Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Memories of my father - Red Kayak

I shared this at my father's memorial ceremony:

Hi, I’m Tim Allen. I’m Dad’s youngest son, and I’d like to talk to you all about some memories that I have of my father. I think of him very often; there are certain actions that I take, that every time I take them I think of my father. I’d like to share with you one experience that I had from when I was very young. This is a poem I wrote. It’s called “Red Kayak”.

I was five
We built it of canvas and wood, and
You let me help paint it
Bright red as my bicycle

Mom and Dad painted. I was actually quite a big boy before I realized that not everybody’s houses smelled of oil paint and clay. Now, when Dad left the Marine Corps in 1973, we came here to Texas, and he became something of a hippy. He grew out his hair and he grew a beard. He designed a kiln, and he and my cousin Donny began to spin pots like madmen. Donny and Dad would pay me eight cents a bat to clean the clay off of the spinning bats. This was the first job I ever had.

It still smelled of paint and glue
When we carried it to the Ocean
Which was and still is
The largest thing I've ever seen

Dad later shared with me that it was most likely not the ocean that we carried the red kayak to, but rather a fairly small creek that was near our house in Cherry Point, North Carolina.

But I wasn't worried (much)
Because my dad was
The strongest man in the world
And smarter than the ocean

I think of Dad every time that I take our dog, Sparky, to the dog park in Washington, DC. Now, Sparky is something of a digger. She likes to dig in the dog park. We used to have dogs here in Texas, and they would dig holes in the front yard. My dad got tired of filling in the holes, so Dad worked out a system. He discovered that he could stop the dogs from digging holes if he would simply urinate in the holes the dogs had dug. And it worked. They stopped digging. I have been tempted to try this system out in Washington, DC. I haven’t done it yet.

You put me in the kayak
Got in behind me
And we began paddling
I could not see over the wave
Until we crested it, and the
Sunlight dazzled my eyes
Across the brown water

Now, I think of my dad when I look at my son, Daniel. I caught my first fish when I was four years old with my dad. We have a photo of that moment. When Daniel saw that photo when he was four years old, he could not be convinced that it was not a photo of him.

I could hear you singing
As you pulled at the water
The biggest wave in the Ocean
Crested before us
I wanted to cry out and drop my paddle

I remember Dad every time that we eat Mexican food. One time our entire family went and ate at a Mexican restaurant. We all ate way too much food, except for my dad, who ate one taco. The rest of us were sitting around, groaning about how uncomfortable we were because we were so full. And my dad said, “I ate just the right amount”. My Sister-in-Law, Liz, and I have not been able to have a meal in a restaurant since then without sharing that memory.

But you had given me a job to do
And a paddle to help keep the boat straight
And you were not afraid

I think of my dad when I make mistakes as a husband and as a father. My dad was not a perfect man, and neither am I. I especially worry during hurricane season, when my job takes me away from home so often, that I am somehow leaving Sònia and Daniel in second place. But I can assure you that I never felt like I was in second place when my dad’s work took him away from home. I knew that what my dad did was very important.

The wave crested in front of us
And we glided over the water
I was close to the world
Close to the water
And close to my father
Nothing could hurt me

I think of my dad every morning when I bring a cup of coffee to Sònia in bed. Every day, every morning that Mom and Dad were together, he would bring a cup of coffee to mom and he would give her three kisses. Every day.

We turned to shore
And landed the red kayak
I don't recall ever going out in it again
But I've returned to that Ocean many times
Grasped my paddle and pulled the water
And knew that you were behind me
The first man I ever met
And still the best man I ever met
Singing and pulling the water with me.