TODAY WE ARE HERE TO SHARE OUR MEMORIES.
Our brains store memories like supercomputers store data.
My memories of my dad
are categorized by flowers.
Daddy Jack was at sea
for long stretches of time, when he returned it was always a celebration. When I was 5, I was playing at my friend
Sheila McDonough’s swing set. After I
had just picked a big bouquet of dandelions by the swing set leg, I spotted my
daddy Jack wheeling over a sparkling brand new blue 2 wheeler bike. I threw the dandelions in the air and they
landed like yellow rain.
I was six years old on April 10, 1963, I was in bed asleep, but
I woke up to loud voices and crying. My
mother was devastated over the news. I
remember going out to the kitchen and seeing a bouquet of forsythias arranged
in a vase. My Aunt was there distracting
me by letting me eat a snack pack of Sugar Pops cereal pouring the milk right
into the box. Everything else about that
night is hazy, yet I remember the forsythias’.
Each April when they come to bloom, so do my memories.
After the news of the Thresher implosion, I spent a few days
with my best friend Sheila at her house next door. I recall seeing many large vases with sprays
of gladiolas delivered to my house. Many
cars were parked in the street by my house too.
It was a hard concept to grasp at 6 why people were at my house and why
were all those flowers there? Why was
mommy crying so much? To this day, I
detest gladiolas as they symbolize death to me.
As I grew, so did my perception that daddy was not ever
coming back, yet like many in my situation, my imagination was my best
friend. I would ride my bike the
quarter mile to Jenness Beach
with a freshly picked bouquet of purple vinca in my hand. The Isles of shoals were always there waiting
for me. Oh did that island looked like a
submarine with the conning tower sticking up above the water! I would hurl my little purple flowers into
the water in hopes that they would reach my dad. My imagination allowed me to dream that my daddy
had survived, but had amnesia from the implosion. Picturing myself running into him in Europe and having that restore his memory was a regular
daydream. As the waves took my flowers
out to sea, the familiar pangs of grief would pull just like the tide. Today, I have purple vinca in growing in my
yard. They remind me of hope.
Over the last 49 years of these ceremonies for the Thresher,
roses are the central flower that comes to mind. Roses were given to survivors as symbols of
our strength. I have a poem I have
always treasured that I will share. The
author is only known by her first name Elizabeth.
A lovely rose with
A scent so sweet and
So beautiful a flower
With colors shining
But something not so
About the fragrant
The thorns, so sharp
upon the stem,
That sharpens as it
Yet still lovely is
Despite the thorns
But do not fear to
live or love,
Life’s not exempt
So pick a rose, you
may get hurt,
But you will also
You have heard how my dad gave his life, and that has been a
thorny path for our family. My mother
persevered through the agony of losing her husband leaving four young children
without their dad. The deaths of these men brought about the Subsafe
program. Subsafe cut the thorns off
future submarines. I hold my rose
proudly and remember you Daddy Jack.