January 19, 2010
I have a mere handful of memories of Dr. Taggart’s father that do not involve him working. I remember flashes of an Easter morning, his hands holding my basket of eggs, the sleeve of a blue cardigan at eye-level as he bent down to encourage me. I remember his arms as they created a shelf for me, as he carried me facedown into the house so that the blood streaming from my cut forehead wouldn’t get in my eyes. I remember a birthday party, where someone had made a paper hat for him using wrapping paper. And I remember, towards the end, as he lay on the medical cot in what had been their dining room, as my mom and I showed him the prom dress he’d given her money to buy, before he started to forget the years I’d been alive.
I remember wondering, at various times, how he did it. How he could have worked in factories and stockrooms and grocery stores, hours and hours of work. How even into his seventies and eighties he never stopped – tending the roses at the house in Hawthorne, or painstakingly pulling up weeds and trimming hedges at my parents’ house. Mowing the lawn. Peeling and grating horseradish for our Easter feast outside, because he was the only one who managed to do it for any length of time before the fumes mandated a break.
I also remember him telling me to call my grandma “Babka”, and her being semi-furious with him in that way that long-married, long-suffering, long-loving wives are. He found ways to have his fun, found the time to play, occasionally, with his granddaughters. He found time to pick me up at school, sporting a black and white houndstooth cap, driving the dark green Buick with the tan seats, that smelled just like their house and that had a loud, clicky turn signal. He found time to sneak himself platefuls of fried spaghetti, and found room for Grandma’s golubki and pieroshki a scant hour later. He walked Grandma to church and back, walked me to the park. And I never heard him complain, never witnessed discomfort.
He must have been tired sometimes – but he chose to do something besides think about it, to focus on what he wanted to accomplish rather than how hard it might be. I must have inherited some of that, I think. I just need to find it.