Friday, February 18, 2011

It's a God Thing

There are so many memories, but so few of my Dad. And one vivid one of my Father. My dad left when I was 4 and by then his diseases had taken him over. The bipolar disorder, alcoholism and his childhood had formed this man into someone who was almost never pleasant to be around. But there were those times when a father’s instinct came through.

In 1964 I was 3 years old and as Mad Men has shown us, most of the adults in America smoked. My mom and dad included. We were living in a rented house on York Street in Capital Hill. It was an old red brick two story home, bedrooms and bath upstairs; it had a brick front porch and a small wooden back one. If you go to look for it now you won’t find it. It was torn down years ago and like a lot of older homes in Capital Hill, was replaced by an apartment building. But for part of 1964 it was home to my mom, dad, brother, 2 of my sisters and me.

Dad smoked Pall Malls, no filter. A man’s cigarette if there ever was one. I don’t really remember what mom smoked then but later it was Kools, then Benson and Hedges menthol. That was the brand she stayed with until she was diagnosed with emphysema. In 1964 there must have been an ashtray in every room of every house in America because smoking was a continual thing then, and for someone like my dad, already an addictive type, he always had one. Sitting, standing, walking, driving, reading, watching TV. Always.

One winter night in 1964, at the house on York Street, my dad was in the upstairs hallway, leaning against the doorjamb of my brother’s bedroom. He was casually propped there, one hand in his pocket, the other holding a cigarette down by his side. I was upstairs too and for some reason, probably for no reason other than I was 3, running. I turned the corner of the hallway; in what I am sure to this day was the fastest any three year old took a corner, right into dad’s lit cigarette. Not only did I run into his lit cigarette, I collided into it with my open eye.

I don’t really remember much of what immediately followed, but my dad’s parental nature kicked in and he rushed to get “the baby” help. I do I remember being outside looking down as if floating above the back porch. I hear the screen door slam open and from above I see dad starting down the wooden steps heading to the car, carrying me wrapped in a blanket. I hear my mother’s voice calling out that I wasn’t wearing shoes. As he reached the car my dad calls back that it doesn’t matter he will be carrying me, my mother rushes out hurrying to catch up with us.

There is a vague memory of sitting in the Doctors office and of getting an eye patch. And a very clear memory of getting a candy cane. Not a little cane shaped one that hangs on a tree. No this was one of those big ones that is like a little club in my tiny hand. I forget about my eye patch and two thoughts go through my mind as the doctor gives it to me. One, it was already late, how would I finish it before having to go to bed? Two, my siblings would be jealous. My parents take me home, I never need my shoes.

Years later I learn that I have an unrelated eye condition which causes my eyes to fatigue and the weaker one to no longer focus correctly, when this happens I see double. I have been wearing prescription glasses as treatment for 20 years now. When visiting a neurologist three years ago, he asked how long I had this eye condition. I told him since childhood. He looked shocked and told me I was lucky I wasn’t blind. Apparently when you have this condition as a child your brain is not developed enough to understand the double vision and will try to correct it, but it can’t. Eventually the brain will stop allowing information from either eye and you are blind. He told me the treatment in childhood is to wear an eye patch over the weak eye to stop it from getting tired, and then confusing the brain.

I ran into that cigarette with my weaker eye.
And my father carried me.
I am not blind in that eye because the scar is over my iris.
And my Father carried me.
I wore an eye patch over my weaker eye.
And my father carried me.
I am not completely blind today because I ran into a lit cigarette when I was three.....and my Father carried me.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.
Sometimes you get to know why, and sometimes you don’t.
But why or not, here is the one thing I do know, a God Thing when I see it.


  1. Funny, one of my best memories of Dad is also when he carried me. It was from the car and into the house one night after coming home from the drive-in movie. You were not born yet. I remember waking up in the car just as he gently lifted T up from the backseat and turned to carry her into the house. I decided to pretend I was still asleep so he would carry me, too.

  2. Maura, I got goosebumps thinking about how awesome it is to be able to see the hand of God work it's this story

  3. Wow! That is an amazing and moving story and good speech material. I hope to hear that is an upcoming speech at Simply Speaking Toastmasters.