I have been silent for the last few weeks because I have lost a light in my life – my father, Ed Fleming. He was 89 years old. He lived a long, good life and we were lucky to have him as long as we did. He died in his sleep on October 4th during a dramatic desert storm.  All in all, not a bad way to go.

Of course, I have a lifetime of memories about my father. I used to love to sit on his lap or at the kitchen table to hear stories about him growing up in the wild west of Flagstaff, Arizona with his parents and four brothers. During the Great Depression they lived in a hotel owned by his family, and you can imagine the shenanigans five little boys got up to in that environment. They kept pet chipmunks on the roof, rode their horse Buck and an old mule down to Oak Creek Canyon to camp out (a 30+ mile play radius by the way – see my earlier blog for reference), and adopted a three-legged dog they named Peg Leg. When I got older the stories expanded to include experiences during World War II, his time as a fire look-out with the forestry department, and how he wooed our mother before they married, started a family and pursued careers as educators. 

After he died, I heard the stories of him from our friends and relatives. Most of the memories people shared were about playful times at our home in Scottsdale, Arizona. One cousin told us that one of her first memories was playing dress-up with my dad and mom when she was staying for a weekend. Another told how he loved to visit our home because Dad would occasionally walk down the hall in a gorilla mask.  Friends reminded us of the parties he organized, one in particular that featured a lizard race. (Dad paid the little boy who lived across the alley to catch the lizards.) People who shared their stories with us said they always felt better after spending time with our Dad. I wasn’t surprised they felt that way. He always made sure my siblings and I knew we were loved and that he was proud of us.  It was part of his nature to make people feel valued and at ease.

My dad appreciated the fullness of his life and wanted us to celebrate his life rather than mourn his death. I will honor his request and his memory and go out to play. As his life exemplified, play is what creates the memorable moments of everyday life.