I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Father's Day 2020

My dad, on the left
It's not hard to see why my mother fell for this guy, back in the early 1940s, during World War II. In this undated picture, he's enjoying both a cigar and a beer with his fellow soldiers. Everyone looks so happy. I wonder how many of them went overseas to battle, never to return. Daddy was a Warrant Officer in the USAAF (US Army Air Force) and received a commission to Second Lieutenant some time later. I just looked up the rank of WO online and learned that they are considered to be highly trained technicians. Daddy always wanted to fly, but it wasn't until much later that he got the training to become a navigator on the huge air refueling bomber, the KC-135.

Somewhere in there, he met Mama at a USO dance and they had one of those wartime romances (I suppose; they never talked about it later) and married in November 1941. I was born in December 1942, the first of seven children.

Daddy was in the Air Force for many years after I was born, and I became one of those kids who never stayed in one place for long, as we followed Daddy from one air base to another. When I was just a toddler, Daddy began his first assignment at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico. We lived off base, and many of my playmates spoke Spanish, so I guess I picked up quite a bit, but I have never been fluent in the language. Daddy was often gone as I was growing up, in what was known as TDY (temporary duty) for as long as six months.

While Daddy was gone, my mother took up golf and became quite good at it. As a young child, I remember Daddy lamenting that all the golf trophies in our home had skirts. Both of my parents loved the sport, and Daddy continued to play long after retiring from the service. I don't remember Mama playing much in later years, but I know that it was a big part of their lives. My sister Norma Jean plays these days, but I've never had any aptitude for it and wonder what I might have missed.

Once my father retired from the Air Force, they bought a home in Fort Worth on the lake. My parents had also started a second family: my brother and two youngest sisters had a completely different life experience than that of the first three children, who moved constantly. They grew up in a town that became their home, something we, the older children, never experienced. For us, our home was wherever our parents lived.

Both of my parents were avid readers, which rubbed off on the older children. For fun, Norma Jean and I would sit around with a dictionary and look up new words. We had a full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and I would spend hours at a time poring through a book, soaking up knowledge. But the volumes that we spent the most time with were the Childcraft books, which taught me to appreciate poetry, among other things. Who would have ever guessed that they would become obsolete, with the advent of the internet? Now everything is constantly changing and no print volumes could keep up.

Daddy was a soft-hearted soul, and I think it embarrassed him that he would tear up easily. He had difficulty reading stories to us, since he would get to an emotional part and jump up and leave the room, blowing hard into his handkerchief. Norma Jean and I would look at each other and smile. As if we didn't know why. It was not something that men in those days were allowed to do: crying was considered unmanly. Is it the same today? I sure hope not, but I don't know. My dear partner sometimes gets emotional while watching a sad TV episode, and maybe because of my father, I find it endearing.

Daddy had heart disease and died at 62, after experiencing a terrible heart attack that allowed him to live on for only a few days in the hospital. It was enough time for all of his children, scattered around the country, to get back home to say goodbye. I remember him sitting up in bed as I arrived to see him, and he seemed the same, except for the pinpoint pupils that were caused by strong morphine he was on. He knew that he wasn't going to make it, and he was emotional as he told us, each one, that he loved us. I think the last words I heard him say were "I love you all!" And then we were pushed out of the room.

There were so many of us that we were given our own waiting room area to stay in while we waited. It's been so long ago that I remember very little about it, except that we hoped for the best and expected the worst. Daddy died there in the hospital, still a young man in so many ways, and we were each left to mourn our own loss.

Daddy's life was, in total, a success. He raised six of us (one sister died soon after birth), along with Mama, to become productive and well-adjusted members of society. I am now fifteen years older than he was when he died, and I still miss him, usually on days like today, Father's Day. I am blessed to have him visit me occasionally in my dreams, and I know the love we all had for him will only die when all of us are gone, too.

And now it's time for me to finish up this post and start the rest of my day. I will enjoy it with a strong cup of coffee and a brisk walk, before settling down in my favorite chair and reminiscing about the exceptional man who was my father. I hope you will have a wonderful day and week ahead, before we meet here again next week. I wish you all good things, dear friends.


Linda Reeder said...

I always enjoy reading about your early family life. I always learn something new about you.
On Father's Day now, while I do think about my own father, I think more about the father of my children. Tom is 78 years old now, older that either of our fathers were when they died. While his Father's Day will be quiet this year, he did get to spend time with both his son and daughter and his grand kids this week. I was happy to make that happen.

Galen Pearl said...

What a wonderful tribute to your dad. I enjoyed reading your story. Many of us are reflecting today on the roles our dads played in our lives.

ApacheDug said...

What a terrific photo (I clicked on it and saw it full-size). This was a wonderful tribute to your dad DJan, very much enjoyed reading about him. In regards to dads and families, we share a couple of similar histories. My dad also passed young, at 63. And the older I get, the more I see how young that really was. I came from a big family too (6 kids) and when my youngest sister was born, the first 3 of us were teenagers. Her memory of our Dad is remarkably different than ours.

Anyway, thanks for sharing these kind & loving memories. Hope your day is a good one.

Anvilcloud said...

I can also be moved when watching tv, more easily than Sue, I think. I do sometimes wonder if men are actually more soft-hearted than women although this isn't the stereotype. I seem to frequently see men tearing up over their daughters' performances on reality shows like The Voice while women usually just tend to nod and smile.

Rian said...

I too enjoyed reading about your dad. He seemed like a wonderful husband and father. 7 kids! Wow! Hard to imagine. Our 3 kept us very busy... and I originally wanted 6! But I'm glad you have such good memories to look back on. We were lucky to have such happy childhoods - even though we were not financially rich, we were rich in other ways.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Lovely tribute to your Dad:)

Marie Smith said...

Such great memories Jan. You were well and truly blessed!

gigi-hawaii said...

What a wonderful, tender tribute to your Dad. Wonderful.

Elephant's Child said...

This is a lovely tribute to your father. Thank you. My country celebrates Father's Day at a different time of year (and we didn't) We didn't celebrate because my parents firmly believed it to be a marketing tool and said that one day a year was insufficient to appreciate them. They were right - and wrong.
Have a wonderful day and week dear friend.

Arkansas Patti said...

Such a handsome fellow your Dad was. I can see a lot of him in you so you still carry him with you every day. I love that he had a soft heart. Too bad men in that age had to almost hide it. Interesting how your siblings actually led different lives than you and Norma Jean did. Timing. Smiled at the golf trophies.
This is the time of year when we daughters bring up those wonderful memories of our Dads. Daughters and Dads have a special bond.

Gigi said...

What a beautiful tribute to your dad!

Tabor said...

Such a lovely tribute to a man who belonged to that great generation. Being a father was pretty complicated back then. My son-in-law is very emotioal and cries all the time, so I think this generation does pretty good with men showing emotions.

Red said...

Nice tribute to your Dad . You knew him well even though he was away from home for long periods of time. he was a sniffler. So am I . It's still hard to sniffle in this day and age.

Rita said...

Great memories! He was a handsome guy.
You and your younger siblings had quite different lifestyles. Maybe the changes and moving helped create your spirit of adventure and love of nature. Funny how life looks different if we are lucky enough to live long enough to be able to look back over many decades. :)

Glenda Beall said...

DJan, I love your story today. I get emotional when I read or hear of a girl who has a great relationship with her father. I was one of the younger of seven so my older siblings had the joy of a young and healthy father. I didn't. But as you will see on my blog today, I had two great father figures in my life. Thanks for sharing your wonderful father with us today. I am glad he would get emotional. My husband, as he got older, would tear up easily and I loved that part of him.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I have been your blog follower for a long time and somehow never realized you were first born as was I. My dad died at 42 as I posted way back in 2019 . I too moved around a lot of different places even continents. I love your post .and as you put it we never is a time we stop loving and missing them under normal conditions. Another thing we share is love for reading. And parents having a second family. My sis was born in Canada when I was 10. She hardly knew her dad. She was 6. Loved reading this. Stay safe.