Sunday, 15 October 2017

Black Olives for Papa

I don't remember a time when John Ganzert wasn't a part of my life. As a child, learning and trying to pick up cues to understand and be a part of the adults in my world, he was always a constant, steady presence. I knew he loved me because though he maybe never said it, his actions never gave me any reason to think otherwise.

Recently the adult in me has been a bit frantic about the fact that perhaps I was losing sight of the Papa I remember as a child, but as I have been sitting and reflecting, I am finding that somewhere knit into the fabric of who I am there are things I know about my Papa.

Like, seven straight lines of Solitaire cards, a rescue from a bus ride gone long, iodine smiles on bleeding knees, and a hand to hold on walks to the park. Story books on his lap, Square dancing and waltzes with Nona, sometimes not even anywhere special, just at home. Polka music in a warm car, Stroke survivors and endless soup lunches, a hearty appetite, golf and curling - now there was something that appealed to me as a little girl, after all Papa and his friends getting together to curl hair seemed perfectly natural. Imagine my surprise when I learned that curling was a sport, and actually had very little to do with hair.

There was never a missed birthday or a missed hug, the big silver shovel Ali and I could sit in together, and walks to the post office. Afternoon naps, giving up control of the remote even during hockey and baseball seasons, and waking very early to turn on Saturday morning cartoons. Countless sleep overs and help scrubbing purple elephants off arms and legs. Cinnamon and sugar pie crust treats, Papa's walks up the mountain, the smell of earth and the summer garden. The way his steps sounded coming up the stairs and feigned surprise when he saw we were visiting coupled with his reliable greeting, “hello, hello!” no matter what he always seemed happy to see us.

We had strange kinship, both of us beating the odds of illness.  It was, in fact, during those difficult days at four years old, I put five black olives on my fingers and showed my parents, declaring “this will make Papa better!” I’m here to tell you that it worked, linked of course with the grace of a loving God, and though faith wasn't something I ever remember being discussed, it was embodied through a lap to sit on, a crossword puzzle to examine, a steady, unchanging, unalterable love expressed through kindness, generosity, stories and laughter.

Perhaps that's a childish view, to gloss over imperfections, but it seems to me that in the fabric that pulls together to make me, those are the strands that bind.

I don't know a world without my Papa, and though I'm not overly keen to, I know that he would take a strong, steady step forward and so shall I. Knowing that he has shaped me in a quiet, consistent way.

One last thing, when you're sad remember, Black Olives for Papa, that will make it better.

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