You can't hug a memory.
Oh, you could, but your arms would smack together in the middle, and if your nose wasn't pulled aside, you could bloody your own self.
Today is the 18th Father's Day I've had nothing to hug except memories of my father. Were I able to consolidate those memories, however, I'd have a big hug in the making.
When I remember Dad, I remember his laugh, his blond hair - he was blond, never gray - and his love of playing cards. He also had the strongest arms of any person I've ever known. I remember most, maybe, watching him walk down the country road with an asparagus pail in one hand and knife in the other.
Suddenly I realized his gait had changed. He walked flat-footed with smaller steps. He walked like an old man.
And he was the same age I am now.
If I couldn't believe he'd gotten old, how can I believe I'm old? It doesn't help to go to dinner with my friends from high school. Shoot, Joyce Klingsheim Wearmouth still has dark black hair, and she doesn't do anything to keep it that way except lead a happy life. That's what she told me.
Arlene Opheim Opheim - that's not my stupid showing through, she married a man with the same last name - has gone totally silver. Beautiful hair.
Mine is more the scared mouse-in-the-corner look - streaks of gray running through the ugh. One day I got my hair cut and noticed all the dark hair on the floor, so I said something like "I hate to lose that much dark hair," and the beautician touched my head and said, "There's still some dark hair in here."
I can't even say I'm blonde, like Dad. And I can't let it irritate me.
In his no-nonsense way, Dad would tell me to suck it up and get on with life. When it rained and I wanted an umbrella or didn't want to go outside at all, he'd look at me and say, "You ain't sugar, you won't melt."
When I felt ill or just didn't want to work, he'd say, "Get off your dead arse and do something."
To this day I can't stay sick for any length of time or his voice starts rolling through my head.
It was he would taught me the necessity of knowing everything that could go wrong and having an answer for it before starting a project.
I learned that when I was maybe 10. He put me on the hay rake, started the tractor, got me going in the right direction then jumped off and said he'd be back. I raked all the hay; he never came back. I re-raked a bunch of hay; he still wasn't back. I decided to take matters in my own hands and ran the little Minneapolis Moline tractor into a fence. It stalled. I got off and walked to the house.
He may not have been happy, but he just shook his head and went for the tractor.
How I wish we could laugh about that today and I could throw my arms around him for a hug. That would make this a perfect Father's Day.
At least, I've got the memory.
So long friends, until the next time when we're together.
Sandy Mickelson wrote this column prior to taking a medical leave. She will be out of the office for several weeks.