Dad: An Appreciation Part 1
He is fine. Still alive and kicking.
I just think lately we see too many posts about people who have just died. Followed by memorials, most very touching, that include the phrase, if only I had said this while they were still around.
I am going to talk for a little while about my dad today.
Born in 1927, he was the youngest of five.
The family didn’t have much money. His mom was a hardworking woman who took in laundry from neighbors to help make ends meet.
His father was a difficult man. He squandered most of the money he made. His selfish attitude in monetary matters was not looked upon with favor by the different landlords they had. Dad said, they moved a lot as kids “one step ahead of the sheriff.”
His dad worked on houses often using his kids as unpaid help. My dad, and all my aunts and uncle, could wallpaper, paint and do simple carpentry, at a very young age.
Growing up in Fort Wayne, during the Great Depression, was not something that the kids look back on with any bad feelings. They often talk about how they had to make their own fun. I have teased them that over the years most of their childhood stories end with, “and then we picked up your Dad and ran.” All harmless childhood pranks, but running was involved.
They were all raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools, that were full of the discipline those schools are legendary for. Nuns with rulers and the like.
Eventually, Dad was ready to graduate from high school and enter into the Navy.
The year was 1945. By the late spring of that year, Germany had been defeated, but Japan was still fighting island by island.
But before he left home a disturbing incident happened.
First, a little background, in those days it wasn’t uncommon for extended families to live under one roof. Such was the case at Dad’s house. his sister and her husband lived with them.
One night, his father came home in a particularly foul mood. Screaming about wanting to kill everyone in the house.
He was met on the front porch by Dad’s brother-in-law, who was wielding a shotgun. My uncle had a furious temper which came in very handy that night. He convinced my grandfather to leave by promising him he would shoot him right there and then.
As the rest of the family watched and listened from the inside of the house, my grandfather left, never to be seen again. He moved to Ohio and raised another family.
Dad went into the Navy and while his ship was sailing across the Pacific to Japan, Pres. Truman dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese mainland forcing a surrender and ending the war.
Dad finished his year in the military.and went to a school in Chicago to learn about being an auto mechanic.
Came back to Fort Wayne and was working at a filling station, when a chance encounter would change his life.
In the olden days, dear readers, at a filling station the attendant would come out to your car and do the following: ask how much gas you wanted and while filling it to the requested amount would clean the windshield, check the oil and water, even check the tires.
On this occasion, when he was completing the transaction, the woman said that he had shortchanged her. Giving her change back for a ten when she had given him a twenty.
That moment led to a date and then another and another.
He went to work for International Harvester.
They eventually got married. June 6, 1953.
They bought a house.
Three years later, I came along.
He left Harvester and got a job with the Post Office as a letter carrier. There was less money but better job security.
My younger brother came along in 1959.
One constant of my Dad’s life was his love for bowling. Every Wednesday night for as long as I can remember he would join his buddies in a bowling league. NOTHING got in the way of his bowling night. And once or twice a year, they would travel to a bowling tournament for the weekend.
It wasn’t until my own adulthood that I fully appreciated what must have went on during those trips. I just knew that the entire car reeked of smoke. Let’s say these guys were a thirsty bunch too.
As far as being a Dad doing Dad things, he took us to baseball practices and a youth bowling league. Taught us how to throw and play catch.
He was a little gruff.
One day when I was about ten, my mom said,”Why don’t you kids ask your Dad anything? You come and ask me. He wants to know why.”
I said, ” He always says no. Why would I ask if I know the answer.?”
“Oh,” she said and left it there.
Later she had me go ask him something and for the first time he said yes.
That was a special moment for us.
As I learned about his father in my later years, I began to understand how difficult it must of been for Dad to be a father himself. He didn’t have an example to follow. He learned what not to do, but he had to learn the rest of it on his own with considerable help from Mom ,of course.
I have more to talk about , so we will pick this up next time.
My first car was an International Harvester ‘Scout’.
I wish I could still talk about my dad in the present tense. He told me something when I turned 18, and I think you might appreciate it. It’ll give you a glimpse of the very dark but quick sense of humour that he had.
‘Enjoy being 18. It’s as smart as you’ll ever be. For the rest of your life, you’ll become more and more aware of how little you really know.’
Thanks for sharing this story John. It’s really good to be reminded that the most valuable things we have don’t cost a dime.
Our factory made Scouts. When it closed it was very tough for the local economy. Your dad gave a great piece of advice.
Thank you for this, John. Dad posts are my weakness. I’m glad your dad’s still around and I’m glad you wrote this while he is.
Thanks. I like the idea of writing about people while they are still here. It allows for a lighter tone.