One of the first things I thought after my father passed away when I was 21, was that I had the perfect childhood. It wasn’t that growing up didn’t involve low self-esteem, shyness, anxiety, etc.—it did. It was just that I had this feeling of gratitude that my father didn’t pass away when I was 9 or 15, or 2—in which case I would have no conscious memories of him at all.
I had 21 years full of rich memories of my father: of who he was, and of what he gave to me. Of him coaching my softball games, advising me on my Pilates training, helping me academically, nurturing me emotionally. And of course our weekend nights of eating dinner together while watching Nick at Nite, or SNL, or Lois & Clark, while on Friday nights it was more formal at the dining room table for Sabbath dinner. All of these positive interactions, all of this love—never once interrupted, until his sudden passing when I was 21. Twenty one years of peace, support, and blossoming.
I have always liked kids, been interested in child development, but I think my father’s passing has made me appreciate the childhood years even more. It is an invitation for me to continue to remember my own childhood, and all that my father (and my mother, and my community too) gave to me.
One common example is how I am always looking for a street in our new community that is straight, flat, and with low levels of traffic which is suited for playing kickball. Growing up my neighbors and I (thankfully there were several kids around my age) played kickball in the street in front of my house. Second base was the sewer manhole cover, first base and third base were two identical bushes opposite each other, one on my lawn, the other on my neighbors’—more accurately, it was the part of the curb next to these bushes.
We played kickball like this for several years, and the memories are forever etched in my heart.
Yesterday I had another memory, one that is less common, but just as poignant to me. It was triggered by my training to be a swim instructor. I remember how we would make up dances in the pool and perform them for our parents. All of a sudden I was back in the pool: flipping, turning, splashing away—I could vividly feel this memory. I think what makes these memories so vivid is that being in a pool is immersive—we are literally immersed in water—as well as the tactile sensations of splashing and jumping around. I smiled to myself as this cherished memory of fun, creativity, and social bonding floated up to my consciousness.