Here we are at the point in my life where I am having my 1st Father’s Day without Dad.
I wrote an Ode to Papa when Dad was in the winter of his years.
Now I want to write Ode II, the first year without Dad.
Dad, I know influenced who I am today by his actions toward me, his only daughter.
Dad played catch with me when I was 7 years old, and made me feel that a girl can be both feminine in the traditional sense and full of energy, exploration of life, which was commonly attributed to male upbringing in my day. He wrote me a letter when I was in a faith weekend that told me how much fun it was to have a girl, who was so cute in a frilly dress, who liked to snuggle up in his lap, and who seemed to enjoy him carrying her asleep to bed when she was in her footed pajama stage. He said he watched over me with joy and care all his life. He said it was wonderful to have a joyful, sunny child that reminded him of his wife, my mother-especially our smiles.
Dad seemed to realize early in his upbringing that women were strong, intelligent, and deserving of respect, when he watched his Mother raise 10 children, while his Dad worked hard. He said because there were 7 boys, and three girls, the boys had to do some “traditional women’s work.” He learned to cook, to change diapers, since he was the 2nd oldest. This way rare for boys to do in the 1930s. He also drove a tractor, worked hard farm jobs. He picked strawberries by the bucket for money when he was 7 years old, and had his own milk and ice cream business when he was 12 years old. I recall him telling me the story of his brother, Harold being asked to watch the business for an hour, and when dad came back his brother Harold (19 months younger) had eaten up his profits!
Mother said, he knew more about babies, and changing diapers than she did, because she was an “oops–I thought I’d gone through the change baby,” born 10 years after her sister had been born. Her sister had been born to 32 year old parents, mom to 42 year old parents. Mom had not been around babies much growing up, since she was the baby.
Dad encouraged me (in coordination with mom) to be on swim team, to play with the boys in kickball, to explore my environment. I got to play all around my home, in a brook laden, forested area called, “the short cut,” behind my grade school, Hickory Grove. I either had to have a female friend, or my older brother with me (strength in the buddy system, he said). We had to report back home for dinner, and then after dinner in the summers be home before dark. They were wise parents, but taught me that my world was to be explored.
What a wonderful world Dad inhabited, with his love of clarinet music, his playing his clarinet. He went to KC A’s baseball games and then Royal’s games with his brothers, and took “the kids” with him, bought us hotdogs, popcorn, and drinks. He sang, “Take me out to the ballgame,” as we drove out to the ballpark.
I remember Dad singing, “Good night ladies,” to Mom and I as we got ready for bedtime. I remember Dad enjoying his gardening by planting bulbs for spring. Planting tomatoes, spearmint, lettuce rows in our suburban backyard. I found pictures of his Spring tulips in his photo archives as I have cleaned out his house and apartment recently. He was proud of those glorious lady tulips!
Dad’s word play, as a very verbally talented lawyer was something for my ears and mind. “Look it up in the dictionary,” he would say, if I did not know the word. Spelling tests, and written essays were very important in my family. History lessons (he had been a history major at KU), and “those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it’s mistakes,” were mainstay comments in our household.
His big hands and broad shoulders, his stable nature made me feel safe and secure. A cousin, at his funeral said that he could throw the hardest curve ball that stung his catcher’s hand, with both his left and right hand.
His love of his big family that he came from made me respect relationships, to honor my Uncles and Aunts and many cousins. He went with Mother to her family farm quite often for her to be with her sister, her sister’s husband, and two children. He honored family holidays, the family dinner table, and had strict curfew rules. We had Neal reunions for years after all the original 10 had grown up and had families of their own.
He slept on the couch out in the front room, “waiting,” for me to arrive after my teenaged dates. He warned me about boys who he thought might have bad intentions. He taught me to observe human nature, analyze people by their actions, and how they treated others besides themselves. We were shown the golden rule by Dad.
Dad made fun of himself, was strong, and did not yell. Our family was not “a yelling” family. Dad respected people from all walks of life, and said that his Mother had taught him this. Dad was respectful and helpful to my working mother, when women who worked outside the home were sometimes chastised for doing so in the 1960s. Mom loved teaching second grade school children and was challenged to help children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder), to be mainstreamed into her regular classroom. Dad encouraged her to get her master’s degree by taking summer school classes. This told me that education and women’s endeavors were just as important as a man’s endeavors.
Dad quite smoking cigarettes after the Surgeon General’s report, “smoking causes cancer.” He first went to a pipe for a while. He was saddened that he could not influence his brother, a pharmacist, to quit smoking, and saw the effects of emphysema on his beloved brother. He lived to see his only son quit smoking, and was pleased with that.
Dad read, watched Gun Smoke, Hee Haw, Lawrence Welk, Mayberry, All in the Family. Dad enjoyed Jackie Gleason, and the Big Band songs of his generation. He also enjoyed Anne Murray’s songs. Dad once went over to a polka playing band in Ontario, Canada and requested a song to be sung in honor of his daughter. I was so pleasantly surprised. My husband, my mom, my toddler son, Dad, and I were all there touring Ontario, on a day trip from our Archer Ann Arbor, Michigan home.
Music was a big part of his life and he took me to the KC Symphony when I was 17 years old, and teasingly did not introduce me to a past banking colleague, because he wanted to have him wonder who I was. He said, “you are a beautiful young lady now,” and it’s fun to have acquaintances wonder who you are. If he knew them well he would of course introduce me. He said, “do not tell everything you know, keep some mystery in life. The element of surprise is a wonderful thing.”
I just let my memories here flow……………………..
I will write another day, another time about dear Dad, I am sure of it!