I went to see my dad yesterday. I have done a pretty good job of seeing him every month this year. It's a little trickier in the summer because he doesn't use air conditioning and I can't stand the heat. It has been cooler than usual this year, however, and yesterday was a good day to visit him. I drove through a thunderstorm on the turnpike (always exciting) but other than that, my trip was uneventful.
I really enjoy my visits with him, and never know what new insights I will come away with. Yesterday, he said to me, "You had something I never had - an electric train. It was under the Christmas tree for you nine days before you were born. Did you know that?" Actually, I didn't. My electric train is part of my earliest memories, it's true, but I never knew that he bought it for me (his first child) before I was born. It makes sense, though. I have seen photos of my mother that Christmas - hugely pregnant with the child (me!) that would be born right after the new year on January 3rd. My parents certainly didn't know whether I would be a boy or a girl, but I have a sense that my dad didn't care. His first child would have an electric train.
I do remember riding the Rapid to Cleveland with my dad when I was very young to go to a train shop somewhere downtown. I have a sense that it was a small shop - long and narrow with a high ceiling, but that could just be a child's perception. I don't remember anymore what we bought there. Maybe it was the automated box car with the conductor who kicked boxes out onto the platform. Maybe it was just some more track. My dad must have taken a child's delight in the small, crowded shop and everything that was in it. He was so young then - not yet 26 when I was born.
As an odd aside, I received my first electrical shock as a small child when my dad allowed me to plug the transformer into the wall socket. He didn't realize that my tiny fingers were touching the metal prongs of the plug. I was more surprised than hurt, and learned a life lesson I have never forgotten.
I have really struggled in recent years with the concept of passing time and with memories of places (and people) that no longer exist. For some reason that I don't really understand, spending time with my dad makes me feel better about all that. It's a win-win situation.