Originally published in the Chillicothe Gazette, June 20, 2021
by Sydney W. Newsome
Aristotle wrote that memory is the scribe of the soul. Today, experts say our first memories may have been formed as early as two and a half years old. Those are the building blocks of who we can become. I often reflect on memories of my dad. He’s taught me so much throughout my life, and he changes so much from one memory to the next. My earliest memories of my dad may not seem exciting, but are more than priceless to me.
I borrowed one memory from a home video, possibly from before I was born. Mom holds the camera as Dad stands on a ladder, painting the walls of my room in our old house, something I can’t remember seeing him do. His face looks the same as it does today. My brother and I look just like him and we’re both named after him. He can build and fix anything, and I mean anything. He put the second story on that house before building the one we’ve lived in for 21 years. Mom says he never stopped working, and if he wanted to learn how to do something, he’d teach himself.
In that video, no one knew he had Multiple Sclerosis yet. No one could imagine how things would change.
Ten years later, we’re at our house on the hill. He sits beside me in a white plastic lawn chair, tossing baseballs my way, hoping I’ll eventually hit one. I play baseball because I know he likes it, so I want to like it, too. Maybe it was the fact I have one nearsighted and one farsighted eye, or that I was always a theatre kid at heart with no future in sports whatsoever, but we both know there’s no hope in me hitting that ball. Still, he stays out for as long as he can, tossing the ball until we’re both exhausted and it’s time to go back inside with the help of his cane.
During that time, he drove us to and from school every day after he retired from his job in maintenance. He did so until I was old enough to drive.
In what seems like the blink of an eye, he’s talking my mom and me through wiring a shed I bought to make into my office. I am reminded of where I get my innate stubbornness from. We look and act alike, and—unfortunately for my mom—have the same sense of humor. Together, we successfully bring power to an empty shed with his help, even though he’s wheelchair bound.
I know I’ll never forget what M.S. took from him, but I will always remember the father I received in return. While it hurts that I have to claim memories from VHS tapes, I possess the souvenir of witnessing his resilience as things he loved were stolen from him all while not letting it change who he is. I am in awe of what he knows, what he teaches me, the things he has built, and the memories we’ve shared because of it.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Sydney W. Newsome holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Ohio University. She is also a clerk at the Howard S. Young (Frankfort) branch.