Great Moments: A Daughter Remembers
From the Print Edition:
Winston Churchill, Autumn 93
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By the time my brothers and I were teenagers, we did a much better job of buying birthday cigars. By then, we had also come to admire Dad's ability to unwind and relax. Dad had a quick mind and a deep laugh and he knew how to make time for family and friends, music and books. He'd sit in his comfortable armchair and listen to Bach as he smoked. He didn't try to simultaneously riffle through papers or neaten shelves. His serenity was a wonderful antidote to the stress that lay like a net waiting to entangle the rest of us.
As a teenager, I also remember finding Dad outside on late summer nights. I'd step onto the deck, look at the constellations, listen to the crickets, smell that friendly cigar scent, then find the small round light. Dad's red light was my green light. If he was on the porch swing, I'd join him, the glow of his cigar matching the mood of father and daughter sharing the news of the day.
Call me sentimental. I know most girls don't grow nostalgic at the sight of a stogie. Most don't recall their youth through an opaque gray haze. But many didn't have a father who, with his slow cigar, always had time to talk.
A friend of mine took a photograph of my father and me two weeks before my wedding, two years before Dad died. In it, I'm 23 and wearing the wedding dress my mother wore. Dad is wearing Bermuda shorts, smoking a cigar, and--as a joke--holding a pitchfork. The portrait is a takeoff on Grant Wood's "American Gothic," but it shows affection not austerity. Entitled "Father of the Bride," the photograph hangs signed and framed in my kitchen. It's a surefire conversation starter.
My mother was a bride again several years ago. She married a wonderful man, and they live in my childhood home, now expanded. When you walk in, the house smells fresh and clean, with not a trace of a cigar. The ceilings are painted bright white, with not a hint of how they had yellowed. And there are no ashtrays anywhere. My brothers and I never did learn to smoke.
After Dad's sudden death, at age 68, there was an autopsy. It was a strange consolation to us that Dad's lungs were clear and healthy. And it was a great comfort to us to remember how good Dad had been at enjoying his life. And how, as with his cigars, he had savored it to the end.
Carol Weston is the author of Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You (HarperCollins, 1992) and From Here to Maternity: Confessions of a First-Time Mother (Little, Brown, 1991).
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