|European Association for Astronomy Education|
And I will be home, or outside enjoying another day of sunshine here, with only a few self-imposed tasks to accomplish. The first is to write this post, so here I am, with little to no idea of what I want to write today. Since it's also Father's Day, my dad has been on my mind, so I'll write a little about who he was to me.
Daddy was born April 25, 1917 in southern California. He married my mom during World War II, on November 16, 1941. I was born, the first of seven children, a year later. (One sister, Tina Maria, only lived for a few days.) I grew up with six siblings as the oldest of the bunch, with twenty years between me and my youngest sister. Daddy and Mama essentially raised two sets of kids, as my sisters Norma Jean and PJ followed me within seven years, and then when I was sixteen my parents eventually had four more, starting with my brother. My two youngest sisters were born after I had left home and become a mother myself.
I grew up while Daddy was in active duty in the Air Force, so we moved often during my early life. We did spend five years in one place in Fairfield, California, and I was also born in California, so for a long time I considered it to be home. But getting used to moving everything and going from one school to another was enough to make both Norma Jean and I learn different methods of coping. For me, I didn't mind the disruption because I am outgoing and gregarious, while she is introverted and makes friends slowly. When we talk about those years, I know that she found them to be painful, while I enjoyed the adventure of moving.
I idolized my father. He was larger than life to me in many ways. There were times when he would be on TDY (temporary duty) somewhere else, and he would be gone for months at a time. I remember those times as being difficult, because all of us geared our home life towards Daddy, including Mama, and when he was gone it was like we entered some sort of limbo. Mama often didn't prepare a dinner for us kids, but when Daddy was home we always sat down at the dinner table for a full meal. I remember many times when he was gone that we would have breakfast food (cereal or eggs) for dinner.
He was not much of a disciplinarian; he left that to Mama. But when he would get mad, I remember being scared if he were angry at something I had done wrong. He didn't allow any of us to sass my mom, so we never did that in his presence but waited until he wasn't around. Then again, he was as softhearted as anybody I have ever known. Sometimes he would read stories to us (Norma Jean and I, anyway) when he was home, and I remember him beginning to sniffle when he read us fairy tales. Yes, Daddy could be very emotional sometimes. He hated to let anybody know, however, because in those days it was not socially acceptable for men to cry for any reason at all.
Mama and Daddy loved each other, and I feel very blessed that I grew up in that environment. We were a demonstrative and affectionate family. Now that I am an adult, I realize that many of my friends didn't have such role models or grew up in a family that was dysfunctional. We may have had our problems, as all families do, but mostly we had a safe haven in our home, wherever it might be in the country.
You would think that I would have had a much better time finding a husband and settling down, after a childhood like that, but no, when I left home I was pregnant by a man I hardly knew. When Mama found out I was pregnant, she arranged a quickie marriage and I learned many years later than my father never knew. Back then it was a terrible disgrace. My, how times have changed in fifty years.
And Daddy has been gone since 1979. He was only 62 when he died of a heart attack. I remember when we would linger at the dinner table, Daddy would always finish up dishes he especially enjoyed. Although he wasn't terribly overweight, he loved to eat, and Mama fed him everything he liked. Whenever I would come home to visit, it never occurred to me that Daddy was anything but the picture of health. After he had retired from the Air Force, they bought a home on Lake Worth in Texas, and the last three kids grew up in one home, a wonderful place to live. Totally different from the life that I had with the same parents.
Mama called me one day in the summer of 1979 to tell me that Daddy had had a heart attack and was in the hospital. One by one, each of us who had left home traveled quickly back to Texas. When it first happened, nobody knew how bad the heart attack was and whether he might recover. He lived long enough for all of us to come back home to see him. He was sitting up in bed when I saw him, and I noticed that his pupils were very small, which I learned later was from the morphine that they were giving him for pain. Otherwise he didn't look much different. He knew, though.
Within a couple of days his lungs began to fill with fluid, since his damaged heart could no longer function properly. The doctors put him on a respirator, and when we saw him next he was unconscious with that machine doing his breathing for him. As we waited for news of his condition, we were all gathered in one room which the hospital had given for us to use, since there were so many of us. When we heard the "Code Blue" over the loudspeaker, we looked at each other and knew it was Daddy. They allowed us to see him one more time after they had removed all the machinery and drips. I went in with my four sisters, and we crowded around him and stroked his body while we cried. He was still warm with beads of sweat on his forehead. Oh, Daddy, we love you so much, even today I miss you as I write this.
Although he didn't live a long time, he had a very good life and dispensed plenty of love to his wife and children. We all remember him fondly and tell stories about his exploits when we get together. It's been well over thirty years now since he left, but he will always be my father, loved and cherished in memory. Happy Father's Day, Daddy!
|Daddy contemplating his coffee|