Returning (Benches)

So, I think I’ve mentioned this before.

For those who are new, I’ll give you a brief refresher. My family loves to celebrate the lives of those we’ve lost, and one of the ways that we do this is through commemorative benches. There’s one in Acton, MA, there used to be one in Medford, MA, and my dad’s bench is located in Lincoln Park, right on scenic Lake Winnipesaukee, in Gilford, NH. The one in Medford, I don’t know where it is, but it’s gone. I scoured the place for that bench, searched high and low, but for some reason, people decided to remove a bench that was clearly dedicated to a lost loved one. Part of me gets it. Maybe it didn’t go with the hospital’s new aesthetic, or maybe no one had visited in a really long time. I promise I’m not bitter about it, but I’m also not absolutely thrilled. Maybe they just didn’t know who to call.

A few weeks ago, my family took a trip up to Gilford, NH. Seeing dad’s bench is on the list, but more than that, we go to have a family trip, on a lake that we have come to know so well, on a lake that we grew up on. Both times we’ve gone, we’ve rented boats, and we even added a few wrinkles this time by renting kayaks and jet skis. Jet skiing was pure joy out on the open water, and it was my first time ever doing so. I’ll make a point to try and do it once a year, but I almost definitely won’t stick to that. Even so, it’s something that I’d like to do again. It’s good to try new things.

It’s a good, old-fashioned time, spent with family. We do things like roast marshmallows, watch movies (while we fall asleep), and swim in the pool that’s nearby. For the past two years, it’s been a week of bliss, and I’d argue that this year was even more important than the last. With the quarantine going on, it was good to spend some time together. It was good to change up the scenery, even if we couldn’t go out to eat. Instead, we stayed in and cooked, and we loved every minute of it. I’m not much in the kitchen, but give me a task, and I will take care of it with gusto.

On the last official, full day of the trip, we went out to see dad’s bench. It’s not a long drive, about five minutes down the road. We weren’t sure if anyone had been by to visit (not likely), so we brought cleaning supplies which included shop rags and window cleaner. When we got there, there was dirt and moss on the letters, and dirt caked on the exterior of the bench. We got to work, scrubbing and polishing the bench so that it resembled something close to new. It still needs work, but it looks so much better now than it did. It’s amazing how resilient granite is when it’s so exposed to the elements.


Once the task was completed, there was nowhere else for my mind to go. I try not to live in the past, but when I was there, it was hard not to think about it. We try and sweep these things under the rug, until we’re confronted by them face-to-face, and there’s no ability to look away. It’s not that I want to avoid thinking about my dad, it’s just that as I slowly recover from this past year, I want to think positively. When I think of dad, it does make me happy, but there are two sides to every coin, and not every memory that I have is an absolutely happy one. There’s nothing he could have done about that, but I’m aware of both the joy and the damage.

I try not to live in the past, but going to the bench definitely did something for me that I didn’t expect. It helped me to reconnect with those I’d lost, and sometimes I really need that. Like, right now. Sometimes we need to be reminded of those we lost, and the values they held dear, especially if we aspire to be like them some day. I hope that I am like my father, even as the image of him in my brain begins to fade. I cling to it, but I know that I’m fighting a losing battle with time.

And maybe that’s what he would want, at the end of all of this. He wouldn’t want us to hold onto the image of him with a white-knuckle death-grip. He’d want us to move on, the thing that’s been so difficult to do after almost a decade. The mark he left will never leave me, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get worn down with time. The mind is fickle. Eventually, the memories begin to blur and become confused, and it gets harder and harder to differentiate and recall things. I’m glad that my family remembers him with razor-sharp specificity.

What I’m left with is maybe a little less pain, and a little more powerful of a reminder of who he was. That bench will be around for a long time, but it too will eventually diminish and be ground down, and maybe someone will even remove it. I really hope not. It’s got a perfect view of the lake, well, maybe some trees need to be taken down first. I can’t help but think that dad would comment that the trees are blocking the view, but it’s still so pretty. It’s still on the lake, his favorite place in the world.

What I’m left with is an image in the mind of who I thought my father was, and maybe that’s what matters. My father was a man of integrity and honesty. He tried to always play it straight with me, even if he sometimes withheld the truth for fear of hurting me. The man is a near-saint in my memory, but I also know that the image I hold of him isn’t entirely real, that he did have his flaws, that he wasn’t perfect. I know that he is so many things I want to be, but I also know that I am not perfect. I’m trying to practice self-compassion, something that’s a bit new, but something I know I’ll need if I want to keep climbing higher.

And just like certain memories, the house is gone. It was sold less than a week after we vacated it. I don’t know what we’ll do for next year. Hopefully the new owners are amenable to renters. We shall see. I hope we end up there for year three, as every year that bench serves as a reminder to be the best version of ourselves, a commitment I’m willing to make over and over again. Sure, I got a little off course during 32, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to change. I’m still alive. I still have time left on this planet, and I refuse to waste it. I want to be happy, to be honest, and to be every bit the man my father was. Thanks for reading.


3 thoughts on “Returning (Benches)

  1. Adam your story is so much like mine and my kids. I lost my dad at 18. My kids lost their dad at 25 and 33. We all loved our dads and thought they were our hero’s but we knew they also had flaws. Life goes on and you learn to adapt without them but there’s always a bench to remind us that they were here and respected and loved❤️

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s