Time passages

September 6 is the 5th anniversary of my dad’s death.

Me, my dad, and Grandma Meis at my high school graduation party.

Me, my dad, and Grandma Meis at my high school graduation party.

When I asked my brother if we should do anything to commemorate it, he said, “Well, you can if you want, but most people do that on the person’s birthday; not the day they die.”

But I don’t care. I think paying tribute to  a loved one is important, whether it’s on the day they were born, or the day they died, or the day they entered sainthood.  It’s all relative.

I never knew my dad. I knew him, but I didn’t really know him.  He was Dad; the man of the house, the tall guy who went to work, who taught me how to drive, and gave me cash when I needed it. But now I know he was so much more.

There are some things I knew about my dad. Everything else I’m learning as I copy his life story onto the computer, a project I started about a month ago.

My dad was everybody’s friend. Well, I’m sure he had a few enemies, but none that I knew of.

He was generous to a fault.  He gave what he could, because for a long time, he couldn’t. My mom is still getting letters from different charities asking him to contribute. If he were here, he would.

My dad was an actor. His was active in the community theater and had parts in “South Pacific” and “Guys and Dolls,” as well as other productions.

He was on TV, too, becoming the face of Weinbrenner-Drusike Ford in the ’70s, and had bit parts on “Tell it to the Judge,” a local TV show.

My dad was a writer, a wonderful writer.  I only read a few things he wrote, but he never shared his story, until now.

Another sound recorded on my relatively unblemished memory was the old Jewish junk man who made frequent trips down our alley with his horse and wagon in the summertime. His horse wore an old hat with holes cut out for its ears.

Long before I could hear the creak of groaning wheels and soft clomp-clump of hooves in soft alley ashes, the warm summer air carried to me Mr. Golad’s sad, low litany of monotony: “Rags? Old rags,” Old Golad intoned. “Rags…old rags…” And I waited for the magnificent parade to lurch slowly past our place.

Sometimes the trio paused-horse, wagon, and Mr. Golad-and I could see both horse and human were in state of semi-siesta. The junk man comfortable in the shade of the umbrella, horse content to occasionally startle a fly with that fantastic control of its skin muscles, until the old man clucked gently and the wagon creaked along down the alley toward 16th Street,  until the warm summer air covered up his unforgettable song:

“Rags.  Rags? Old raaa-a-a-a-ags.”

I would listen for a long time before it would evaporate into silence. Or perhaps it would simply blend with the burr of a bee and my attention would turn to this busy bug invading some unsuspecting blossom.                                                  

                                                                                                —Thomas P. Meis

My dad lived his life to the fullest, and when he died, he left a hole in a lot of hearts.

I just wish I would have realized sooner that he was more than just “Dad.”

But at least I have the opportunity to learn the rest of the story.