It's amazing how a scent can send us back in time, flooding our mind with memories, good and bad. Sometimes it only takes a slight whiff of something familiar to send us reeling.
I had such an experience last Saturday.
My dad died four years ago this month. We never had a close relationship he and I, not due to a lack of trying on my part, but I suppose due to time and circumstance. I'm not sure my father knew how to be a father. I'm not honestly sure he wanted to be. In some ways he and I were a lot alike, in others so far apart that you'd never know we were related.
Though past memories and events can sometimes scar us, burned deep into our being, we are who we are because of those events, and sometimes because of sheer will power we force ourselves to move forward as best as we can. I've had such times in my life, as I know other people have in theirs.
Even after some serious issues, I spent a good portion of my young adulthood trying to maintain a relationship with my dad. It was never easy, and I got hurt quite a few times. Some part of me needed to keep trying in the hopes that something would change, that somehow he and I would connect on some level. In my late twenties I finally admitted to myself that people are as they are, and there's nothing we can do but accept that and move on. We can choose to keep those people in our lives, or walk away. At some point we have to admit the obvious. I've never regretted trying (well maybe a time or two if I'm honest), but because of it I've been more at peace since dad's passing than I would have been otherwise.
Saturday evening while cleaning out the garage the past came back and hit me right between the eyes. I came across my dad's pool cue, which I kept because it was one of his favorite things, and because it brings back fond memories of when he taught me to play pool. I was only about twelve at the time, but it was one of the few happy times that I remember spending with him.
When I saw the box I took the cue out and put it together. I looked at it, really looked at it. It's a beautiful piece, carved wood with pearl inlay. I don't know when he bought it or how long he had it, I just always remember it being there, sitting in it's familiar black box propped up against a corner of the wall.
The vinyl covered wooden case is worn and falling apart, taped together with black electrician's tape. A quick fix by my dad at some point in time. The clasps still work, and the red felt inside, though worn, is still in pretty good condition. The pool cue sits elegantly in the time worn box, neither looking like they belong together.
The cue had a familiar scent that brought with it a burst of memories, sadness, regret. There is still, after all this time, the distinct smell of Old Spice cologne on that handle. Strange how scents can linger on inanimate objects, bringing back memories that transport us to another time, hit us when we least expect it.
My dad always smelled like Old Spice. I remember as a little girl watching him splash it on his face after shaving, and the familiar glass bottle sitting in the bathroom, even after I was grown and visiting his house. The scent was ever present. Not strong, just faint and familiar. Always there. A constant.
I do think of my dad, I do miss him, even after everything. And even though our lives didn't cross in the way that I had always hoped, there were some good times, some memories that I treasure. When I think of him now I try to go back to those times.....
When he taught me to play pool, or how to roll a bowling ball (I still have his tournament ball). Our once a month 'family nights' when we'd go out for burgers, then on to the bowling alley to bowl, play pool, and pinball games. How he taught me to work on a car at age thirteen, to change the oil, a tire, the spark plugs, to work on an engine (in the days when a car engine could still be worked on). How he taught me to mend a fence, ride a horse, herd cattle, and never expected that I couldn't or shouldn't lift or do anything just because I was a girl. I could throw 80 and 90 lb. bales of hay around with the best of the neighborhood boys. I think that made him proud even though he never said anything. I'd like to think it did anyway.
If I were going to thank my dad for anything, it would be for making me feel that there wasn't anything I couldn't do (female or not). I used to think that he treated me that way because he secretly wanted a son. Now I think it was simply because he expected as much out of me as he would have anyone else, male or female, believed there was no reason why not. That expectation probably a result of his own handicap, a bout with childhood polio that left him with a bum leg and a brace. Still, there wasn't anything that man couldn't do, from swimming like a fish to horseback riding.
Maybe the relationship we had gave me a sense of myself that I couldn't/wouldn't have gotten any other way. For that I thank you dad.
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