Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tender Mercies

Recently, my daughter said to me,"I didn't know your dad played the guitar. Why didn't you ever tell me?" I wrote about my family growing up in a rural area in Michigan in March this year but so much of my memory of that time was overshadowed by later events, particularly my mother's murder. I hardly ever write about my father, Richard, who died when he was 49 years old. It's difficult to write about him; I often think about the fact that he died before mom came out. They had an intense relationship with lots of fighting and making up. He was a dedicated father and a traditional family man. I guess it would have been confusing for him to know about mom's love of women.

I was so close to him. We had the same kind of quiet manner and appreciation of nature. He used to take time to teach me to sing. He knew mostly country gospel songs though he wasn't a religious "church going" man. He didn't talk much about spiritual subjects; actually, he didn't talk much at all. I used to think that he found God in nature but now I wonder if I was thinking about myself. Robert Duvall plays a character similar to my father's in the following scene from the movie, Tender Mercies.




Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall) teaches Sonny (Allan Hubbard) a bit about playing the guitar.



I remember this song, "The Old Country Church" in particular. We sang it in two parts, Dad would sing the low part and I would echo with the high. He was quite serious while teaching me and I knew that if I didn't pay attention my lesson would end. With five children in our family, I did not want to lose his undivided attention. I think I was the only one he taught these songs to but I cannot be completely sure. I am sure that I felt special when he took out his guitar and taught me to sing the songs he learned in his rural Tennessee childhood.



Dad's Wild-wood Rose

Open fields where
Long corn-rows stretch tiny...
Walking in the back-field,
"Who cut down the cornstalk?"
"I did. I'm sorry."
Sun-sweat in 100 degree weather...
"Can you make some ice tea?"

Tomatoes rest plump,
Victorious over healthy weeds.
Sun-falls and evening-rises.
A black hymnal falls open,
"Can we sing, The Old Country Church?"

The curved wood vibrates a melody
Through Dad's strings...
Crickets gently join
Cotton-wood heart shaped leaves
Dip and bless quiet-cool
All is well

Cynthia Pittmann

I miss my dad's company. I miss sitting out on the porch, lilac scent streaming through the cigarette smoke while watching lightning bugs. I would sit quiet waiting for the evening silence to break with a few words from my dad. And hope, too, to see his gold-tooth smile as he told a childhood story.

I remember your songs and your stories. Goodbye, Dad.

Richard Alfred Pittmann October 19, 1936-August 5, 1996

31 comments:

  1. This is such a poignant post and lovely tribute to your dad, Cynthia.

    I especially like the line "Tomatoes rest plump,
    Victorious over healthy weeds." Wonderful, descriptive poem.

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  2. Willow, I was thinking of your recent blog posts when I wrote that poem...actually, I've been inspired by your courage to post your own poetry...and I thought, I need to start writing again...have I forgotten how? (I usually feel that way!) Thank you for reading and your specific comment.
    Love to you <3

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  3. I miss my dad too, Cynthia. This is such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your memories.

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  4. One of my favorite posts ever, Cynthia. I love the movie 'Tender Mercies' and remember that scene well. Your poem and your last paragraph made me feel like I was watching a movie. A beautiful read!
    Catherine

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  5. Rudee, may both of our fathers be surrounded in love and the knowledge that they created children who care and try to make this world a better place. Love to you <3

    Catherine, thank you for sharing with me...your own photo stream of heavenly skylight felt like a poem to me when I read it today. Love to you, friend. <3

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  6. hey i saw your comment in paris' blog and yeah we have the same name.. hahahhaha.. just dropped by. you have a cool blog. tc. =)



    -cyn

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  7. Lovely tribute Cynthia. Fathers and daughters - what a special bond and a bond that is often a quiet one, what is not said can mean so much. xv

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  8. That was an honour to have a glimpse into your special moments with your dad.
    Thank You, Cynthia, he sounds like he was a lovely father to you.xx♥

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  9. Oh Cynthia that was a beautiful tribute to your Dad. Mine is 81 and we know that everyday is now a borrowed day for him.
    xoxo

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  10. Xyn, thanks for the visit to Oasis Writing Link and for leaving a comment so that I would know you were here...I'm happy to meet you. Take care <3

    Vickie, yes, there is a lot of intimacy and trust that can be shared in quiet times together. Thank you for reading and love to you. <3

    Natalie,
    when I read about being alone and quiet...I thought about be with someone and quiet...it made me think of my dad. Thanks for reading and sharing my life stories with me. Love to you <3

    Carol, yes, I imagine it's wonderful to share these years with your father. My own lived such a short time, I didn't get to share much of my adulthood with him. He didn't know my children but he was welcoming to my husband. Where children are concerned, it's important to say...this is my dad and he is your grandfather...all of that...I'm sorry he was an absence for my children. I want to talk more about him now and let them both know that he was important to me. I hope you're feeling lighter and more energetic.
    Love to you <3

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  11. A lovely tribute to your father. Beautifully written.
    It is sad that he dies so young. I think it is so important for a young woman's development to have a loving and supportive Dad.
    My father used to sing too enthusiastically in church.
    He was great.

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  12. Michelle,
    Thanks for reading and letting me know you were here. Love to you <3

    Elizabeth,
    Thanks for sharing that adorable that memory of your father...I think his kind of embracing of life -uninhibited singing-is just what I love...so open and warm. Love to you. <3

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  13. What a warm and peace-filled post, Cynthia. I, too, miss my dad "being on earth", being able to tell him how I'm doing and am sad he missed the happiest times in my life and know he would have held me, even if long-distance, during the sad times, too.

    Your poem is beautiful, like a day in the life, so special.

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  14. Oh Cynthia, your poem was beautiful. 'Dip and bless' - perfect.

    Let's raise a glass to all adult orphans everywhere.

    Cheers m'dear

    x

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  15. Happy family memories are such a rarity these days, it is very refreshing to read a story from the heart. I am sorry you have so much sadness in your heart Cynthia. But I am happy to know that you have such beautiful memories.

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  16. Fathers have a special place in their daughters' hearts.
    They never truly die. So many times, out of the blue we have snippets of smells, or something someone says that bring memories back.

    This is a lovely tribute to a very special person.

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  17. Teri, yes, we do miss our dads...thank you for reading my story and poem. Your visit gladdened my heart. Love to you <3

    French Fancy, I raise my glass in honor of your own dignity in loss...to lose two parents does make you (one) feel a bit groundless...still we had their love. I'm glad you appreciated my poem. Love to you <3

    Bogey,
    every life is sprinkled with happy and sad memories...mine included. I don't feel particularly sad about life...everyone has loss. I didn't want to mislead you. I hope I can remember the good memories...it's a balancing act...when your in a sad mood that perspective tends to dominate...in a cheerful mood...you remember the good times. May you always remember from the cheerful perspective...<3

    Lakeviewer,it's true that the momentary scent and a flash of color brings back someone from long ago. I enjoyed your comment...it's true that fathers have a special place in a daughter's heart. Love to you. <3

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  18. Your Dad would have been proud to have such words said about him.
    And you are lucky to have been his daughter.
    Remembering our parents is so bitter sweet always
    xx

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  19. So much said, so much yearned through, in this one post. Lovely. And thank you, too, for your words earlier today.

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  20. Cynthia,

    I truly admire your ability to turn a phrase and to string words together in such a lovely way. The story and poem are so touching and your descriptive writing really enables me to see you and your dad in my mind's eye and it makes me smile seeing you there.

    Beautiful things here and I can't wait to read some of your older posts and do a little catching up.

    Amy

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  21. Hi Cynthia,
    first of all, all my apologies for having been a bit absent on your blog lately...
    i must say i read your lovely tribute to your dad with a knot in my throat. Father-daughter relationship is not always easy..
    Thank you for this very touching post Cynthia
    xoxo
    Lala

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  22. Fire Byrd, yes, bittersweet indeed...I do have some difficult memories, too, but I also remember loving to be in Dad's company. There was something special that shown from his quiet face; he had the gift of making his friendship a special gift...a feeling of being honored.After he died, many people felt that they suffered the greatest loss...that Dad was their "special person" more than a family member. I was struck by the realization that Dad's gift was in making people feel special. I think everyone in my family felt special...which is impossible to believe in a family with five children...nevertheless, it's true. Thank you for reading. <3

    Beth Kephart,thanks so much for reading my post and leaving your thoughtful comment. I appreciate your feedback and look forward to reading more of your stories. I added you to the sidebar so that others can find your work as well. Love to you <3

    Amy,how charming you are! I hope you can handle my earlier writing...I tend to over-share sometimes! But as Sarah Laurence (she's on the sidebar) said, if you can't say what you want in your own blog, where else can you? (my paraphrase)

    I think we may have a lot to learn from each other. Take care and love to you and your family. <3

    Lala Ema,hi friend! I heard that some people were having trouble entering the comments section so I assumed it was you too. The problem seems to be solved now.

    I so enjoyed your lighthearted post about Italian ice cream. It brought a smile to my face and inspired me to think about making a tropical fruit smoothie...maybe after I post this comment!!

    About father-daughter relationships, yes, I imagine that being away from your family also makes you think of them more clearly. Distance of all kinds brings focus to relationships. Love to you <3

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  23. I feel him very close, I do! The gold toothed smile. How wonderful.

    Thanks so much for telling us all about him. May he rest in peace.

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  24. Cynthia
    This is such a lovely and heart felt tribute to your Dad. I would have liked him very much!. I grew up in a family of Gospel Music Singers and musicians and the Blackwood Brothers were a frequently heard name .....

    You have had such loss. I remember the feeling of losing my Dad. He was quite a character and a truly unique man.

    I am so glad to see this post and it has brought back memories of my Dad who has been
    gone now for 30 years.....

    Thank you for sharing this
    Linda

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  25. Reya, thank you for coming over and leaving such a thouIghtful comment. I think it was a style to cap a tooth in gold. I have a confession to make. My father used to say that he wanted us to get his gold tooth when he died. He didn't want the undertaker to get the gold! (We left his tooth in...!)Love to you, friend. <3

    Linda, my dad was from your area, a bit east of Nashville and music meant a lot to all of those people there. My dad's sister, Wynoka, took me around to listen to gospel singers when I came to visit.

    I thought "folk" music was so real...it made me happy-like I was connecting to the spirit of the earth. Like many people there we had a trace of Cherokee in our family...somehow the music, the unpolished music and the sounds of nature in the background made me feel that lost part of my native ancestry.

    I had thought you would have something in common with this post but I didn't know that you also lost your dad. I'm sorry that we both have that absence but happy that this post helped to connect you to a warm memory of him. Love to you <3

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  26. Cynthia,
    I have read your blog on the horrible hate- crime murders of your mother and her partner. I'm so sorry. I pray that one day this type of hate crime will no longer exist. This blog is a beautiful tribute to your mother and your dad, and the inspiration they left you with. I'm sure they are very proud of you.

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  27. Hi Linda,
    So nice to have you come over, read and leave a comment. I went back to your blogs and found that you have two active blogs and several websites! Busy writer!

    Thank you for reading about my mother and her partner. I read about your own loss of your husband in 95. (And the CA's decision to not allow gay marriage.) May all those who have suffered loss be given the gift of joyful energy and wisdom. (I read what you wrote about the balance of joy and sadness.)
    Love to you <3

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  28. Your memories of your father are beautifully evocative. I feel a lump in my throat. That last paragraph belongs in a novel. The film clip makes me want to see the movie.

    I think of music with my Dad too – he only played the piano when he was happy. I used to fall asleep listening. Now my kids play piano too.

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  29. Sarah, thank you for your comment. I hope you do get a chance to see the movie; it's a simple and quiet movie but creates a reflective mood that triggers many memories for me...maybe you too, because of your own father's music. I have always loved listening to someone playing music...my husband plays the guitar...classical mostly...lately, my son has interrupted the airwaves with "screamo", which I can do without! My daughter sings...her voice is so sweet that sometimes it brings tears to my eyes.

    I can see you as a little sincere journal writing girl, lying in bed listening to your dad touch the piano keys...gently so as not to wake you...

    I wish that many people would have the experience of a family life accompanied by love mixed with music.

    Thank you for your comments...I'm off to read your Wednesday post. <3

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  30. Very nice post. I recently downloaded a version of "the old country church" by (don't laugh) the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet that is really good. Not what I normally listen to, but Buck Owens, et al doing gospel is good stuff.

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