In the Galasso family, we have a birthday tradition. When we are all gathered together for the birthday meal, we go around the table, and each person relates his or her favorite memory of the birthday person. When I was with Emily last Sunday, she wouldn’t let me leave until she had told me her favorite memory of me. I had almost forgotten this ritual, and I’m so glad she didn’t. Today would have been Jim’s 51st birthday. We would be celebrating our combined 100th birthday. (We went to a couple’s 100th birthday party once…huge affair with fireworks and everything!) Well, in Thich Nhat Hahn’s words, it is another Continuation Day. Jim continues in all kinds of ways on this earth. Ripples of his deeds, his attitude, his progeny, his molecules and other whatnot are still around.
So here is a favorite memory of Jim that came to me on my birthday this past Sunday. Steve and I were at the Ravinia music festival in Chicago. We had what they call “lawn seats”, which means we were picnicking on the grounds around the pavilion where we could hear the music on the loudspeakers and see the band (Lyle Lovett and his Large Band) on the jumbo screen. In other words, the cheap seats. It’s a great family set up. People bring their kids, their food, their lawn chairs and everyone picnics in their own style. Right in front of us was a family with 2 daughters and a newborn son. I watched the father lie down flat on their picnic blanket and place his little squirming boy on top of his chest. His daughters were hovering around touching the baby, but it was clear that Dad was not giving up his position of baby bed. I looked long at them. I thought of how obvious it was that the father was enjoying having a son, although he might have been just as proud and affectionate with his infant daughters. And, of course, I thought of Jim. With little infant Josh on his huge barrel chest, he looked just like that. Happy, comfortable, proud, protective.
Why is that one of my favorites? Because I loved seeing him take deep pleasure in his life, in things that wholly involved him. In these moments there is suffering, there is sacrifice, there is emotion and responsibility and joy. He didn’t often have words to articulate all that was stirred up in him, but he would look up at me with a tear in his eye, and I’d know what he felt. I think that was when he was closest to touching the water, to experiencing the ultimate dimension of reality.
So now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite memory of Jim?
Mom, of course EVERY moment was awesome, but I’m gonna pick 2. Having my name up on the bigscreen at the Blackhawks game for my birthday. AND Mr. Beefy’s Gyros.
Impossible to name just one with such a wonderful subject…I remember how Jimmy looked at you when you were still dating…complete and total adoration. That look would be repeated countless more times over the next 30 years as Susan, Josh, Rebecca and Emily made their appearance and evolved into the amazing young adults they are today.
Jimmy was a real baby magnet…not only his own babies, but mine too…okay, any baby would do. Even as a rookie babysitter, Jimmy had a knack for entertaining the kids and handling the infants…often simultaneously.
He called me on my birthday…I was in Seattle spending a mandatory fun day away from the boys and confessed to him that I felt guilty for leaving them behind. His reply…”You’re still pretty new to this parenting thing…you’ll get the hang of it.” Another thing about Jimmy…he was always right.
Happy 51st Birthday Jimmy! I love you, I miss you, your nephews miss you, all who knew you miss you…thanks for the great memories!
(Susan here) Three of my favorite Dad memories:
1) When I was 13 or 14, I won a pair of baseball tickets through some academic incentive program. Even though it was a workday, Dad took the whole day off to go to the game with me. Afterwards, he surprised me by taking me out to a movie and then to dinner and karaoke with the rest of the fam. It meant a lot to have so much uninterrupted time.
2) When I was in college and feeling overwhelmed, I would e-mail Dad at 3 in the morning fretting about the work I had to do, how unsure I was about the academic directions I should take, all the crises that seemed to be coming to a head at once, etc. Dad would write back with such useful and reassuring advice, usually involving references to eating the elephant one bite at a time or another one of his pet metaphors. (Petaphors?) I lost all these e-mails when they took me off the Lawrence server, and I wish I’d had the foresight to keep copies.
3) In the last year of Dad’s life, when I was living at home, he and I spent a few months singing together in CMS. It was really special to be a part of the choir I’d been hearing for 10 years, to do such focused, directed musical work alongside him, and to see him be proud of me :D.
” … Our chief weapon is surprise. Surprise and fear. Our two weapons are surprise, and fear, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. THREE. Three weapons. Surprise, fear, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms… ”
4) Every time Dad got a haircut, he would ask me if I noticed anything different. I would say “Yeah, Dad, did you get a haircut?” And we would both say “NO I GOT THEM ALL CUT AH AH AH AH *groan*” When I moved out, we would call each other in order to do this. Because that’s how we roll.
Like everyone else, it’s impossible to list just one favorite memory of Dad.
1. One Friday night when I was 12, I was sitting at home watching TV, feeling lonely and friendless. Dad came downstairs and said, “I’m taking Becca to Helen (Allen)’s house. Come with me.” I think I protested a bit, said I was watching something, but I couldn’t refuse a chance to spend time with my dad. After we dropped Becca off and got back on the road, I noticed we weren’t heading home. I asked where we were going, and he just replied, “Oh, I don’t know.” He ended up taking me out to dinner and a movie, a special father/daughter date to make me feel loved at a time when I felt like I didn’t have any friends. He was my best friend through a lot of childhood.
2. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the tears he shed when he saw me perform in Seussical, whispering, “I’m just so proud of you. You are so talented.” I’m so glad I have a picture of that moment. Along with this memory, there’s also his encouragement/coaching for my CMS audition and the memory of him showing up to my Little Mermaid audition (the last audition he would live to see) at the last minute and surprising me. His support for my theatrical/musical endeavors means the world to me.
3. When I left Moon Bunny behind in Mammoth Lakes (is that right?), he spent (what felt like) hours on the phone with the hotel staff trying to recover my beloved stuffed bunny-friend. When that turned out to be a fruitless effort, I believed my bunny to be gone forever… until that Christmas, when he showed up as a present underneath the tree (along with a letter explaining why he was a little cleaner and a little bigger. “Someone found me trying to get back to you, cleaned me up, fed me, and sent me back to love you!”) I have never been more thankful for any present (didn’t you even write something about that thank you, Mom?) Since the letter was in Mom’s handwriting, I thought it was Mom’s idea and gift until just recently, when I reminded her of the story, and she told me that it was Dad who came up with the whole thing in the first place. It was so thoughtful of him to remember my initial distress and work so hard to get Moon Bunny back to me.
The return of Moon Bunny was a joint brainstorm. After my mom had exhausted the possibility of recovering the original, we found another one available for purchase…albeit slightly larger. So Dad & I made up a story about him growing fat and large on all the salad bars in California before his return. Your tearful reunion was one of the most touching Christmas moments I’ve ever had. Kind of like “Homeward Bound”…
Ah, well. My memory of things is slightly askew, so let’s call that my favorite parenting-team moment 🙂
Reblogged this on scillagrace.
Such a blessed tradition. Beautiful moment you shared, my friend. Where would we be without our memories?
I suppose we’d be in the country of the present moment. Probably not a bad place, but I can’t say that I’ve ever really lived there. I do enjoy my memories so much.
Living in the present moment is an on-going quest for me…but we are the sum total of who we’ve been and that’s who we bring to the present moment. Jim will always be a part of you in the now. It’s such a challenge, isn’t it.