|Four Generations (L to R: Alicia, Dad Harmony, Me, Alannah and Mario Photo-bombing)|
When I think of my Dad, Jack Ryan, my mind is a flurry of information and feelings, a blizzard of emotion and memory. Boston, cameras, books, Tracy, Mom, table tennis, church, Deacon, patios, gardens, bar-b-ques, and books. Lots and lots of books.
I grew up in a house with so many books, I considered it a library. My parents’ house had every room decorated with books; each had its thematic index: the family room’s classics, the living room’s encyclopedias and Holy Books, our bedrooms, with Childcrafts and Scholastic book selections, and then antique bookshelves throughout the house, with several hard cover books with spines in varied states of breakage. My Dad loved the Harvard classics, even though he went to Boston College. Every night, my Dad and Mom would be reading in bed (like Mr. and Mrs. Brady) when we came in to their room to say goodnight. Dad started reading and collecting books when he was a child, and he passed this love onto me. I remember borrowing a copy of James Joyce’s Dubliners and reading it with a flashlight under my covers. Once Dad noticed me borrowing, he started recommending books I should read. We still exchange opinions and reviews about recent favorites.
He grew up in Boston, in the historic section of Pill Hill, near Brookline. An only child, Dad loved reading, writing and taking pictures with his Brownie camera. Dad’s father died when he was young, so when he graduated from BC and moved to California, he brought his mother—my Nana, with him to Tracy. Dad’s stories of moving to Tracy—he took a job working at DVI, a prison in our small town—unfold like a disappointing movie. At the center of the San Joaquin valley, Tracy was (in Dad’s quick synopsis) “a cow-town” where he faced a sentence of boredom he hadn’t expected. A devout Catholic, he started going to church at St. Bernard’s, and met my Mom at a YCW meeting. His boredom suddenly ended—sparks flew immediately—and the rest is proverbial history.
|Dad and Mom Wedding|
Dad grew to love Tracy. I was the second of five children, born in seven years, and we attended the same church they met and married in. Dad and Mom were faithful in every way to bring us up responsibly and with a routine. In my young-adult years, I developed a rebellious streak, and Dad’s patience in the process of Fatherhood was tested often. Many times, we’d disagree so much that I questioned if he really understood me, or loved me. When I married and became (gasp) a Born-Again Christian, Dad openly wondered why my Catholic roots weren't strong enough to keep me grounded in the “faith of my fathers”. Mario and I had children, and Dad became a Grandfather like the one I had—a gentle man with time and coins and jokes.
All of these memories are part of the flurry in my head—all of them make room for new experiences and new memories that we still build together. Each day we have together is a gift.
|Part of our family|
When someone asks me when I started writing, I tell them that reading and writing have always been a big part of my life, and my Dad has always influenced that part of me. He and Mom are the first readers of articles, stories, and even my homeless novel. The spiritual books Dad recommends encourage my spirits, as we share a common Christian faith together.
Today is my Dad’s 85th birthday. To celebrate, he decided to go to Germany with my mother, a trip they didn’t tell us about until the last minute. Maybe Dad thought I might object because of his health, or maybe I’d object because of his age…or object because I am his daughter who loves him and doesn’t want him to be too far away. Especially on his birthday.
But…since he loved me enough to let me go on so many occasions, I need to love him enough to let him go to Germany. Besides, I don’t have any choice. He would have gone with Mom, even if I forbid them to go.
Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you for so many reasons, a flurry of reasons that swirl in my heart like snow in a globe. If you’re reading this today, know that we love you and miss you. If you read this when you get back…WHAT THE HECK, DAD! Germany? Are you kidding me?