By: Suzanne Hudson
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of sentimentality, which often comes across as cheap and manipulative, in my opinion. But here you have a rare expression of my elusive sentimentality--although I am up front and honest about being nakedly manipulative in this case, as you will see . . .
You just never know what you’ll find when a life exits this reality, goes over to what we foolishly call “death.” My father, Eugene Hudson, “caught the bus” as he liked to say, a few weeks ago, on October 8th, suddenly, while making his morning coffee, the kind of passing he always pined for. And, like my mother, who still resides with us, he had planned his funeral/memorial/celebration in detail. A part of it included having a letter read, one that I wrote him back in 1983, when I was twenty-nine, mother of a five year-old. He saved that letter, along with the homemade construction paper card, for all these years, just for one specific purpose: “I want this read at my funeral” written in that beautiful, old-school penmanship across the paper. I had not realized he kept the Father’s Day note, tapped out on a manual typewriter, replete with “liquid paper” corrections. You never know what folks will hold on to, as cherished mementos. My husband Joe agreed to do the honors and did a lovely reading at the church memorial service, and I have copied the body of that ancient scribbling of mine, here, in this “Note,” for any who care to read it. It says:
TO: Gene a. k. a. “DADDY”
Happy Belated Father’s Day!
This is the kind of Father’s Day present one offers if
(a) one is broke
(b) one truly appreciates one’s father
(c) one likes to write and make things
(d) all of the above
MY FAVORITE IMPRESSION OF MY FATHER
When I was about my own son’s age we lived on Bonita Avenue where all the kids rode bicycles in the street and the parents had cook-outs on Thursday evenings. The men cooked the steaks and laughed a lot; the women made green salads and giggled a lot.
Every day my father went off to a white collar job and my mother (it seemed like) played bridge. I merely went about my business, aiding and abetting, but more often instigating the terrorization of the neighborhood, until finally the weekend rolled around.
My favorite time was the weekend, particularly Sunday---not for any spiritual reason, but because I liked my father’s ritual on Sunday. Sometime during the morning he would take me to the Creamery where we would sit on high, round, red stools, listen to “Ahab the Arab” or “Multiplication” and drink real fountain cokes. This was the “morning” part of the day, which was delightful, but my favorite part of a Sunday was the post-church lull when my father stretched out on the orange plastic sofa to watch a football game.
It was a very lazy time of the day and the sound of my mother clattering at the dinner dishes, coupled with the broadcaster’s voice and the crowd’s rumbling had the opposite effect that one might imagine--it was very peaceful. Here is why:
My father would lie on his back and before long I would crawl up on him so that I could see the Zenith TV, my ear smashed against his chest. I didn’t really care about the game---there were no instant replays or close-ups; there was only a long shot of the playing field and tiny, tiny players. The reason I really climbed up on my father’s chest was to hear his heart echoing in my ear and feel secure and happy and impervious to any kind of physical or emotional threat. Sometimes he would say something to my mother or to me or to no one in particular about the game, and his chest would vibrate fuzzily in my ear and I would rise and fall with his breathing. Soon we would both doze and Sunday would envelope us hazily and I would draw that feeling of love up over my head like the most wonderful quilt in my grandmother’s cedar chest, knowing I had someone who would always be with me.
That was 25 years ago. I have been through some good, bad, and downright self-destructive spells since then, some of them my father knows about and some he will never know about. But I have conquered them all, emerged feeling valuable and competent. And a big part of my emergence has been the ability to draw on the feeling of Sunday afternoons on Bonita Avenue, on that tiny band of time between the 50s and the 60s.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!
P.S. Did you cry?
You just never know, do you?
Photo: My late father, Gene Hudson, and me in 1978, during a photo shoot for Penthouse magazine (no, NOT as a nekkid “model”; it was for an author pic for a short story publication, in the December, 1978[?] issue); photographed by one who has gone from my memory