Tag Archives: dad

Whether from the Atlantic or Sea of Galilee, shells produce sense of tranquility

Long before cell phones, there was my dad’s conch shell. He knew how to blow through the hole at the end to produce a very loud, distinct sound that would call us home from wherever we were playing.

That shell and Dad’s love for all ocean life instilled in me a similar love for shells and the ocean. But living in Ohio, far from the ocean, it’s often difficult to remember the peacefulness that comes from an early morning stroll on a deserted beach, bag in hand, eyes on the sand, in a search for the perfect shell.

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It helps to surround myself with those shells in various locations around the house and in a small glass jar of sand in my office. photo(14)

 

 

 

 
But my most recent shell acquisitions have a special meaning. While others have come from various vacation spots on the eastern shores of the United States, these come via a friend serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams. He found them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in Israel, located near the Golan Heights. photo(13)
Though every shell looks different, and though some originated in a place of great renown and others on obscure beaches, each has its own beauty and produces the same sense of calm and tranquility.

 

 

 

What DNA might have to do with a love for the sea…

The same visual comes to mind every time I find myself sitting on a beach in the southeastern United States. It’s spring of 1972, and my parents have sprung me from school to spend two weeks in the Florida Keys. Dad, a biologist, is spending a one- year sabbatical studying marine biology at Florida Presbyterian (now Eckerd College). We’re camping at John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo. I see my dad sitting perfectly still on an aluminum and web chair on the beach. As I approach, he whispers to walk carefully. That’s when I see the blue crabs skittering in circles around his chair. He grins at me. I join him.

The memory ends there. I don’t think we caught any crabs — just sat and observed them.

Genetics were my dad’s thing and if he was around, I’d ask him a few questions.  Sadly, he died after a two-year bout with cancer 16 years ago. For example, do genetics play any part in the fact that the minute I begin to smell the ocean, my heart slows and I feel instant relaxation? Is there something in my Pannabecker DNA that propels me to the beach at 5:30 a.m., where I will walk literally for hours at low tide?

During a recent vacation on Tybee Island, Georgia, I was walking along the beach early in the morning when I heard a dad talking with his young children about the blue crabs in their bucket. He saw me watching, grinned and beckoned me over to look. Suddenly, I was transported back to 1972 and there was Dad grinning at the blue crabs, his toes curling in excited anticipation.

Unfortunately, I had no camera with me on my walk on Tybee, so the blue crabs are just stored in my memory. But that same morning, I discovered my “find of the week” — a huge horseshoe crab, its insides having been devoured by some other ocean creature. IMG_0514[1]IMG_0515[1]

IMG_0534[1]IMG_0529[1]None of my other finds during the week quite measured up to the crab, and I’m wise enough not to pick up a jellyfish. And what’s a trip to the beach without a search for the perfect pretty shell?

Genetics? Maybe. A simple case of inherited love for the sea? Probably. Whatever.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

15 years later, celebrating the memories

I often wonder why it is that in my dreams, my dad always appears to be perfectly healthy. None of the pain and suffering that he went through during the last few years of his life seem to make their way into my nighttime images.

A few years ago, it occurred to me that every October, I begin to experience a sense of dread and depression. I finally connected this to the fact that it was late September/early October of 1997 when we realized that Dad’s fight with cancer was ending. On October 24 of that year, he died.

So this year, preparing for the usual bout of depression, I decided to refocus my thoughts, to remember the good times with Dad. To outsiders, he was quiet, shy, and — at least to his less serious students — a bit too challenging in the classroom. But those who knew him well appreciated his dry wit, his slow, well worded responses, his love of all genres of music (Pink Floyd was a favorite), his diverse interests — gardening, woodworking, exercise, baking, photography, even macrame.

And to six kids, he was just Grandpa. The guy who could answer all of their toughest questions, tell the best stories, give the best massages, stay underwater in the pool longer than anyone else, and fix whatever was broken.

Dad agreed with the well-known photographer Ansel Adams, that ““You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

When we moved our mom from the house they’d lived in for nearly 50 years and later, from her condo, we sifted through — literally — thousands of photographs and slides taken by Dad, his dad and his uncle. As is usually true of the photographer, their lenses are usually focused on the rest of the world so images of them are rare. But in my own attic are boxes of photos, from which I found some favorites. It’s true that photos can tell a story.

Letter to Dad, part 2

Dear Dad,

Guess what. It’s fruit fly season again and you know what that means. We’re inundated and you know how happy that makes me. But I have to thank you for taking Fred under your wing and teaching him the fine art of fruit fly food production.

Last night I arrived home to find Fred preparing assorted berries for a pie he planned to bake. As soon as he had that in the oven, he admitted that we now had a “little fly problem”. Something in the back of my brain kicked in and I could see your grin light up your face and hear your gleeful, “Oh goody, time to make fruit fly food.”

I remember all too well those hot summer days, coming home from the pool to find you stirring something on the stove….it usually turned out to be that thick syrupy concoction. Standing on the counter nearby was a bottle with a paper cone taped to the mouth, just waiting for you to fill it with…yep…fruit fly food.

So anyway, there was Fred, pouring goop into a tall bottle with the all-too-familiar cone…with that RFP evil scientist grin down pat.

Lo and behold, this morning, the fruit flies had abandoned the countertop and windowsills for the syrup and there they were, trapped inside. Gorging, no doubt.

Dad, you taught us so many useful things, like how to trap a fruit fly, how to back a car into a tiny campsite, how to give a really good foot massage, how to watch tv and grade papers at the same time, how to make the perfect angel food cake, and how to remove the tiniest splinter from a screaming child. I still have your forceps.

I’m sure you knew, but I’m sure I never said it enough. Thanks.

Love you,

Mary

A letter to my dad

Note: My dad, Richard Pannabecker, died nearly 14 years ago. He was a biologist, a college professor for more than 30 years. Like most kids, I thought my dad had all the answers. Most of the time, he had a pretty good one and if not, he’d help me find a solution. A few weeks after he died, I went out for a run. I was just coming back from knee surgery so I was moving pretty slowly. I remember suddenly stopping mid-stride. I couldn’t take another step. I sat on the curb and cried, the reality of his death finally hitting me. Now, all these years later, not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. It occurred to me that I could write him some letters. It’s probably selfish, but if it serves no other purpose, it’ll make me feel better.

Dear Dad,

Do you remember when I was learning to drive? You insisted that I had to learn how to drive a manual and an automatic, so we took a trip to Lima in the VW. I was just beginning to get the rhythm of shifting gears smoothly. Idling in neutral and shifting into first was still a challenge. We were stopped at the light at the intersection of Bluelick and 65. My stomach was churning, because I was sure I couldn’t get the dang car to move forward up that slight slope.

My dad and me, circa early 1970s

Sure enough, it stalled the first time. I tried again, but the car began rolling backward and I rolled gently into the car behind us. You jumped out and checked to be sure there was no damage, then opened the driver’s door and told me to “Get over” in a less-than-gentle tone. I, of course, burst into tears as you eased us forward and drove to a flat clearing.

I think you actually apologized and then insisted that I start driving again. I begged you to drive the rest of the way home, but you refused. Something about getting back on the bike after falling off. Then I think you made a crack about the guy behind me being too close anyway, so he probably deserved it.

We switched seats again and had an uneventful trip home. Soon after that, I suddenly realized I’d mastered the whole starting on a hill thing, and I never had a problem with it again. I still prefer a manual, but haven’t had one since we ditched our Festiva.

But learning to drive didn’t end there. You also made sure I knew how to change a tire and check the oil. Of course, since I’ve never since had to change a tire….but that’s why we have AAA, right? You made sure I knew the value of that, too.

Did I ever thank you for all the things you taught me? Probably not, but I’ll bet you knew it. You were a pretty smart guy.

Thanks anyway.

Love,

Mary