Sunday, August 10, 2014

Twenty-two and Counting

In my continuing series on death (it seems) I'm going to talk about my father on the anniversary of his.

My father was not your traditional father figure. For most of my young life, he was not a strong presence. He we there, but he wasn't front and center. If I stare at the family photo I hold in my mind, my mother and grandmother are right there, centered and surrounded by others in a spiral of significance and importance - my sister is in front of them, small and smiling in her white dressy top (lace collar and all) and jeans with dirty knees. Behind my mother and grandmother, faded even more into the poorly illuminated background is my great grandmother, large and looming in the shadowy mist. To the right and left of her are my Grampa Jack, my Uncle Benny (great uncle actually, but who's really keeping track), Aunt Joe (still made-up and looking great) and their son and grandchildren. Even more faded and mist-covered are my uncle, aunt, and their three sons - my cousins- as well as his dad, Uncle Tony.

My father is kneeling down, off to the right and partly out of frame, looking at something he spotted just as the picture was being taken.

See, he's there, just not in the way you'd expect.

He wasn't much of a drinker, but had an occasional Plank Road Ice House beer (when they came onto the market - before that, I think he might have been a Michelob man, but I'm not sure). He ate what would be described these days as a 'shit ton' of starlight mints and spearmint leaves. He made macaroni and cheese from a box and without milk (yes, without milk), tuna fish sandwiches with chopped onions that I hated and refused to eat, but a hell of a good toasted cheese. We watched the old western shows together when my female family went off to square dancing, and managed to get me to watch every damned WLVI-TV Sunday Movie at noon, at two, and four. And sometimes even others. We saw Creature Double Feature together, and wrestling - lots of wrestling (with the likes of Ivan Putski, the returned Chief J. Strongbow, and Bobby Backlund in the cast of characters), and many trips to the Lonsdale Drive In (actually, we attended all the local drive in movies).

He introduced us to rollerskating, and to fishing impatiently, and to boating on a shoestring budget. I experienced a lot as a lad, even though my time with him was pretty limited. It is better in hindsight than it was then.

My dad had a short fuse, was easy to blame others for things going poorly, and was pretty prejudiced (as many people were in those days). Family life was sometimes tense when there was fighting, and as I remember it, there was usually always fighting in some aspect. But it was my family.

I've said before that I wouldn't make the same choices my father did for us, but I respect that he made the best choice he could. There was a lot lacking in his formative years as well, and I respect that he didn't want his own children to experience those missing pieces. Strangely enough, in his quest to make up for his own childhood, he was away far more than he needed to be if he'd just stayed at one damned job. But he didn't, and he spent a lot of time on the road. That's life.

Looking back, I was allowed to experience so many different things that helped me be the man I am today. For that, I am ever grateful that my father (who became frustrated with auto repairs and such) taught me to be patient in his impatience. He taught me to be fearless in making choices, but more cautious when it impacted my family. And he taught me that life is too fucking short to stand around waiting for it to get better.

My father passed from this lifetime on August 10th, 1993. I was in his presence when he did, and I am grateful for that gift as well.

I will write about him again, I'm sure. He helped make me the man I am.