My early memories of my dad, Harry L LeFever

My earliest memories of Dad, which I’m sure are prompted by the black and white family films taken at the time, are of me wearing ‘My Daddy is a Marine’ t-shirt, gleefully jumping into his arms along the Carolina Coast when he was stationed at Camp Lejeune. Certainly, that loving, joyful, supportive memory of my Dad will remain with me always.

The family story about our initial connection is that I waited weeks past my due date so that I could be born on Father’s Day in 1954 when he came home on leave. In my mind, our bond was instant… After all, what girl doesn’t love a man in uniform? My critical thinking skills, love of learning and writing all came from my desire to emulate my Dad.

He was the first in his family to get a college degree thanks to the US military’s ROTC program. He entered Villanova after a two-year stint in the Navy and graduated to serve two more years as a US Marine Cryptologist.

At Villanova, the Lutheran born, farm boy at heart, discovered literature thanks to the Jesuits. According to Dad, Math was his preferred major, but he got in the wrong line during registration his freshman year. In 1953, he graduated as Valedictorian with a degree in English. After serving his final two years in the USMC, he served another decade in the Reserve while he taught high school English. From 1970 until his retirement, he taught Humanities at our local Community College.

My memories of his final years

My memories of Dad in his final years are those of a wistful loving connection. Subsequently, as his memories and speech faded, I savored the brief glints of recognition which burst forth from his vibrant blue eyes. One of his Delaware County Community College students captured his essence in a first verse of a poem:

Two bright sapphires twinkle
Above their semicircular prisms.
A warm resonant voice fills the room
And the corners of my consciousness.

He doesn’t teach, he shares
In giving that which he loves,
His passion, his enthusiasm, his joy
Entice my mind…

In his final years, at a Sunrise Memory Care Unit, we communicated through music, touch, and eyes as we grasped onto the connection and love we shared. What remains with me is the lifetime of memories:

    • Family visits to the land of his youth and his Uncle Charlie’s farm in Pennsylvania.
    • A year of seasonal early morning wake-ups to capture the wonder of Walden Pond, living the lessons of early American writers – Emerson and Thoreau.
    • Stimulating discussions, actions, and tears around the US politics of the 1960s and 70s.
    • The transition of clean-shaven high school teacher to bearded college professor.
    • Family trips to Europe to experience how others lived.

My brilliant, well-loved Dad was prone to worry. It seemed as though this worry slowly expanded as years went by and took hold of his being. When his beloved father, my Pop-Pop drifted into the fog of forgotten memories and faces, Dad glimpsed into his own future. A prolific writer and poet throughout his adult years, he shared his experience through the following poem:

At the Nadir of My Night

Last Poem Written by Harry Lewis LeFever
(August 19, 1929 – April 10, 2008)

 

I remember falling asleep –
in a meadow on a green spring morning
a breeze sighing through the grass
the cold dew on my back
a lone buzzard circling
above in endless blue

I remember falling asleep –
on a cool floor of the spring house
on a yellow summer afternoon
my shirt dusty with wheat chaff
a spider swaying in its web
suspended over the murmuring spring

I remember falling asleep –
in the bleachers in red autumn twilight
the air heavy with pipe smoke and peanuts
my head against Dad’s shoulder
the roar of the restive crowd
troubling my sleep

I remember falling asleep –
in the cold white winter
in a black hole in the trembling earth
a foxhole in the frozen clay
my soul shivering
under star shells

I remember falling asleep –
on a blue down quilt
the soft breath of each child
warm on my cheek
in years that swept by
like autumn clouds

I anticipate falling asleep –
to a colorless, soundless sleep, long and deep
until a flash of blue light
thrusts me like a meteorite
into winter’s eternal night.

There’s a bore in my head
from a blind worm
feeding day and night

It bears me no malice;
it does what it is designed
to do – ineluctably.

It chews silently
but I can measure
where it has been taken.

almost benevolently
it first nibbles at
the cluttered present –

an acquaintance’s name,
the title of a book,
an appointment.

I’m told this sleepless worm
will devour all that I cherish,
all that is sweet and true.

I tried to deceive this –
my dumb, blind worm.
I offered wasted thoughts:

the worst teacher I ever had,
the first girl I dated
my DI in boot camp.

Ah, yes, the silent worm
wouldn’t bite. It has had
the taste of rich memories.

What will I think when my
avaricious worm has
devoured all that I cherish?

Smiling, I said to my family
“At the nadir of my night,
place me on an iceberg.”

Wife and daughters smiled… “Dad,
there won’t be any icebergs…
Global Warming… you know?”

We laughed, embracing each other.
Although I could not dismiss
my worm, he can’t devour love.

 

© 2011 by Mary LeFever published in Call Me Ishmael, Still by Harry L. LeFever used with permission.

Today, research is promising that some memory loss conditions may be slowed or prevented. Indeed, Yoga practices to reduce stress and worry as well as other lifestyle improvements in the area of diet, exercise and the support of the community may benefit Cognitive Decline. Yoga Vista is pleased to provide some recommendations on our Wellness Practices for Cognitive Enrichment.

In conclusion, my hope is that this information will be of some help those suffering from any kind of Cognitive Impairment.

Let’s not forget,
Denyse

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Sherry Zak Morris Short Practices to Improve Cognitive Health

Short Practices to Improve Cognitive Health

Denyse LeFever Kirtan Kriya

Kirtan Kriya – 12 minute Chant for Cognitive Health with Denyse

Wellness Practices related to this Topic:
Wellness Practices: Cognitive Enrichment
Learn about how Yoga practices can have a positive impact on preventing memory decline.

CREDITS: Author, Denyse LeFever, Certified Yoga Therapist

Editor, Maria Perez, Certified Yoga & Group Fitness Instructor