I have many memories of my dad, Peter J. Garden. He had many special qualities: he was loving, compassionate, funny, and extremely intelligent. Dad loved his sports, all sports—that’s where I got my love for them. We watched football every Sunday during football season. We had a variety of company to go along with it. My mom would cook a delicious dinner for us all too. This is a memory I will always treasure. There are memories of family parties with my Dad singing and joking with family and friends, taking my brothers and me to the Harlem Globetrotters basketball games, he took me to the Ice Follies and would also go to my boyfriend’s basketball games when I was in high school. He was an all-around great dad. My memories stopped in August of 1997, when my Dad passed away at the age of sixty-six. But the ones I do have will always be there.
The things my Dad did, to me, were above and beyond at times. Like, when he had the boys in the neighborhood give him all their football helmets and he drew the symbols of their favorite football team on the helmets. Then on the weekends, we would all gather up at the land next to my Grandma Nellie’s house and play football. But not just any football, the field was chalked up with the yard lines and the numbers of those lines. My Dad was the only adult playing with them too.
When I got old enough, he would let me play. That is why I have bad knees. But when I was becoming a young lady, he told me I couldn’t play tackle football with the boys anymore—only tag. Between you and me, I still played tackle football. He taught the boys how to score the football games when we watched them on Sundays. I remember seeing all his scorebooks one time in the cabinet. It had the plays they ran, how many yards they got on each play etc… I was in awe of him. He was great with statistics. You could ask him anything about sports and he knew it. When my father was younger, he was a lightweight boxer. One Christmas he bought us boxing gloves and he taught us all how to box. We would have little matches every once in a while. I still know how to box somewhat now.
There were the times that not only my Dad, but my Mom, let people move in with us because they were having a difficult time. We had his friend John, who ended up becoming a lawyer, another John who became a businessman, Ronnie who went to Vietnam and would come to our house and take us kids out for ice cream and fun adventures. Then there was the times we took a couple of my sister’s friend’s in when they were in high school. My dad and my mom were very generous people, which is where I know I received mine. Dad had a big heart and always saw the good in people. I remember in the late sixties or early seventies, when busing was prevalent, we took in twin boys from the Boston area to go to our high school. I always felt proud to be one of the families that felt comfortable doing that. They were a lot of fun too. We had some good times with them.
My dad had a sensitive side too. It would come out more around our birthdays or Mother’s Day, etc. He always got us and my Mom really nice cards, cards with meaning to them and would do something special with us. There were times when certain things were happening in the country that would set off this sensitivity too. I remember when JFK got assassinated, it was the first time I ever saw my dad cry. I remember thinking, “This has to be really bad if my dad is crying.” I was only six years old when that happened. The same happened with Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. My dad wasn’t afraid to show that side of himself, something else I was proud of.
In the intelligence department, he was a wiz. We would be doing our homework and go and ask my father a question, he would go on, on, and on with an answer. “Dad, that’s great, I don’t need any more info. Thanks,” we would say. He was a big history buff, a good speller and great with vocabulary. We always got more than one meaning to a word if we asked. He was also a great artist.
Every school year, if we wanted he would draw on the covers of our books (they were brown paper bags back then). I remember the year we had him draw the seven dwarfs. All the kids at school would ask “Who did that?” we were always proud to say, “My dad did!”
My father was tall and thin in his younger years and very handsome too. My mom and dad got married the summer after she graduated from High School in 1951. You could always see how much he loved my mom, even though she could drive him crazy sometimes. (Don’t we all do that from time to time in life?) You could really see how much he loved her though after my Mom unexpectedly passed away in 1989. As the years went on, he would talk about how he missed her. You could also see it in his personality too; he was lonely. Eight years after my mom passed, my dad passed away. He was sick with colon cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. He lived his life to the fullest for those eight years though. He joined the Wang Theater for the Boston Ballet. He took me, my sister Cathy, and my sister-in-law Debe to the ballet. We each took turns seeing one with Dad. It was such a nice experience to spend that time with him. I also went to the symphony with him; I think I was the only one who liked going to that with him. I’m not sure though. We went to plays and musicals; he took our children to see the Nutcracker a couple of times. He didn’t take just us though. He took my mother’s friends with him sometimes and her cousins too! When we went to see the Phantom of The Opera, there was twenty of us all together and it was all women except my Dad. He looked like a pimp! We had such a great time.
For his grandchildren, he would buy them books all the time. He would take them for a day and bring them to the bookstore to pick out books and then they would get an ice cream at the Peaceful Meadows ice cream store. Our children loved him very much! He was a fun Grandpa.
I miss my dad a lot; I lost both of my parents at too young of an age. I know it affected me a lot in my life. I was only thirty-two when my mom passed away and just starting my family. Nicole was five, and Kaytie was eighteen months old. She was my support system. My oldest daughter, Nicole, was born with a birth defect called Spina Bifida. My mother was always there for me and helping me out when I needed it. But my Dad was right there with her. I still to this day miss them so very much. Now my baby girl Nicole is up in heaven with them, she passed away in October of 2006. I am sure they are enjoying each other’s company.
As we all go through our lives, cherish the ones you have while they are here. Put the anger and petty arguments to rest by forgiving each other. We are all human and do make mistakes and have bad days, chalk it up and say, “Tomorrow is another day.” When they are gone, you can’t make up for the things you wanted to say or do. But remember they are always with you.