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 20, 2021

Daddy on Father's Day

My handsome parents

When I look at this picture of my parents, I realize that they didn't have any idea about what the future would hold for them, or for their children. They ended up having seven children (one who didn't survive a premature birth), and the six remaining were all industrious, productive members of society. PJ died in 2014 of heart disease, which is what took both of my parents as well. It runs in the family, and it took my own adult son when he was 40. But today I'm going to think about and celebrate my dad.

Daddy. I always called him that, from the time I was little until after he died at the relatively young age of 62. At least, from my perspective today, it seemed way too soon. Mama was only 56 when she became a widow. My youngest sister Fia was still living at home. It was a sad time. I traveled from my home in Boulder, Colorado, to see him one last time before he died. He spent two or three days in the hospital before he finally died, but all of us who were not living at home anymore had a chance to see him, and we stayed to help arrange a memorial service. At least I think we did: it was 1979, and I have no memory of the event. I only remember the crushing grief of our loss and my solitary trip back home.

By the time he passed away, Daddy had retired from his career as an Air Force officer, and my parents had decided to find a home in Fort Worth in Texas. They had lived in the area when Daddy was stationed there in the 1950s. They found "Windswept," a rambling home on Lake Worth, across the lake from Carswell Air Force Base. It had a dock on the lake, and Mama spent the next years of her life turning that place into a home for their three youngest children. Daddy worked at General Dynamics, among other places, before retiring for good. I visited many times, and during one of my divorces (I had a few), I lived there for about six months. My sister Norma Jean and her husband Pete lived for a few years in one of the small cottages that existed at the time on the property.

This meant that the three youngest children would not live the nomadic life that the three older kids lived. I remember being quite envious of their different circumstances, but I was glad to finally have a place that we could call home. Before that time, "home" was wherever they lived. Any readers who grew up as an Air Force brat will understand what I mean.

When I was growing up, Daddy was gone for long periods of time, in what was called "TDY," or temporary duty. In some ways, I think it helped their marriage, because they had time apart and learned to appreciate each other. And they had all those kids to raise!

My parents were very social and had plenty of people who would come over to their home to drink and party. As I grew up, I thought everybody had raucous parties going on in their homes. Apparently this is fairly common for military families, not so much for others. Both of my parents were drinkers, and martinis were their favorites. I never understood the allure of hard liquor but became a wine drinker as an adult myself.

My parents both played golf, but Mama was better at it than Daddy, and over the years she garnered many awards. They were displayed in the living room, and I remember Daddy commenting once that they all had skirts for some reason. I think he was actually very proud of her ability.  Daddy loved golf in any event, and they spent many days on the golf course, wherever they lived at the time. 

I loved my father so much, and when I was a young teenager, Daddy introduced me to science fiction. We both shared a love for it, and I read everything he suggested, and we would talk endlessly about the books we both adored. I still love science fiction, even though it's not the same without him. We speculated about the universe and its origins, whether there was other intelligent life, and more. I have wonderful memories of those conversations.

My Daddy was my hero. He was always there for me when I needed him. He listened to me and taught me so many things. But most of all he was fun. —Bindi Irwin

I was only in my thirties when I lost my father, so I miss all those other memories I would have had, if things had been different. It did give me another fourteen years to be with my mother, without Daddy, and that gave me a chance to learn to love Mama in a way that would never have happened if he had still been alive. So, life takes many strange and unseen turns, but we end up learning and appreciating it all, if we just open our hearts to it. I've tried to do that, but Daddy will always live in my heart, as will Mama, and my life is better for having lived and loved with my parents. 

This will be a bit shorter than usual, I suspect, because I am feeling the pull to begin the rest of my Sunday. I'll go to the coffee shop as usual, and enjoy spending some time with my coffee shop buddies, both of whom are fathers and will be honored in whatever way their families decide is best. Fortunately, I'll get a chance to be with them first.

I hope that you will have a chance to be with your own father today, and if that is not possible, that you will spend some time thinking about him and remembering whatever might prompt some happy memories. I know that not all of us are as fortunate as I was in selecting my parents, but I do hope that some semblance of happy times will emerge from your memory banks. I know that has happened to me today, in remembering that wonderful man who was my father.

Until we meet again next week, I hope you have a wonderful time, and that you can find some way to appreciate those who love you and wish you all good things. Like me. Be well until then, dear friends.


Far Side of Fifty said...

I love your memories, you have pleasant ones!

Marie Smith said...

Wonderful memories of your family, especially your dad. Those of us who have such memories were well and truly blessed indeed. Have a great week, Jan.

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you for sharing these precious memories and thoughts.

Rian said...

I'm glad that you have so many good memories of your dad... and your family. I feel the same.

My dad was the typical Englishman - even though he came to the U.S. with his family when he was 13. Guess most of your beliefs and ways are set by the time you're a teen and Grandpa and Grandma Regan were born and raised in London. But Dad loved it here. Met my mom in New Orleans and spent the rest of his life there raising us 3 kids. We weren't rich, but we weren't poor either. Never thought much about it. Dad was the manager of an Architectural Stone Company and occasionally we would drive around the little towns checking on the stone work in churches and buildings. We had lots of family around - dad's 2 brothers and 1 sister and mom's 2 sisters and one brother. So although our family didn't party much, we had lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins around. Now... us cousins are the ones remaining... and we do keep in touch. Growing up together created close bonds.

OK, DJan, I hadn't planned to write all this, but you did succeed in my recalling memories of my dad and our family.

Betsy said...

I enjoyed hearing about the happy memories you have of your family. Thank you for sharing them with us.

Linda Reeder said...

I am spending the day with the father of my children, working together, resting together. making planes together, just being together in our garden. There will be some grilling going on later.

Glenda Beall said...

I love the photo of your parents. One of my favorite cousins was an air force brat and spent his growing up years moving lots of time.
Thanks for sharing your good memories with us.

William Kendall said...

A wonderful tribute to your dad.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so happy that you had such a great Daddy. Bindi described both yours and my Dads well. I did like you and spent today inside my heart and with my many memories of my own hero.
Dad wasn't in the service but we traveled a lot due to my Mom's illness. He kept trying to find a place she could breathe as she had severe asthma. I kind of liked the gypsy life.

gigi-hawaii said...

Happy Father's Day. I appreciate your great love and affection for your father. Blessings!

ApacheDug said...

I enjoyed your look back at your dad DJan (actually, at both your parents) and that's such a nice picture of them. They made an attractive couple. You and I share several things in common, I know I've said this before but it always impresses me. (My dad also passed at 62, I was around the same age as you when he died in 2000, there was 6 of us with the first 3 kids being raised pretty differently.) I just wish I had more of the happier memories you had of your Dad. He sounded like quite the guy.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Your post today is a kind tribute to your dad. My dad has been gone a long time. I seem to think of him more often the older I get. Maybe that’s because I am more aware now how I should have listened to his wisdom a little more closely than I did in those young years. We do have some history in common … at one time I lived not too far from Carswell. The thing I miss about that part of the country … the friendly people and the BBQ! :-) Have a happy week ahead. John

Anvilcloud said...

Well remembered and written.
(Boy that seems short and to the point after ll of those long comments above.)

Red said...

Great tribute to your folks. My Mom died at 59 which was much too soon...cancer. My Dad lived to be 95.

Rita said...

My dad was 94--car crash, as you know. He was the kinder of the two--LOL! I still miss his silly sense of humor and love of puns. Lovely tribute, Djan. :)

Tabor said...

That was a nice trip down memory lane. YOu have met many challenges in your life and came out a very nice person. My father was the silent type. He went to work, came home, ate dinner, and watched TV. He and I were not exactly close and I do regret that as he became closer to my youngest sister born 13 years after me.