My dad was born on June 17, 1918. Today he would be 93. The photo on the left, of my brother Rick, my dad, Owen Richards, and me was taken in 1960 to show to my mother who was hospitalized for a year with TB. Several relatives and friends offered that my brother and I could live with them for that year. But my dad refused. He wanted to parent his own children. During that year, he suffered from painful arthitis. His hands were so swollen that he could not tie shoes. Fortunately, my mother had taught 5 year old Rick to tie before she left for the hospital, so every morning he tied three pair of shoes: his own, mine, and our dad's.
My dad was a constant presence in my childhood; he worked at home in an office in our basement. He was always eager to help me with homework, to drive me to the library, or to discuss the news of the day. When I was 13, my mother began her battle with cancer; she died when I was 16. My dad did his best to parent teenagers alone.
I loved listening to my dad's stories of the years before he married my mom, when he was that man in a sarong on the beach of Bhuket Island, Thailand. When he rode a motorcycle all over Asia, prospecting for minerals and working in mining operations. When he visited Ankor Wat in Cambodia, to him the most beautiful building in all the world. When he had only a cupful of water in which to bathe, and knew just how to use it to "freshen up."
"Do you miss adventure?" I'd ask. "Don't you want to travel to countries you've never seen?"
"I got to travel when I was a footloose youth. Now I have new adventures right here at home. And we travel together."
My dad studied geology at Yale in the late 1930's. He loved rocks, and minerals, and concrete. Today, as I thought about my day: a morning of meetings, a hike in the afternoon with my friend Janie to celebrate summer vacation, and June 17: my dad's birthday, I chose these earrings made in Kenya at a women's cooperative that Janie visited.
He would have loved to tell me about the stones. I can imagine him pulling out his hand lens to study them. I can almost hear his voice.