Some Time to Reflect: Putting the Tub on Hold

Today my family is closing a chapter of an incredible story: my dad’s life.  I know a lot – the polio, the streetcars, family life in the 1940s, growing up the oldest of 11, the Polish/German boy going to my Italian great-grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner with his “girlfriend” that first time – and now I’ll never know more.

The ugliness of Lewy-Body Dementia had been taking its toll on my father for three years, with a precipitous impact this summer. He played 9 holes of golf with my husband on July 11, 2011 … and today he was called Home.

Growing up, my dad was supposed to become a priest, because that’s what the first born did back in the day. Then he met my mom. He was supposed to go into the family business: running my grandfather’s bakery. Because THAT is what you did when you didn’t enter the church. But my dad’s destiny was to share a love of learning and books. His passion was teaching and mentoring and nurturing.

My dad was many things – educator, corporate executive, administrator, among others – but first and foremost he was a bookworm. He L-O-V-E-D history, especially European and colonial American history. He was writing a book about how to use literature and primary sources to teach history. He was rereading the novels of his youth to show how culture and beliefs affect literature and to “place” them in the context of their time.

When I took his AP European History class in high school, we listened to music and looked at art. We read original sources and correspondence. We didn’t memorize dates. We didn’t have reading logs.

After my parents moved to Charlottesville in 2006, my dad asked if he could review books for the Reading Tub. He wanted to see what kids today are reading and practice his writing. Why? Because that’s what readers do. Yes, he tired of the Harry-Potter-wannabes, but he reveled in some of the “really great stuff” he was seeing. I can’t count how many times he said “boy, I wish I would have had a book like that when I was teaching.”

Even when he could no longer review, he kept reading. He’d see an interview on News Hour and ask Mom to put the title on his list. He is my personification of Thomas Jefferson’s quote: “I cannot live without books.”

I miss him, but I know what he’s doing … strolling the stacks of Heaven’s library, looking for Great Books and people to talk with about them.

I need some time to deal with the harsh realities of not being able to talk with Dad, to see his smile, to hear him say cina-min-a-min and make Catherine laugh. I don’t know when I’ll be back. I hope you can understand.

12 responses to “Some Time to Reflect: Putting the Tub on Hold

  1. What a wonderful tribute to an amazing man Terry. It sounds like he lived an incredible life every day of his life and has inspired you to be a force for good in this world. A life well lived certainly.

    Sending you and your family many many hugs and prayers. Much love xoxo

    1. Thanks Danielle, we think he’s pretty special, too!! Mom and I went out to the house to grab some stuff yesterday. As I looked around, I saw Dad everywhere. He had one book with an index card for a bookmark sitting on the end-table in the living room and one upstairs in his office. His eyes sparkled and his energy revved when he got to talking about the things he was learning or just the fun of reading a good writer. We just never know when ours is the final chapter. Okay, enough of this book analogy stuff … He was a super cool guy!

  2. Terry, I have read and hung onto every word I have seen about your father. My, oh my…I am so sorry I never met him but know I will continue to “meet him” through you. Losing a parent is awful indeed, no other way to say it. When I lost my mother rather suddenly to ovarian cancer ten years ago I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach and I savor over and over that last Sunday I was in her home visiting, giving her another book with a character named “Ruby” in it. And oh, how I wish she could see her grandchild Mary-Margaret in the role of “Mother” as it is clear M-M picked up so much from my mom. Please know how much I am thinking about you and don’t ever, ever hesitate to pick up the phone and call me on my cell or at the office, I have a good ear; I am here for you. I send love and hugs to your mom, your daughter and Bill as well as others in your family and your close circle. Take all the time you need, you will be glad you took time to reflect, to help your daughter and your mom and above all to help yourself.

    1. Thank you my friend! I will most definitely take you up on the offer to call … and if you’re heading over to the mountains, I definitely want to do lunch. Bill made the observation tonight that Dad and his Mom are comparing notes with each other … and that his Mom is asking Dad to tell her about her grand-daughter! That is a very special bond, and Mary-Margaret is so lucky to have you to share those stories and how much she is like her grandmother.

  3. Terry, it sounds like he was a wonderful man, and I’m jealous of all of his students. Thoughts are with you and yours. *hugs*

    1. Thanks Jackie. He was the best kind of teacher. Catherine and I were talking this evening and I told her Papa was writing a book, but that he didn’t finish it. “I’ll finish it for him.” Oh, how I hope that could come true!

    1. Thanks Susan. His was an amazing journey and I am so glad to carry his book genes!! When we were at the house yesterday I “found” several books laying around that had bookmarks in them … to the end, a reader.

  4. Terry, your father was my prinicpal at CCHS and what a great man he was! When i kept getting kicked out of religion class for tormenting my teacher, he asked me what I wanted to do with my life………i said “be a lawyer”……….he asked: “do you know any”……..what evolved was me spending time with attny who was my neighbor rather than class……….turned out i didn’t want to be a lawyer. When I was a senior he made it possible for us to have both a homecoming parade and go on a senior class trip to a state park for two nights. I gave him info and proposal and he allowed it to take place both times. (God bless him for having to handle to Fort Gay incident) I remember him hiking and bird watching during our senior trip.
    He was a great man, intelligent and patient and such a teacher. I was, ironically, thinking of him just Sat. as I drove home to SC from WV.
    Mary Sherman Wall

    1. Oh, Mary! I had forgotten about those senior trips. He LOVED spending time with y’all. He had a way of helping us see ourselves in ways that we couldn’t ignore but that seemed more acceptable somehow. Thank you SO MUCH for stopping by! Dad passed @ 11:28 AM if you remember where you were!

      1. Terry, I am sure I was around the WV/VA border among the glorious mountains where I think alot about great things in life. I am one headstrong person who he deeply impacted!!! I remember european history with him (which I now wish I had paid more attention to and embrace such education today, likely because of his passion for teaching/learning). I remember him with such fondness, and still, I also so love my dad who, too, is so patient and, as I have grown, so open to sharing of himself and listening. As I said before, what a GREAT man, what a GREAT teacher. I will always keep my lessons from him in my spirit, along with about only 5 other teachers! Sorry for your loss, happy for what gifts you got in his living!!!
        Mary Sherman Wall

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