Growing up in the 50s and 60s, coal burned in our furnace, warming the basement where dad’s workshop lived, and where mom’s canned peaches, tomatoes, and preserves waited on shelves. Where dad’s love was fashioned into two doll beds for my sister and I, and a wooden wheelbarrow for my younger brother. And…where

Another kind of love swirled like paint being mixed by a stick, only used once by my dad on our butts, where misty eyes say, “you know this hurts me as much or more as it does you,” to his three disobedient children, so dear to him, where love mists my eyes as I write.

The basement also smelled dad’s farts I was told, where he disappeared after dinner for a short time; longer after we were asleep, I imagine, to craft those wooden gifts for whom I felt he would give his life. Like he gave a new paint job to a secondhand bicycle as my Christmas gift.

Sometime in my teens, I learned he smoked cigarettes in the basement. Hiding, his wisdom knowing it was a bad habit, not wanting to pass it down to us; before 1965 when America’s government mandated “hazardous to your health” printed on packs.

Dad labeled LOVE on my heart with his many actions, especially his vulnerable weekly letters sent to me in college and during my early marriage. Just recently taken out of hiding from a back shelf (earlier years boxed in storage.) Now his precious words are resting atop a hand-crafted stand at the head of my bed😊.

My husband lost his dearly loved dad to lung cancer when Dave was fourteen, reluctant to talk about his great loss, to cry. Recently, I have learned that they spent precious time together in their basement where he helped his dad remodel their dark dusty spider haven scary basement. They cleaned it and killed many spiders which got him over his fear of spiders. They put up 2×4 walls, paneling, built a bathroom, and closets under the stairs.

When his dad was starting to get lung cancer operations, the doctors would take out parts of his lungs and follow with chemo and radiation. Dave did not fully understand how painful it was for his dad. He also did not understand the mental anguish his dad felt. His dad kept most of his lung cancer pains to himself or to his mother. Many times, Dave could hear his mother crying in the bedroom with the door closed. (It was usually open.) Dave tells me that he thinks his dad did not want him and his older brothers to know he would die soon.

Although his dad did not talk about his pains and feelings with the family, he did tell Dave a lot when they were working in the basement. Dave would ask him questions about his cancer and pain, and he would tell Dave everything. The thought that stuck with him the most near the end is hearing that his dad just wanted one day without pain before he died. Dave told him that he would gladly take all his pain for him for a day, crying as he tells me his feelings and of his dad’s appreciation.

Because his dad had cancer and several operations, Dave did not want to start smoking cigarettes. All his friends were smoking in the fields, off St. James Street by the viaduct at the time; he would hang out with them as long as Dave promised not to tell their parents. He never did. Some kids that knew his father understood; other kids made fun of him, but Dave didn’t care and told them about his father’s operations, but they didn’t care. To this day, Dave has never smoked cigarettes despite his ex-wife and that many of his campground friends still do. He is very glad that he never smoked and has had healthy lungs until his hemothorax in 2019.

I would never have pursued a relationship with Dave if he was a smoker.

Dave tells me that he thinks about his dad every day and misses him, as I do my dad, which ties us closer together with greatfulness! With deeper truer and acknowledged appreciative love!