Friday, May 8, 2015

Remembering My Dad

The Rev. Nancy E. Gossling
“Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?” As a grandfather, my father wanted to be called Fuzzy. Although traditional, he wasn’t a traditionalist. He had no hair, and yet he was fuzzy. As the Rev. Greg Jones calls it, my Dad was “Traditioned Innovation.”
My Dad was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 8, 95 years ago; he was born into everlasting life on May 30, 2006. I still miss him. When we lived in Atlanta, he was one of my youth leaders in the Presbyterian church. When we lived in Connecticut, he spoke with the UCC pastor about my upcoming wedding. And when he lived in Massachusetts, and I was in seminary, he was confirmed by the bishop in the Episcopal Church at the age of 80. When I went to visit him at the end of his earthly life, I often found the Book of Common Prayer on his coffee table. When he asked me if I might be his chaplain for hospice, I refused. I was his daughter.
Growing up, my Dad quoted scripture frequently, although I never realized it until my middle age. He would talk about those places in our lives where there was “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Or, when I was complaining, he would remind me how easy it was to love those we love, but how hard it was to love our “enemies” . When he died, surrounded by his wife of 61 years, and his three children, he said, “Thank you for being a part of my life. I love you and goodbye.” Then, as much as I would like to say that he breathed his last and died peacefully, he didn’t. For the next three hours, we witnessed his crucifixion and the labor of his and God’s love into new life.
Why, now, am I missing him, I wondered? It’s not just a chronological thing, or a chronos timing. Rather, I think it’s about kairos or God’s timing. I think of him because my mother is still alive at 92; and when I visit her, I always think of Dad, although we still call him Fuzzy. I think of him because I’m sharing the care of her in Falmouth and their beloved home in Chatham. I think of the memories housed in those “now empty of everything human” rooms in Chatham, and the many memories sometimes present in my Mom. There are generations of furniture and knick-knacks awaiting disposition. Not a happy birthday thought.
As Paul and I face our own transitions, material right-sizing, time stewardship, and plans for future generations, I think of the navigating that my father did. Not a man to share difficult emotions easily, he was always there to listen to mine. He loved food and drink like me; and I always cherished the extended coffee hour with him in the morning, and the bowls of popcorn or cheese that came at “social hour” in the evening. We hiked mountains, watched movies, and played cards together. I could always count on him to fix the “blinking lights” on our machines and to speak the truth in love, even when we didn’t see eye to eye. A witness to the end, he didn’t blink when he stared down death, even as his own light was fading.
God, I thank you for his birthday today. God, I thank you for his life, the memories we shared, and the generations that came before us and will come after us. I miss my father, I miss Fuzzy; and God, please, I hope to see him again some day. But if I end up in that place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, please tell him, “I love you and I thank you for being a part of my life.”