Saturday, June 21, 2014

Miss You Much

I am a writer. I owe this, among many things, to my father.
Happy Birthday Dad.

6/19/24 to 1/29/2012

Play Date For Dad

The screech of my father’s velcro-fastened sneakers, scuffling across a well-waxed gymnasium floor, catches the attention of everyone in line.

It is Election Day, and the local elementary school is overflowing with civic-minded seniors.

Because Parkinson’s disease transformed his once commanding stride into an unsteady, rigid gate, I insist he use a cane. But he hates his cane more than he hates peas, and so, like a belligerent child, he drags it behind him.

“Address please,” spouts a poll worker.
“Proof of residency,” requests another.
“Name please,” demands a third.
“Hi Roger,” murmurs a fourth.

He doesn’t mind the inefficiency or the formality. It’s a beautiful, crisp fall day, and we are “out and about.”

“That's a sharp hat, Joe,” says Dad to a man sporting a New York Yankees cap.
“Smart purple outfit, Dottie,” he says to a stout woman with waves of freshly set, snow-white hair.

“It’s velour. Want to feel it, Roger?” flirts Dottie.
“Maybe later,” winks Dad.

Dad despises the Yankees and has always considered purple a gauche color, but he knows how to make people smile - most of all, me.

Dottie hands Dad a ballot, hooks her arm in his, and escorts us to a small, makeshift voting booth.

“Fill in the circle next to the candidate of your choice,” instructs Dottie as she hands him a #2 pencil.

 “I can’t see. You do it, Shannon,” whispers Dad.

One by one, I pronounce each candidate’s name and party affiliation. When he hears the one he wants he lifts his hand and declares, “that one!”

With voting now complete, we move to the ballot box at the far corner of the gym.

“Put it in there,” points Dottie.
“I know where it goes,” insists Dad.
“Good for you,” says Dottie.
“You take it, Shannon,” whispers Dad.

As we exit, Dottie says, “You know Roger, Bill doesn’t leave the house anymore.”
“Why not?” asks Dad.
“Parkinson’s,” whispers Dottie.

During their glory days, Bill and Dad were fierce rivals on the high school football team and were often featured on the front page of the local paper. 

“You should stop and see him,” suggests Dottie.
“Can’t…too busy,” insists Dad.

Dad built his company, a security/investigation/detective agency, from the ground up. His work ethic was as ferocious as his athleticism.

“It’s not the right way, or the wrong way, but Roger Kennedy’s way!” he would bellow.

Two blocks away from our office is the Senior Center - a town funded facility that offers numerous social activities including exercise classes, lectures, and well-balanced meals.

“I don’t have time for that place,” insists Dad. “I have work to do.”

Dad comes to the office every day, sits at his desk, reads the paper, and takes a nap.

I know he enjoys watching the mayhem that plays out during a typical workday, and now with me at the helm, there is an undeniable sense of pride in his tone.

“You accomplished a lot today,” he’ll tell me.
“Don’t let it get you down,” he’ll say when things don’t go my way.

I know how fortunate we both are to have this time together, but he lacks the companionship of people his age.

Later that week, I tell him about my plan.

“I’m taking you to Bill’s house,” I tell him. “It’s a beautiful day, come on let’s go.”
“I can’t today. I’m too busy,” insists Dad. “Besides, it’s too far. I can’t walk there.”
“I’ll drive you,” I tell him.

It takes Dad longer to get into the car than it does to get to Bill’s house.

“There it is,” shouts Dad when he spots Bill's modest home. “It’s across from the cemetery, just past the old hospital.” (Torn down in 1951.)

I park in Bill's driveway, walk to the passenger side of the car and open the door.

“Can’t get out,” says Dad.
“Why not?” I ask.
“Too many leaves,” insists Dad.

I kick a dusting of freshly fallen autumn leaves to the side and, with two hands, urge Dad out of the car.

Bill is waiting on the front porch. Joan, his wife of 52 years, peeks out from inside the front door. Just four steady steps separate these former rivals.

“Take your time, Roger,” says Bill.
“I got it. Don’t you worry,” asserts Dad.
“Hold onto the rail,” instructs Bill.
 “Help me, Shannon,” whispers Dad.

Not much has changed since Bill and his wife settled into their home in the mid 1950’s. Pale blue, low pile acrylic carpeting covers the living room floor. Tattered, gold-striped curtains mask cloudy windows. A collection of knick-knacks and family portraits rest on doilies that dot dusty tabletops.

Bill insists Dad sit in his favorite chair - a velvet tufted recliner.

“Go ahead Roger, have a seat,” instructs Bill.
“I don’t need to sit,” says Dad.
“You don’t need to sit, or you don’t want to sit?” asks Bill.
“I don’t need to sit,” counters Dad.
“Ohhh you’d better sit,” urges Bill.

“You need to sit, Dad,” I whisper, as I coax him into the chair.

Getting Dad in a chair can be a challenge, especially if the seat is too low to the ground. It is more like a well-aimed plop than a steady squat.

Once situated, Dad surveys the living room layout, spots a matching love-seat across the room and asks, “Where are YOU going to sit Bill?”

“I prefer to stand,“ says Bill. “Don’t you worry about me, Roger.”
“You don’t need to sit, or you don’t want to sit?” asks Dad.

It’s as though I’m watching a game of chess, each attempting to outmaneuver the other.

Joan waits in the hallway, smiling. “Want a cup of tea?” she asks me.

I can feel Dad’s eyes pleading for me to stay close, but clearly these two need one-on-one time.

I listen as Joan talks about her ailments but mostly she talks about Bill. She tells me about Bill’s debilitating condition. She tells me about his time in the hospital and later in the nursing home.

“Terrible place,” she moans.

Dad also did some time in a nursing home, but I keep this information to myself.

From the other room I can hear Dad brag about all the things we do together. About our trips to the beach, rides to the cemetery and watching sports. My father paints a pretty good picture. Truth is, we don’t get “out and about” as often as we should.

“We go to the UCONN Huskies women’s basketball games,” he tells Bill.

We've been to two games total.

“We go on the Island Beach boat a lot,” he insists, although we missed all of last summer.

“I like a glass of wine when I’m at Shannon's house,” he boasts. “She's a really good cook."

I have never been known for my culinary skills.

“How old are you, Roger?” asks Bill.
“What?” asks Dad.
“I said, how old are you,” repeats Bill.
“I didn't catch that,” says Dad.
“ROGER, I can’t remember how old you are!” shouts Bill.
“I’m 84,” says Dad. He is 85.

Bill waits for my father to ask him how old he is. My father knows that Bill is younger, so he sits in stoic silence.

“I’m going to be 83 in two weeks and they’re throwing me a big party!” says Bill.
“Let’s go, Shannon!” shouts Dad.

And off we go.

The total time at spent at Bills is just short of 30 minutes.

“Boy, he looked old,” says Dad.
“I thought he looked great,” I tell him.

“Did he brag about his daughter?” I ask.
“Of course he did,” says Dad.

And then Dad surprises me.

“Next time, let’s bring Bill to my place,” says Dad.
“Sounds great!” I tell him.

And so, I set another date. Another play date for Dad.

Roger and Bill

Dad, chasing his man down on Havemeyer Field, where, at his request, I spread his ashes. 

With Love and Sustainable Memories, 


  1. Beautiful, Shannon. So love your relationship with your Dad. So love his vulnerability and that you were able to witness all the many many layers of his complex personality!!!!! Reading about him reminds me of someone.....




  2. I loved reading this story about your Dad. I wish it would have been longer.

  3. I know you miss him every day. I love this memory.

  4. Shannon, you are such a gifted crafted this piece so well and smooth

  5. Shannon, what a wonderful piece. I so enjoyed hearing about your father. How fortunate you are to have had him for as long as you did. I never knew my father. He was out of my life by the time I was six. I would give anything to have memories such as yours. Thanks for sharing this one.

  6. This is fantastic and really captures that dichotomy between neediness and independence that older people seem to feel.

    It also scares the crap out of me, as everything does when it comes to older folks.

  7. dear Shannon.

    so many wonderful memories, and much to be grateful for having such a "whatta guy!" man for a dad. I know you must miss him every single day. thanks for sharing stories like these, written with such love, humor, and irony.

    much love and gentle hugs to comfort you when you are missing your dad,

    Karen xoxo

  8. Wow, Shannon, you are a wonderful writer. Truly.

    Thanks for sharing your worlds with us every time you post.

  9. First time commenting but I've been reading for a long time.
    This is such a wonderful piece of writing that I feel I know your dad so well. What a great relationship you had.
    I envy you that.

  10. Hi Shannon,
    This is truly beautiful. I loved reading about your dad. He sounds a little bit like mine. Thank you for writing about him and for sharing the photos too. Loving memories of our dear ones are treasures of our hearts. Sharing the "treasures" as you did here in this post, is a gift to us all.

  11. I LOVE this post and that last photo is priceless.

    I have thought of you often lately.. My chosen family member (Tony's ex-wife's ex brother in law... it's complicated, but we love him) just publicly announced the onset of his Parkinson's dementia. (Which means, it's been happening for a VERY long time, he now just can't hide it from everyone) I fear his independent living may be coming to an end shortly, although it is interesting...he's been secretly using the new meme TBT (Throw back Thursdays) on Facebook to post old photos to trigger his memory. I can not even begin to imagine what it would be like to forget everything that makes me, me.

  12. You ARE a good writer, Shannon... and yes, those great photos!!

    Where does Life go? It gets away from us... doesn't it?

    I read of your adventures with your Dad... and am reminded of my dealings with my oldest sister that died back in October... but all in all, I don't have the great memories of her like I had with my Mom and Dad...

    You and your Dad are quite a team!!



  13. Another amazing story, Shannon. I loved it, and your relationship with your dad. Mine died at age 57 - I was denied many of the customary privileges of an aging father. So glad you had that opportunity. Liz Martin

  14. Hi Shannon. So nice to visit your blog again. I've been on and off on my blog this year for various reasons. I enjoyed your memory of your Dad's visit to his rival. Our memories do sustain us. Hope you are feeling well.

  15. Great story, wonderfully well told. You've done a great job of revealing his personality to us. Thanks!

  16. Thinking of you. Hope you are blessed this Summer ♥

  17. Missing you too Shannon!
    I saw the end of burning man, and thought of you!
    Sending thoughts and prayers for all that is good.


Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison