Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Father

I still miss my father. He died August 8th, 1990 from esophageal cancer. He'd been hooked up to a feeding tube for months, coughed easily and choking was a worry. He could not eat food the last several months of his life.  Then they took his voice and he could not speak after given a tracheotomy. Lived with that for a few months until the end. I saw this gentle man fade painfully, slowly and am grateful my mother protected me from some of the gruesome end.  I being the youngest.  Sadly, my oldest sister helped out and got the bad end of that deal.

Age two at house I lived in until 1961 with my sister and two brothers and parents. Mom was taking this photo.
Dad, taken during  High School. The one above it, a later business photo.

With their first baby, my sister.
 High school photograph.
Last family get together with the entire family, late 80's.

He was the type of guy, if working in the front yard or washing the car, and a kid or an adult was walking down the street, he'd say hi and ask how they were . . . and mean it! He'd take us for rides in the country to give mom a break and to McDonald's a couple times a month when that was a treat, and not a part of daily diets. (I had a gift for whinnying like a horse and having some horses answer back to me, and a few times, would follow along the fence as we drove down the road.  This talent made my Dad laugh out loud! And my brothers)

He had a temper and could swear once in a while but I never heard him say a vulgar word (something he probably saved for the golf course?) Rumor has it when he was young, he was told to go pro as a golfer, but he being sensible, passed on the suggestion as it was a tough way to make a living back then and not full of big $$$$$.  But he usually shot in the 70s  for 18 holes, for most of us life,  until the last several years.

One of the last memories I have of something we did together, was watching a cartoon in the living room. But sadly,  laughter could almost choke him due to the junk in his throat.  My mom and sister had gone to the store.  It was a Looney Tunes Sylvester- the- cat cartoon " Tree For Two"  a dog thinks he's fighting a cat but runs into a panther, instead. Confusion runs amok. It was hilarious and I thought my father was going to choke to death but he got through it. He was never ashamed to watch the great classic cartoons on Saturday morning if he wasn't out at the golf course or working in the yard.

My father was always on the road working from Mon-Friday as a manufacturer's rep for furniture companies.  But we lived humbly with older furniture, and knew any new things --they rarely brought-- lasted until my 93 yr old mother died last November 29, 2011.  They worked hard to make ends meet, but being from the Depression Era, rarely, if ever complained.

In High School my friends thought my dad handsome and kind.  When I was a little kid, a friend tried to give us a horse once.  It flipped out in the trailer and my father rode that horse 16 miles!! My oldest brother & mom and I would drive back and forth to check on him and take him coffee. What a guy! It didn't work out as the boarding  facility was full of snobby girls, the horse  temperamental and ended up throwing my father and knocking him out. He had handed me his sunglasses to put in the car and as I turned away, I heard him hit the gravel. I started screaming and thankfully a family friend was driving by and we got help. Long story short, dad was ok but the horse went back to the friend who'd allowed us to try it out.

My dad's main passion in life was probably golf.  And he liked gardening on the weekends to raise food when he could.  But he lived for the golf course. In his retirement, he worked at several in the area and went on to learn to make custom golf clubs for people around town, including Drs.  While everybody was bragging on the 'newest hot clubs' of the era, when somebody made a great shot on the course and would exclaim "wow, where'd you get those clubs?" a person would smile and mention my dad's name. I know this because a guy he made some clubs for told me this story.

We always watched golf tournaments on tv as a family (though I'm sure the rotten, crass commercials today would offend him but I digress!!)  The Master's Tournament was like a holiday in our house. Back in the day of limited commercials, limited reporter yapping, and quiet, respectful, golf galleries, we rooted for Jack Nicklaus.

I've always missed my dad but never more than this Father's Day. The first one without mom and the childhood home I knew since 1961, gone and sold.  The one old house I do remember had coal-delivered through a basement window, and my one brother got bit from a dog, while playing basketball in the alley.  The core that held us together, mom, is  gone. My siblings and I aren't really close, geographically these days or otherwise, and we never knew our cousins or grandparents.  Thus, aside from my sister, I feel one step away from being an orphan.  I have some nephews and a niece, and great-niece but they all live out of town and I rarely see them anymore.  They don't call and very rarely email. My late brother-in-law died about seven years ago, I think,  on July 4th and his house was great for rare family gatherings as well.  Cookout in summer and great Christmas dinners. The remaining male/father figure in my life, I guess after the only Uncle I really knew died in sister married when I was seven years old. He was a doctor/surgeon, Big band leader & piano player.  All around nice guy.

Now, those family get togethers are  gone.  I've no children, no husband, so really feeling the sting of loss and perhaps, my own immortality.  So, this Father's Day, I think of my dad with an extra ache in my heart. That humble man, that never bragged about his golf game. Nor how back in high school, if his one and only black friend on the basketball team couldn't get served in an Indiana restaurant, he'd take the team elsewhere.  Or if the owner said "Leroy would have to eat in the kitchen" the entire team would eat with him in the kitchen! My dad was light years ahead of his time on race relations.  Leroy Johnson wrote my parents Christmas letters every year for decades, even after my father died.   I could not locate his address when mom passed away.

Dad just tried to live life the best he could.

Now that he's gone, I wish I'd asked him lots more questions. About his early life, though I know it was most difficult. But he never spoke of it to me much and I was too stupid to ask, plus, figured he'd be around a lot more years.  He was 72 when he died.

I love you Dad, and miss you something fierce, all these years later. Missing your lentil soup, too.
House parents lived in since 1961 and house I grew up in.

Camelback Golf Course, Phoenix. Early 80's.

The last cartoon. Play below.


Maureen Jacob said...

Great post c. Your dad is smiling down at you, as he reads this. ((hugs))

Sophia said...

Thanks, M. Really missing family ties :( ((Hugs)) back at you, sweet lady.