In honor of Father's Day, I would like to share some memories of my father, but there is so much that I never know about him. I didn't know him when he was a child, or when he starred in the play "Hicksville to Hollywood" at Franklin High School. I didn't know him when he served in the army during World War II, or when he was a dashing young man about town, frequenting nightclubs. But many years ago, I spent some time interviewing my father about his family and about his life. We'd been talking for at least an hour when I finally realized that I had never pushed the record button on my tape recorder. We tried again the next day, and I have been listening to that tape.
My grandfather was the kind of person who could have invented the phrase "do-it-yourself". My father must have inherited some of that quality. If he wasn't playing with toys his father made him, he was making his own - toy cars propelled by rubber bands, kites, bows and arrows, go-carts. Many decades later, he made his grandsons boats and spool cars propelled by rubber bands. But he didn't just make toys. When he was in high school, he helped his father build their new house on Hanford Street and later, after my parents got married, he built our house near the hydroplane pits.
The father I remember was always working. He was building something, or repairing projectors in his workshop in the garage, or changing the oil in his car, or, of course, going off to work in a theater where he was the projectionist.
Looking at old photographs, i see a young man skiing and golfing, acting silly with his army pals, or, in his words, having a gay old time with lots of partying, making up for lost time after the war. After he retired, he took up golf again, enjoying his weekly games. But even then, he worked hard at it - practicing golf, reading about golf, watching golf on tv.
Another thing my father enjoyed doing was going on car trips. My parents took a few vacations and a lot of day trips when I was growing up, but the queen of the backseat (as they called me) was not amused. It was much later that we discovered that the backseat would get full of exhaust fumes - no wonder I was crabby! Once my father had retired, my parents not only had the time for road trips, but they didn't have to worry about dragging along any whining royalty. They went to Montana and the Grand Canyon and on lots of trips to California.
Father liked cars. He especially liked vintage and veteran cars and old English sports cars. I shared this interest and loved to go to old car shows with him. One day, when I was in the 4th grade, I came out of school and heard my parents calling to me. There, parked next to the curb, was the classiest car, a 1950 Austin Atlantic A 90. Black with a white convertible top, whitewall tires, and red leather upholstery. Our new car. I really did feel like royalty riding around in it - a princess, at least.
Father didn't talk an awful lot - too busy working - but he would whistle and sing songs like "Yes we have no bananas", "Walkin' my baby back home", or "I wanna go back to my little grass shack in Kealakekua", and he liked to play the organ. Sometimes, though, he would talk about his time in the army. It was on December 6, 1941, that his ship left California, bound for the Philippines. In no time at all, they headed back to California. Ten days later, accompanied by a destroyer and a submarine, and a couple other troop ships, they set off for Hawaii, and that's where my father spent the rest of the war. He suffered his only war wound when a Moray eel bit him. In fact, for 13 glorious months, he had an apartment at the Willard Inn, an officers' club on the beach at Waikiki, where he was the bookkeeper. He had a surfboard, a bike, a station wagon, and a permanent pass to come and go as he pleased. Not all of his army experiences were that good, but he always thought of Hawaii with fondness.
What kind of person was my father? I've said he was quiet, hardworking. He loved his family and was devoted to my mother. He was a gentleman. People sometimes scoff at good manners these days, but good manners show consideration and caring for others. He never lost these qualities, even in the almost two years after he had his heart attack and subsequent stroke in November of 1999, when he was suffering from Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. He would struggle to open the door for others or carry the groceries. He would offer to share his dessert. Although he couldn't hear well, or speak with ease. he would meet new people with a "How do you do? It's a pleasure to meet you."
I miss him even now.
Some books about fathers:
Give her the river : a father's wish for his daughter /Browne, Michael Dennis. E BRO
Father and daughter tales /Evetts-Secker, Josephine. J 398.2 EVE
Guess how much I love you /McBratney, Sam. E MCB
I love my daddy because-- /Porter-Gaylord, Laurel. E POR
Ramona and her father /Cleary, Beverly. J F CLE
A tale of two daddies /Oelschlager, Vanita. E OEL