|On the road near Ashburton, Dartmoor in Devon, England, 1982.|
We took the bends in the road one at a time. This new landscape of separation, dotted with familiar objects that would bring a flood of happy memories along with pangs of loneliness, often felt disorienting: seeing photos everywhere of Dad vibrant and alive; his handwritten "to do" list on his desk; his customary place next to my mom now empty on the bench where they sat together on the back deck; and his glasses that he'd worn so recently, lying still and unused on the bedside table.
As my siblings left one by one after the funeral, I stayed with my mom, and brother Fr. Peter Jon and his family, in Indiana for several weeks. We began to allow ourselves to accept this new reality of daily life void of Dad's physical presence, while appreciating the new relationship and eternal presence our family was building with him spiritually.
Separately, though together, Mom and I endured many moments that could have been numbingly empty; but thankfully we experienced the mutual comfort that comes from the tender and honest companionship of another who has been left behind, as well as the blessed grace that is God's gift.
One afternoon, in search of something to read, I pulled out a vaguely familiar volume, bookended with others between a couple of heavy gilded lions on a table that I'd walked past several times a day. The spine bore the title, The Good Natured Bear.
I opened the cover to experience a little jolt of recognition, accompanied by the (lately) ever present feeling of bright sadness, as I read my own handwriting:
To my sweet Daddy Bear -- a present from our Ashburton bookstore.
Love, Wendy Bear. Christmas '82
|My mom took this photo of me in Dartmoor,|
while we were on a family trip to England
when I was 18 years old.
This day, it was raining. Ever the romantic, Dad, after making us kids some popcorn, had invited Mom to go walking and exploring in the rain. They left, turning down the narrow alleyway which led out to the shops, and around a corner, where they stumbled upon a cozy used bookshop. They quickly came back and got us kids, and we all spent a fun afternoon browsing through the antique treasures on the bookshelves.
The title of the book I bought that day for my dad, and my inscription on the inside cover had a special significance. For one thing, Dad was truly a "Good Natured Bear". He was a big man - tall (6'4") - and his very deep voice was full of jovial humor, with a balance of authority and kindness.
|Siblings with Dad in the cute town of Ashburton: Me, Ginger, Greg, Terri|
and Heidi (our little brother Peter Jon, suffering a bout of chicken pox,
had to stay hone in California - I think he got a new bicycle out of the deal!)
The Three Bears song was made popular by the Page Cavanaugh Trio, Ray Ellington Quartet, and Leon McAuliffe.
With both our parents being wonderful musicians, my brothers and sisters and I were blessed to grow up with lots of music in our home. Our family was often requested to sing our own fun version (a musical amalgamtion of the two Youtube videos I've embedded) of The Three Bears, for friends.
Mom, a classically trained pianist, wouldn't miss a beat as she'd pound out the tune and sing the "Mama Bear" part, while Dad - in his booming bass voice - was the "Daddy Bear", and we kids were collectively "the little girl with blond hair" (aka Goldilocks) and the "Little Wee Bear".
|I love this picture of my dad in the early '70's with his guitar!|
"Bye, bye, bye," said the Daddy Bear
"Goodbye, bye, bye," said the Mama Bear
"Hey Babba Ree Bear," said the Little Wee Bear...