Page Three Father's Day Memories

Page Three Father's Day Memories

Sharon Allen Gilder, at left in this 1954 photo with father Warren Collins Allen, mother Reid Fussell Allen and brother Thomas Reid Allen, gets comfort from wearing her late father's pale blue shirt.
Sharon Allen Gilder, at left in this 1954 photo with father Warren Collins Allen, mother Reid Fussell Allen and brother Thomas Reid Allen, gets comfort from wearing her late father's pale blue shirt. (Family Photo)
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Three dads, three very different memories.

A Polo-Collared Recollection of Dad

One never knows what will evoke a childhood memory. Sometimes it's a smell. Like the other day when the waft from a scented candle reminded me of walking past fragrant honeysuckle on the way to elementary school. Fifty years have passed since I was that 8 year old, but the scent is as fresh as ever.

An article of clothing emits memories of my father. It's a classic polo-collared shirt. Pale blue. Dad wore it whenever he puttered around the house or mowed the lawn past dusk with a hand-held flashlight and the moon's well-aimed beam guiding his course. He enjoyed tinkering and making things better. Trips to the hardware store were frequent, and I got to go along for the ride. Today, the smell of fresh-cut pine studs, paint and bulky bins of nails, nuts and bolts elicit thoughts of my father because he lead me there.

Back to the shirt. For 28 years since his passing, I've worn Dad's shirt whenever I tackle a painting job. Its fibers are aged to comfortable perfection and boast several holes that document its advanced years. A kaleidoscope of luscious latex shades have been dripped and dabbed on the shirt over time, creating a reunion of tattoos to the past and present.

Whenever I slip the soft blue shirt over my head, down my shoulders and onto my form, its fibers begin to breathe new life for my next painting project. The shirt fits me the way fingers feel as they slip into a finely formed glove. I take a deep breath and relive the comforting thoughts, sounds and scents of yesterday that brought me to today. They're classic, just like Dad.

-- Sharon Allen Gilder, Gaithersburg

A Class Clown of a Father

My father and I didn't have the kind of relationship you see on TV. We never walked the beach and discussed the meaning of life; nor did he ever go to Home Depot to find out how to build me a fort. In fact, when I was 10, I forced him to build me a basketball court in the back yard after the makeshift rim and backboard we had tied to the back of a tetherball pole landed on my head, sending me to the emergency room.

My father, along with seven brothers and one sister, grew up in a small Northwest Washington home in the 1930s. His childhood claim to infamy was that he accidentally burned down much of the family home when he was in second grade. His siblings all had to be sent t to live with relatives while the house was rebuilt. My father recalled that shortly after the incident, he went to confession and said, "Father, forgive me for I have sinned. I burned down the family house -- once."

It was at St. Anthony's High School where my father met my mother, who thankfully had a sense of humor. They began dating early on even though my father once gave her up for Lent. As others have told me, my father was not only the class clown, but the clown of the entire school -- even though he stood only 5-6, weighed about 110 pounds and was called "Flea" by his basketball teammates.


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