Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Father's Daughter

My father and I at a road side park on one of our adventures.  It's my favorite photo of us.

I am my father’s daughter.  I know this to be true.  I don’t have many memories of him, but the ones I do, really reflect who I am as a person. 
I have only written three sentences and I am already crying.  Why is that? 
My father died of pancreatic cancer when I was 10 years old and I have never gotten over it.  To this day I cannot tell my own children, who are now grown women with children of their own, any of my memories of my dad because I immediately start crying and it is truly uncomfortable, and almost unbearable, for all involved, so I keep those memories to myself.  It is very hard not to share them, but also too painful to talk about him at the same time.
My dad had to leave school after the eighth grade because my grandfather forced him to work on a neighboring farm and give his earnings to him.  I never knew my grandfather, but from what I gather, he was not a nice man and that is an understatement.  My father was one of eight children and I am sure my grandfather was the same to all of them.  I know at one point, my father found his youngest brother, who then was only sixteen, living in a car on the street.  He had come home from school one day and his parents had just up and moved away, so my father took him in.  Even with his atrocious upbringing, he was a compassionate and loving man who adored his family.
Even though he had only limited formal schooling, he was a man of great intellect, reading two newspapers a day, and owning the gas station in the little town we lived in.  His gas station was the place where lots of high school boys worked after school, where people could pay their electric bills, and where menfolk would gather to talk about the day’s events and have some pop out of the big chest cooler, just like at Wally’s on the Andy Griffith show.  You not only got gas there, you could also have your car repaired, have it washed, and get new tires.  He had a back room with lots of different tires.  I still am fond of the smell of new tires.  This would have been in the 1950s and 1960s.  He had known that he had to make his own way and he did in a spectacular way.  He had ambition and drive to succeed.  I’d like to think I have a little of that too.
He also was elected to our town council.  Not too long ago, I was going through his wallet that my mother had given me, and there was a newspaper clipping in it.  It said that one of the committees he sat on for the town was oversight of the library.  I have sat on the boards of the Friends of Venice Library, the New College Library Association and the Ringling College Library Association, as libraries are also a passion of mine. 
Even though he was a short man – 5’3’’ – he was very athletic, playing golf, baseball, and of course, bowling.  He loved the Detroit Tigers baseball team and so do I.
He died in May 1968, the month between the April murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the June murder of Bobby Kennedy.  I felt like the world was ending.
The next few years, my mother, my four-year-old sister, and I tried to function as a family, but I never felt whole again.  All I wanted was a complete family.  I married my husband, two months after I graduated from high school.  As I look back at it now, I know I was looking for that complete family and I found it.  My husband is just the kind of father to our daughters, that my dad was to me and they adore him, as do our three grandchildren.  I am very lucky to say I have had a “complete” family now for 37 years.
Now about those memories….here are some of my favorite ones….whenever I need comfort, I remember the feeling I had when I would sit nestled next to my father, tucked under his arm, in the pew at St. Cyril’s Catholic Church every Sunday morning.  I can see and almost feel the fabric of the tweed overcoat he wore and feel safe and secure.  Another memory is that just he and I would go for a walk after dinner every night down to Ackett’s drug store and sit at the soda fountain and have a cherry Coke.  I still drink cherry Coke every day, though now it's diet.
My dad used to like to go on adventures.  One that we took together when I was eight years old was to walk the railroad tracks from our little Michigan town to the next town about five miles away.  My mom packed us a paper bag lunch and off we went.  The tracks went over a small river and I still remember how scared I was to cross it, looking down and seeing the water beneath the slats of the track, but my father just kept encouraging me to make the crossing on my own, not knowing that he was preparing me for the future to do so many things on my own without him.
One of those things I did on my own, was to walk down the aisle by myself at my wedding.  I was not about to have anyone stand in for my dad on that day.  I went down the aisle alone, with his spirit by my side.
So now, 44 years after his death, I am still trying to make my dad proud of me.  People always ask me how I accomplish so much and do all that I do.  I don’t usually tell them the truth, but it is because I have to do enough for the both of us.  I have to make Henry Joseph Fedewa proud that I am his daughter and that, even though he was with me for only a few short years, I have turned out just like him.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee

What could be a more civilized occasion than Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee?  I must confess, I adore pageantry, especially royal pageantry - weddings, funerals, diamond jubilees - you name it, I am most certainly there.  Well, of course, not actually there, but in spirit, watching it on the telly, usually in my nightgown and a fetching chapeau, befitting the moment.

Did you watch the ABC News special with Katie Couric the other night?  It was divine.  The current crop of royals seem to act appropriately and with good taste, finally.  They are all quite charming, but especially Diana's boys, William and Harry.  I think they were raised quite well by both parents.  And that darling Catherine!  I cannot wait to watch her through the years.  She appears to be quite the royal jewel.  But in the end, it truly was all about the Queen.  I think she has had a remarkable reign and has been a stellar example of service and duty to her country and most importantly, always dressed appropriately for the occasion.  I think she is fabulous.  Who would not adore someone who literally embodies the motto, "Keep calm and carry on".  Oh, how I wish I could do that!

Queen Elizabeth's Coronation photo

Elizabeth is the second longest reigning monarch at 60 years, coming after Queen Victoria at 63 years.  She has been through 12 prime ministers and many, many world events.  And we won't even discuss her, as she called it, "annus horribilis" year of 1992 when three of her children separated/divorced their spouses, Windsor Castle caught fire, and her soon-to-be former daughters-in-law were featured prominently in the tabloids - Diana for her tell-all book and Sarah for the photo of her topless, having her feet kissed by a paramour. 

I know this is a doctored photo, but that doesn't make me love it any less!

Dogs are one of the great loves of her life, which endears her to me.  Elizabeth has had over 30 corgis during her life, receiving the first one, "Susan", for her 18th birthday.  Currently, she has Monty, Willow, and Holly.  I am sure named for Monty Python, "Whip my hair back and forth" Willow Smith, and my daughter, Holleigh.

Queen Elizabeth as photographed by Annie Leibovitz

This weekend is the central weekend of the year-long Diamond Jubilee.  I already have my DVR set on the BBC channel for the entirety of Sunday.  I do not want to miss a moment.  Then on Monday is the big concert.  What a grand mix of entertainers!  What is not to love about a line-up that includes Renee Fleming, Tom Jones, Elton John, Grace Jones, Stevie Wonder, Shirley Bassey, Lang Lang, Annie Lennox, and Paul McCartney?  Quite an eclectic group, don't you think?

The official Diamond Jubilee emblem drawn by 10 year-old Katherine Dewar of Chester

I will end this posting with Queen Elizabeth's own words...

Official Diamond Jubilee Message from Her Majesty (released on 6th February 2012)

Today, as I mark 60 years as your Queen, I am writing to thank you for the wonderful support and encouragement that you have given to me and Prince Philip over these years and to tell you how deeply moved we have been to receive so many kind messages about the Diamond Jubilee.

In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign and which my family and I look forward to seeing in many forms as we travel throughout the United Kingdom and the wider Commonwealth. 

I hope also that this Jubilee year will be a time to give thanks for the great advances that have been made since 1952 and to look forward to the future with clear head and warm heart as we join together in our celebrations. 

I send my sincere good wishes to you all.