Sunday, June 19, 2016

Things My Father Taught Me

My father passed away when I was only 29. My son has few memories of him, and my daughter has none but I tell them his stories every chance I get. My father was a unique individual, and I miss him more every thing I thing about how long he has been gone.

Walter was born in Allentown, New Jersey in August 1923. He grew up on our family's farm until going away to college in St. Louis at the age of 16. After receiving his degree in Aeronautic Engineering he joined the Army Air Corp, forerunner of the Air Force.

My dad was a man of many talents. He was a math genius who shook his head at my inability to grasp the concept of word problems. None of us inherited our parent's math talents, much to his never ending amusement. His voice was beautiful, a pure baritone and he taught me how to sing harmony before melody, a skill which I have treasured throughout the years.

He sang with a Barbershop Quartet, and loved to act on stage. That's how he met my mother, through a play production. They met in April and married in July. It was 1944, and they married on the army base in Lubbock Texas in a heat wave that waiver daily over 100 degrees. My mother and grandmother walked from the front gate to the chapel (about one mile) in heels and a linen suit. Their wedding dinner was an all you can eat spaghetti dinner at the hotel in town.

After the war he went to work for Capital Air Lines. In those heady first days of aviation, at the smaller markets where he started, Daddy would write your ticket, check in your luggage, direct the plane to the gate, push up the stairs, unseal the door, help people deplane, unload the luggage on the arriving plane, load the departing luggage, check you in at the gate, assist with boarding, seal the door, remove the steps and help push the plane from the gate. Those were the days.

Though he walked away from the farming life our family lived since they came to America in 1600s, he never stopped putting his hands in the dirt. He always planted a garden and working outside in our family was not optional. From when I was small and picked up sticks and pine cones until I left home at 18 for college, if it was Saturday morning, we were in the yard. I even graduated to using the lawn mower when I was 14. Yay.

He contracted a staph infection in his blood in 1982 and spent 9 months in intensive care in a coma. He came home a changed man, and the next nine years were a mixture of thankfulness for the time we were given, and grief for the strong protector I knew as my father. His body failed him on a daily basis but his mind never ceased its keen wit or treasure-trove of trivia.  He still did crossword puzzles, but in large print. He watched cooking show after cooking show, especially when on a feeding tube, so he would know what he wanted my mother to cook.

He watched from the window in his room as my sister married in the waiting room of ICU, and sat in his wheelchair in our living room four years later when I married my hubby. He held all of his grandchildren save my youngest, who I think he sent to me as a gift. She's so much like him.

On this Father's Day I miss his strength. I miss his laughter. I miss his humor and the million small things we used to laugh over in those wee small hours of the morning when we would both arrive home from work. I miss our political discussions and often wonder what he would think about the state of things today.

I miss him everyday, and wish I could discuss things like we used to But as long as I remember, and pass that along to the new generations, he's still with us.

Happy Father's day everyone.