Since this is the first year of my blog I have been putting down the past. Keeping things I want to remember. So like Mothers Day this Fathers Day goes to My Dad.
My dad was not a talker. His past before becoming a father came out in short sentences usually only to direct questions. He didn't want to talk about it. I have a bunch of tiny puzzle pieces of information that don't fit. Now that I'm older it is maddening. We did learn that at 17 he walked away from a college scholarship to study art and joined the navy to serve in the Pacific during WWII and later in Korea.
At some point it occurred to me that I only had one Grandparent. My moms mother. The answer, my grandmother died when he was two. He was born in Rhode Island and later was raised in Boston mostly by her family members. His father was merchant marine and was gone a lot. He said for awhile he was passed around until a particular aunt and uncle said they would keep him. Another time I vaguely remember him mentioning a mother who was mean, locked all of his toys up in a closet so there wasn't a mess. This was confusing . Did he really mean one of his aunts? Over the years only the least bit of information came from him. Some was supplied by my mom whose knowledge was limited also. I didn't realize I actually had a grandfather somewhere until I was older and it occurred to me to ask and was told that he had passed away when I was small. I remember being very confused. Why didn't I know this, why hadn't I met him? The answer from my mom, he wasn't a good father. Your Dad didn't speak to him. He had remarried. He had more children. I assumed this was later in my dads life when he was closer to adulthood. I have no idea who they are. My dad wanted nothing to do with him. I was told his first name and that his middle name was the same as my father but that his mother had wanted a different first name so my dad wasn't a junior.
I'm too cheap to join the genealogy thing. The last name is too common for it to be easy but My grandfathers first and middle name was unusual enough that I did find something just by regular Internet search. In the Providence Registrar I found my grandparents wedding registry. A year before my dad was born. A few years later I found a birth registry for a child. The father was my grandfather. The mother a woman I had never heard of. The child was named after the father. He was a junior. They had reused my fathers middle name. He would have been 6 years old.
The heartbreaking possibilities of this scenario just make me weep for my dad. Was he a little boy who was in the way? I had always assumed his father had pretty much deserted him because it was hard to raise a child alone but not this. When his dad remarried was he an uncomfortable reminder? Was he a kink in this new families dynamic. An unneeded son because now there was a new one. I wish I knew.
A man whose role model for Fatherhood was absent ended up with 5 children. He was overseas much of the time my brothers and sisters were little. A special visitor who came bearing wonderful gifts from other lands. Later he was present in all ways. We knew we were cared about and thought about and that he was always thrilled to see us coming. He was deeply proud when we did well. You could see it in his smile.Was quiet and sad when we did not. He rarely said anything, you could see it in his face. In his later years nothing pleased him more than when everyone came over and met for a meal and visit.
He loved the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Now that I'm old I wonder if there wasn't some deep psychological meaning in that too but probably it's just that it is a wonderful movie.
He was like a child at Christmas. He decorated every inch of the house. He shopped and wrapped and took immeasurable joy in gift giving. All he ever said he wanted was paint brushes.
I guess we were the family he never had as a kid.
No matter how old we became he was always Daddy. Even my brothers when they were grown. They may have addressed him as Dad but still "spoke of him" as Daddy.
As I mentioned before I sort of had a separate childhood. My parents were more relaxed or maybe it's worn out but I got away with a lot.
I have stand out memories that are like vignettes of moments that were mostly just between my father and I.
These are just some of my favorites.
When I was 4 I went to a nursery after school that was ok sometimes but run by a woman called Aunt Kate, who lorded over us with a fly swatter and ignored pleas for bathroom trips during naptime. Then was angry with the envitable results. I was a very shy kid but once rebelled against her power trip because I was sick of getting wet. I just couldn't hold it that long. She came racing in the bathroom with her fly swatter to see what I was up to. If I had known how I would have shot her a bird. Anyway....My Dad was a knight in shining white shirt who saved me every afternoon after being handed the bag with my wet tights and listening to the tirade. When we got in the car he pulled the Hershey bar out of his pocket and sweetened my day and spoiled my dinner on the way home.
Sweetness or Sneakiness?
I was around 14 and my dad brought home a gift. A friend at work had the hobby of making leather goods.
It was a leather visor. I said thank you. It wasn't really my style but I wasn't going to say anything. I looked at the pattern outlining the edge and then my eyes fell upon the imprint edging each side.......Pot Leaves.....Ok.
My dad asked, do you like that one? My friend thought you would but if not he has others. I was frozen. No, this is fine dad. I didn't want to hurt his feeling by pointing out his mistake and make him feel foolish. What was the guy he worked with thinking?
Later I showed it to my brother. We couldn't help laughing but I had to get his opinion. The thing was, it crossed my mind, Was this a mistake? Or was it a trap? I still don't know. I hung it on a chair in my room and left it there until I moved out.
Back in the 80's we didn't have cable yet and there was a show called Friday night videos that came on late. One night I was up watching it and the Cars videofor the song, Drive. I heard footsteps quickly padding down the hall and my Dad appeared and asked me, "Who is that guy?"
"That's the Cars daddy, It's Benjamin Orr, do I have it up to loud? "
"No, he said, I was watching it in my room, I like this. That guy can really sing, he has a great voice."
I laughed and said, "yes he does, it is a good song." They are one of my favorite bands.
And then he wandered back down the hall.
What on earth was he doing watching rock Music Videos in the middle of the night? I have no idea.
Always A Daddy
When I was 17 someone broke my heart (I thought). My Dad came to pick me up from school and sitting on the seat between us was a funny little gray yarn cat. It was made in a loop with eyes stuck on it and a felt tonque sticking out. it was really cute. I got in the car. My dad just started driving. I waited. Nothing. Finally about halfway home I had to ask. "What is that?" "Oh that, a Lady where I work makes them so I bought one from her. You can have it if you want it."
Yes, I did. I still have it. I think this was a case of dad unsure what to do helplessness. "Will stuffed animals help when they cry when they are 17?" Yes, they will.
Parent of 5 kids dealing with the last child's final teen years.
I was around 18. I had been out at a party and been thrown in a pool wearing all of my clothes including a hat, an English Driving Cap ( I was all about hats in those days) anyway.... When I got home I was still very damp. When I came in I was dismayed to see he was still up because....well because I was pretty much drunk. I decided to play it cool. I came in, said hi and made a bee- hopefully straight line to the couch where I sat down, damp hat and all, hoping he wouldn't notice my soggy ( in more ways than one) state and became engrossed in the show.
He sat there for several minutes and never even turned in my direction. He just watched the program and then he very calmly suggested to me.
"Don't you think maybe you ought to go to bed? "
So...I did. He never said another word about it. When I brought it up years later he laughed.
Still a concerned father.
When I said I was moving out to live with my future husband my dad actually used the "why buy the milk when you can get the cow for free phrase." But then he said my room would be there if I changed my mind and let me go. And didn't say a word a year and a half later when I dressed not only myself but the entire wedding party in white. Except my bridesmaid. She was already married and I dressed her like the scarlet woman.
My Dad was a Catholic. He was raised Methodist and converted to marry my mother.
As an adult I joined that rebellious bunch The Lutherans and converted my mother. My father refused to go along with the rebellion. Even though he liked my church and pastor, "he already changed once and He Was Not doing it again."
He died from heart disease in his seventies. A battle he began waging when I was ten. He was a fighter. But he was beginning to lose and chances are the oxygen to his brain was a little thin which might explain this.
In the last weeks of his life I was visiting him in the hospital when a volunteer from the church was making rounds and giving communion. I said, "I"ll go out in the hall dad if you would like privacy." He said,"No stay here" and then to the volunteer. "I don't need to take communion."
They looked a little confused. "Oh, has someone already been by? My dad just answered No.
I knew he was fighting the thought of death but things were not promising. The volunteer encouraged him again by reminding him that communion was an important rite. I think the kind of situation we were in was known and they felt that confession and communion were imperative. My fathers answer....
"I've been in the hospital, I haven't really had a chance to do anything wrong."
I think the volunteer must have been biting his lip at least as hard as I was as I met his eyes and raised my eyebrows. Because that could only mean one thing.
That My Father..... Was Without Sin!!!!
After she left, I was kind of like, Um dad.... trying not to start giggling, communion is a nice way to be close to God even if you've been good. You don't necessarily have to do something bad to ask forgiveness and take communion.
"I guess your right, he answered. I'll get it next time."
I don't know if he did or not. But even if he didn't is there really any doubt in my mind that my Dad is in heaven?
I believe The Father would never turn his back on a Son, or Daddy, like that.
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