sleep a night before I was well into my teens. Each night, my mother would insist on an early bedtime. I'd go to bed and read, using a flashlight, until Geoff would give me the all clear. The all clear being that my mother was asleep.
Then he and I would take long walks where we would solve the ills of the world. Geoff was a dreamer, he let his imagination soar. In a different time and place, I have no doubt that he would have made a lasting mark on the world. Instead, he comforted himself with his Rube Goldberg contraptions and abiding love of his children.
This cascade of memories that has flooded my mind has made me realize something for the first time. The mother I am today is in large part as a result of the father Geoff was to me. He taught me that a good parent always has time for his/her children. That young children deserve to be taken seriously. That you should listen to their opinions, stories and questions and treat them with dignity.
He taught me that you can never give your children enough touch. For years my father gave me a daily neck or foot massage. I had forgotten all about it and now I realize that I do exactly the same for my kids. One of the first things I do when they are upset or out of sorts is to give them a massage. How like Geoff I am turning out to be. I remember all those teenaged years of angst when my father would massage my feet while he encouraged me to talk through my problems.
I miss him so much today that it hurts. He was very ill during his last years and when I said goodbye to him in February 2000, I knew that there was a chance that I would never see him again. Unfortunately this was what happened. I was hoping that he could visit us in the October, but instead, his health deteriorated so badly that he died instead in the October.
I called him as soon as I knew I was pregnant. I must have been 10 days along. His words were, "Now I can die. This is what I was waiting for.". Six weeks later, he was dead, but not before going to the store and buying two stuffed toys for my babies. When my sister questioned him about the toys, he told her I was having twins. The twin pregnancy was confirmed a few days after his death.
Ben and Shira will never get to meet grandpa Geoff, but they are lucky to have Marc's father Stanley and my stepdad, Ron, both incredible grandfathers.
As I look at Ben sitting between Marc and me, I wonder what lessons he'll take away from Marc's fathering. Ben and Shira, like me, are lucky to have a wonderful father. Thank you Marc for giving our children the best of fathers.
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