The old stressed Magnolia outside my window is blooming profusely this summer, which is not a good sign. Sensing its days are numbered, the Magnolia is reproducing many seeds, in hope that some will land on fertile ground. I often wonder how old the Magnolia is. Was it planted back in 1928, when the home’s first owners moved into what is now Mesta Park? If so, my tree would be close to Daddy’s age.
I’ve an interest in knowing more about Daddy’s early days as well. But he has no interest in me knowing. This Saturday and last, I invited Dad to confirm bits and pieces of his childhood told to me by his sister, my Aunt Carol. He ignores me. But later, when I wonder aloud a simple question about the actors on an old Andy Griffith show we are watching together, he has no trouble getting his point across. Only the trivial is worthy of a response.
So Daddy’s past appears irrevocably closed. I will not attempt to cross back to the land of his childhood again. But today, I learned that even our shared past is full of unknowns, because my point of view is different than Daddy’s. This lesson was brought home by thumbing through a travel journal I made Daddy seven years ago, on the occasion of his seventy-second birthday.
The journal records memories of a vacation we took eleven years ago — Daddy, Christi, Don and I– when we stayed seven days in Ireland and three days each in London and Paris. I kept a contemporaeous journal of our travels and I think it was Christi who put the bug in my ear that Daddy might enjoy a copy of my memories for himself. So it was Daddy’s copy of the travel journal I picked up this afternoon, in an effort to share memories with Daddy, even while Daddy was off on his own travels in the land of nod.
At the end of my words on Paris, I was surprised to run across an entry in Daddy’s own handwriting, that seven years ago, was still strong and legible, rather the faint hieroglyphics it has become today. Daddy’s memories of Paris were different than mine, he wrote, probably because he was older than me. For one, Daddy loved seeing the bird’s eye view of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, as we circled the city in the air on our arrival into Paris. And he also expressed thanks that Don was willing to climb 160 feet of stairs to the top of the Arc de Triumph, for he didn’t think he would ever forget seeing eleven roads converge into one. Simple things became unforgettable for Daddy.
And though not simple himself, Daddy too will be unforgettable. Though the rich and lovely memories that I share with Daddy alone… as well as the dark secrets of the past that remain unknown by any save Daddy… will all die with Daddy’s death. When that happens, a small part of me will die too, because Daddy’s life and mine are intertwined, and his passing will leave me with unfillable void.
No so with the old Magnolia outside my window. And while I mean no disrespect, when this old girl dies, I’ll just plant another tree. And it will not be another Magnolia or any other southern tree. Rather, if such a thing exists, perhaps a nice Yankee tree, in memory of Daddy, that like Daddy himself, will prove a strong transplant for Oklahoma.