Sun Lakes Writers’ Group

Father’s Day

George Stahl

Like many of you, I no longer have a father. I lost mine over 10 years ago, but I can still remember his face when we said our goodbyes. He was in the hospital and couldn’t talk. When I told him that I loved him, he smiled and blinked his eyes. That blink was the one time he said he loved me too. He couldn’t bring himself to say it when he could talk, but that day, to me anyway, he more than made up for all those years in one blink of his eyes.

Father’s Day was never a big deal as a kid. My mom tried to make it that, but between my dad and I, it didn’t happen. I can’t speak for my sister, and I won’t even try. I can’t speak for the rest of you either, and that’s not what I am about. You all have your memories of Father’s Day, and they are not all going to be the same. And that’s all right. They shouldn’t be. Whatever they are though, they are memories and they will always be a part of who you are.

When my dad was 10 years old, he lived in a small town or village in the northwest corner of Austria. It was late in 1941 that he and his family were betrayed. At that time, Adolph Hitler’s SS group was going around picking up stray bands of Jews and anyone else who was on the list of types. Types that would prove to be a threat to the Reich, and needed to be dealt with. Among those were two classes of people. People who Hitler saw as a threat to his plan to conquer Europe, Gypsies and Catholics. My father and his parents happened to be both. According to what he remembered, neighbors of theirs knew my grandmother was a Hungarian Gypsy and that she converted to Catholicism to marry my grandfather. Under intimidation, the neighbors gave my family up. Long story short, my dad, his mom, and two sisters spent the next three years in the Nazi concentration camp, Dachau. On April 29, 1945, Dachau was liberated by the Americans, my dad, his mother and one sister came out.

That alone, without all of the usual childhood stuff we go through is enough to really screw up a kid. So, what sort of dad was my father? One with enough baggage to fill a warehouse. There may be some of you who have similar stories, but does that make it different? Does that help a young boy understand why his dad never played catch with him, or missed most of his baseball games, and football games, and didn’t see the hopes and dreams he had? The answer is, yes. That explains a lot. It also explains how in his own way, that scared l0-year-old boy 80 years ago, got so tough and had very little love to share for the rest of his life.

But he did show it. He might not have said it, but he showed it. He taught me many things by not saying it. Good things, how to say it to my son, and how to show it to others I meet in my life. He showed me how to work for what I wanted, and how to work even harder for what I wanted to keep. He was a dad who never told me what to do, but to show me how to do it. Did I realize it then? No. It wasn’t until later on in my life that I could appreciate what my dad showed me, and what he wanted me to know.

Father’s Day may not have been that big a deal as a kid, but for me, and to my dad, it sure is now. It’s not a card, it’s not a tie, and it’s not just one day a year. It all comes down to that day when we were alone in his room and he looked at me from his hospital bed and his eyes said, “I love you too.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

An Honorable Man

Lani Matsu

In the heavens perhaps even before this world was, a young man stepped forward eagerly waving his hand, “I’ll be their dad,” he shouted! Close behind him a young woman excitedly stepped beside him, “I’ll be their mom!” And that is how she believed their family of five adopted children, none of them siblings, came to be.

She was their first child, and standing at the pulpit overlooking the congregation of 300 people, she wondered, how could she find the words to honor her dad’s passing? How could she possibly describe her Rock, this Prince of a Man? She wanted to tell them of how big and strong he was, how hard work built his solid frame of Hawaiian, English, and Japanese heritage. How she never heard him complain of being tired, not once. Of his sweet smile as he’d say, “I can sleep when the wind blows,” or share his favorite scripture, “Trust in the Lord with all of thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path.”

Of how he’d always step up to protect the “underdog,” of how he stood between anyone he thought was threatening his mom. Of how he tenderly held each of his grandbabies and how he scooped up ice cream cones with them at midnight. How every summer on his vacation working as a longshoreman on the docks of San Francisco he’d fly to San Antonio where they were stationed in the Air Force, tune up their cars, prune their trees, and look for anything that needed repair. Then he would pack her and her four little ones in her station wagon and drive them all back to San Francisco for the summer. Of how everything he’d say and everything he’d do, exemplified an honorable man.

So in the end, through tears running down her face, she simply shared a few sweet things about him, ending with a story of when her younger sister asked him, “Daddy, do you ever wonder what your own children would’ve looked like?” And he answered, “I know what my children look like.”

Aloha nui loa, Daddy. Until we meet again.

Gotta Get this Off My Chest!

Kris Szlauko

Logic tells me of the worrisome flaw,

Of keeping my cell phone right here in my bra! … And I keep hearing ’bout dangers to my health! What a pity!

Besides my phone slipping out with a rush,

When I’m just about ready to flush, … Oi!

Scientists say radio waves, are likely penetrating my Titty!

So, guess I’d better heed the warning,

‘steada just shrugging-it-off and scorning!

Seems a practice from which I really should refrain!

But, since I always hold my phone to my ear, And, I know

it really does help me to hear …

Can’t help wondrin’ what it’s already done to my brain?

At ninety-three, you’ll agree that this thought should not haunt,

My quick-witted mom, Beth Lamont …

The Logic of Recycling

Kris Szlauko

Bertie was six years old when she and her great-grandpa went for a walk in the park. It was a beautiful autumn day. The skies were blue and the air a little cool and crisp. Her great-grandpa wore his dark heavy overcoat and she was outfitted with her pink coat and fluffy pink gloves.

The two walked hand in hand for a while. His gait was slow and deliberate. He held tight to Bertie’s hand not only for her security, but also for a little stability of his own. Bertie grew impatient with the slow walk and broke free of his grasp. She had things to do and places to go! After all, she was in her prime and nothing could slow her investigative mind or body. She ran down the path a few yards ahead of her great-grandpa and immediately came upon a few piles of leaves that a gardener had piled and not collected. The huge piles of leaves were too tempting to leave alone. She dived in, and tossed the leaves in every direction. In no time at all the neat piles were strewn into a crazy-quilt-carpet of beauty.

Her great-grandpa caught up to his impatient granddaughter and instantly became delighted in the pure innocence of a child’s play. He grabbed a few hands full of leaves and tossed them into the air at her, and above them both. He was amazed at how in an instant he had forgotten his aching back and tired legs and feet. It was excitingly liberating to be a child even if only for a moment. Until the chill of the air reminded him that he was an older adult of almost eighty-five and his hands and back became stiff. He found a seat on a bench still within watching distance while Bertie continued her fantasy dance with the leaf fairies.

Dreaming of younger years and all of the piles of leaves that tempted his playful spirit he was deep in thought when Bertie finally decided to join him at the bench. Out of breath, she jumped up and down and chanted to her great-grandpa to join her in more play. He looked at her in all of her youth and took a huge sigh of air into his lungs. His heart said yes, play and romp in the leaves until dark, but his body said that’s enough for today!

His wisdom overcame his conscious mind and he felt the urge to share a constructive moment with his little charge. Not sure she would be quiet enough to be receptive he sat calm and smiled at her exuberance until she settled down on the bench beside him.

He bent down and picked up a single beautiful golden leaf and then he peered into her eyes. He smiled with a twinkle of love in his eyes, as he spoke, “Bertie,” he said in a soft, very knowledgeable tone, “Look here,” he spoke as he lifted the leaf to an overhanging branch. He then pressed the leaf to the branch as if he were trying to reattach it. The leaf fell fluttering to the ground.

“That’s silly grandpa,” she stated in a very matter of fact tone. She continued, “Leaves can’t go back on a tree after they fell!”

“Exactly!” her great-grandpa responded. “They have a life cycle … A tree starts out as a tiny seed that grows in the rich soil. It needs the soil to become a tree. Then the tree grows tall, strong, and straight. The tree will grow large and strong and sprout many thousands of leaves. The tree, its branches and leaves, protect us from the hot sun by providing shade. As a boy climbing up in a tree and exploring the world around me, was a true delight. Those leaves grow strong enough to withstand the hot sun and the strong winds until the end of the summer. After summer when the sun is not as warm, and able to keep them strong, the leaves grow weak and tired of their grasp on the branch, and soon fall to the earth.” Her great-grandpa stopped talking and waited for her to understand what he had just said.

Bertie’s eyes lit up with excitement. “That’s because they are dead, isn’t that right grandpa?” she offered as her little mind followed the life of the leaf.

“Yes,” he responded. “They are dead, but not forgotten,” he continued. “Do you know what happens to these leaves when they have died, besides being great fun when you toss them in the air?” he smiled as he questioned her knowledge.

“They go in the garbage,” she responded logically.

“You are right there, but some don’t make it to the dumps. They stay right here and with the winter snow and rain they turn back into soil, and you see, the soil is what makes the trees grow taller and stronger and grow more leaves the next year. After the winter, the leaves return as beautiful green, tiny, little leaves and buds.”

Bertie smiled at him. She took her glove off and parted the fallen leaves to expose the soft wet earth beneath. She pressed her tiny finger into the earth to make a tiny little hole. She picked up the leaf that her grandfather had tried to put back on the tree, and pressed it into the hole in the earth next to the tree trunk, and pushed the soil around it carefully. “There Grandpa,” she remarked; “Now it can grow again, right next to its mommy!”

Their walk back was a little slower and quieter as they both pondered the lesson they had shared. At the age of six years old Bertie did not fully understand that her great-grandpa was talking about the cycle of life, for all life on earth.

In time, he too was returned to the earth, he had completed his life cycle.

Because of her great-grandfather’s wisdom, Bertie accepted his passing as a logical recycling of life. She knew that in the spring her grandpa would be in the tiny new leaves of the trees that he loved so much, and by summer he would be blowing in the wind and providing shade to some other grandpa and his granddaughter, and some little boy would discover the fun in exploring the world perched up high in his lofty branches. And, then in the fall, another little girl would have a delightful dance with the leaf fairies.