Yesterday I left the studio and ventured down to visit my dad, who at 94, lives at an assisted living place. It is always with bittersweet pain and love that I view these visits, as I more remember how dynamic and alive he was compared with the old guy he is now. This trip I determined to really let'her flicker and make a day of it, so I left Saint Germain in the morning, and got down to Birnamwood to take him back up to Antigo for lunch and then to visit his brother who is in the nursing home there.
My dad worked hard on the Chicago Northwestern Railroad for 32 years, before that he worked in the firepit at White Lake's Yawkey-Bissell flooring mill. As a kid I was always surprised by how many sandwiches he would make, and the fruit he would pack for his "lunch", but later I realized that he was packing for more than one meal. In the early years as a fireman-then-engineer on the trains they could be worked unlimited hours. Slowly the union was able to cut the shifts down to 16 hours, then 12, then finally 8 hours before a crew would replace them. Imagine that. So of course his lunches had to hold some meals, out on the line, traveling through the countryside there was no Subway to stop at.
My dad now is a bit vacant at times, but the longer he gets to interact with people the more he perks up and will start to talk and poke jokes etc with you. There is a fantastic book called "Another Country" by Mary Pipher which gives much insight into the minds of our aging parents. I remember bits of that book when I get frustrated during my nightly phone call to him cause he can't hear me over the roar of his tv! It is a good book to hold as a reference in your mind as we all drift closer to gaining a passport to that "country". We cannot fault the residents of that country for being different, they are viewing things from a different angle.
But, my day with dad was good, and even though he was wearing flannel pajama bottoms instead of khakis, it didn't matter, they were clean! And we had a great lunch at the Farmer's Home in Antigo and a nice visit with my sister Jan and got to chat with Uncle George. All in all, a far better day than being just a potter, it was good to be a daughter.