Monday, June 29, 2009

Remembering my father's birthday

Today is my dad's birthday; he would have been 86 today. David Richardson died five years ago. My dad loved the sea and loved sailing. He had skippered various small ships in World War II, and after the war he captained a sea-going tugboat between San Francisco and Pearl Harbor.

Even after he left the Navy and went into the business world, he kept his love of the sea all his life. When I was young, he and I spent countless hours sailing on San Francisco Bay.

In later years he brushed up on his seamanship, took an exam and got a Coast Guard license so he could hire out skippering yachts for those who owned them but did not know what to do with them on the water. Mostly he worked the Pacific coast, but he and I once piloted a large yacht down the Hudson River, past Manhattan, and out to its summer mooring in Connecticut Sound (he the skipper, I the crew).

The photo at right of my father was taken by a U.S. Navy photographer in 1944 while he was on a patrol searching for downed American fliers along the coast of New Guinea (sadly, none were found). The sailing photo below is from the day we took my father's ashes out to San Francisco Bay and scattered them at the Golden Gate. Our friend Karen sent this poem a few years ago, and I always think of my dad when I read it.
To Alexander Graham
by W. S. Graham

Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father
Who seemed pleased to see me.
He wanted to speak. I saw
His mouth saying something
But the dream had no sound.

We were surrounded by
Laid-up paddle steamers
In The Old Quay in Greenock .
I smelt the tar and the ropes.

It seemed that I was standing
Beside the big iron cannon
The tugs used to tie up to
When I was a boy. I turned
To see Dad standing just
Across the causeway under
That one lamp they keep on.

He recognised me immediately.
I could see that. He was
The handsome, same age
With his good brows as when
He would take me on Sundays
Saying we’ll go for a walk.

Dad, what am I doing here?
What is it I am doing now?
Are you proud of me?
Going away, I knew
You wanted to tell me something.

You stopped and almost turned back
To say something. My father,
I try to be the best
In you you give me always.

Lying asleep turning
Round in the quay-lit dark
It was my father standing
As real as life. I smelt
The quay’s tar and the ropes.

I think he wanted to speak.
But the dream had no sound.
I think I must have loved him.
The Monday Funnies will be taking a break for a few weeks during General Convention.

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