By: Tanya Ward Goodman
Many, many years ago, my father built a trapeze for my aunt Mary. He sunk the posts into the lawn of her parents’ South Dakota home and encouraged her to learn to fly.
When I was in college, my father sent hundred dollar bills through the mail. It was a wonderful treat to open a letter and find cash and a note in his scrawled handwriting. “A little something from the cats,” he might write. Or “A grant from the Old Man”.
My father liked to give things away. He was the master of the grand gesture. He was good at picking out the perfect present whether it was a turquoise-colored square dance dress for me, a silver squash blossom necklace for my mother or, later, a horse-shaped brooch for my stepmother.
Before we knew about the Alzheimer’s, he confessed to me that he “loved both his wives” and it didn’t seem so very odd because even after a long time of some pretty big fights with my mom, he was a guy filled with a lot of genuine affection.
When we did find out about the Alzheimer’s, the lines of divorce that had kind of loosely defined our family began to soften. We grouped together around this loving and lovely man. And we became more deeply a family.
Just this past weekend, my Aunt Mary set up her trapeze. She is no longer in her teens and this time, the posts are sunk deep into the red earth of New Mexico. In my inbox this morning are 158 photos of my family swinging on the trapeze. My stepmother, my brother, my mom, and her sister –my aunt Mary, all together in one place under the big Ponderosa pines. My sister-in-law smiles her big, toothy smile and my beautiful cousin stretches out legs that look just like her mama’s. My Aunt Mary’s boys are full grown men with kids of their own and they stand on a ladder, their hands steadying the children on the slim bar.
In every photo there is love and support as my family moves together, steadies each other and helps one another to fly. My dad would have been so happy.