Father’s Day

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If I am a good communicator, and I’ve been told that I am, it comes from struggling to hold a conversation with my father. He wasn’t an easy man to talk to. He would announce without hesitation that my opinion was “bullshit” if he thought so. He would often loudly support a contrary viewpoint just for sport. He was quick to anger if he thought we were agreeing with him just to be compliant. Few subjects were worthy of his time and attention.

If I have a work ethic (I’m not always sure that I do!), I got it from my Dad.

Dad was a worker.

He was a good husband and father. He enjoyed all children, and was like a big kid at heart. He loved to tease and he enjoyed a good argument. He had a great memory, and was brilliant at card games because of it. He loved good food, simply prepared. He loved watching things grow. Dad liked John F. Kennedy, Cassius Clay, cowboy shows and Big Time Wrestling. He enjoyed a nap on a Sunday afternoon.

Dad did not like meanness, stupidity, dishonesty or laziness. He didn’t like long hair on boys. He didn’t like music if he couldn’t understand the lyrics, but he made us late to church one Sunday while he listened, with a grin, to “Harper Valley P.T.A.” on the radio. He never learned to swim, so was not especially fond of the water.

My father hated having his picture taken. At Dad’s funeral, my three-year-old grandson, Brandon, looked over the picture board. The only way his photo could be taken without him bellowing was to catch him when he was asleep… so there he was, dozing in his comfortable chair, or stretched out on the sofa, napping with my baby sister, Amy, or snoozing under the apple tree after driving all night to bring us up north. “Papa was dead?”, Brandon asked, as he pointed to one photo after another.

The truest statement I can make about my father, though, is that he was a worker.

He went to work and – when the job demanded it – would work seven days a week, twelve hours a day. On top of that, he’d plow up an acre or so of land and plant a big garden. He raised pigs, and chickens…and an occasional duck or rabbit as well.

Dad often took on extra jobs, for pay or not. He processed deer for hunters. He widened our road to make a shoulder for the children to walk on, on the way to the bus stop. He back-filled the swamp near our house, to keep the mosquito population down. I don’t believe my father ever took a vacation that wasn’t a working vacation. We’d go north to visit his parents on Beaver Island, but his week would be spent painting the farmhouse or tearing down the old barn.

His children were never left out. From their toddling years, the boys were charged with clearing stones and branches from the yard ahead of the mower. Not a stranger to housework, Dad often demonstrated the “correct” way to clean a window or polish the table, then would sit back and watch, to make sure we’d been paying attention.

Springtime was spent preparing the soil and planting the garden. In the summer, we were herded out to the garden to pull weeds out of the stubborn clay soil. In the fall, he’d load us all into the back of his truck with a huge pile of burlap sacks. Arrangements had been made for us to hand pick cob corn from the farmer’s fields, after the mechanical picker had gone through. We’d use the corn to feed our pigs through the winter. It was a long day in the fields, but the ride home was atop mounds of full sacks of corn, and punctuated by a stop at the local tavern, where we’d each be rewarded with a coca cola and a dime for the jukebox. In the winter, Dad would – for lack of anything better to do – build elaborate, icy sledding ramps in our backyard.

As adults, we often disagreed with Dad’s methods and moods but if we needed help with a move, a repair or a remodel, he was on the task.

It’s hard to believe he’s been gone almost fourteen years! If a frost comes late, or I see a coyote, or I count six deer on my way to town, Dad is still the one I want to share that with.

Happy Father’s Day!

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12 responses »

    • Oh, me too! Yes, we were talking – Bob, Aunt Katie and I – over dinner, and we all agreed he is still so much a part of our daily thoughts and actions, that it seems like it can’t have been that many years ago. I remember the “Window Shades” so well!

  1. Loved reading all about your dad. Beaver Island certainly turned those boys into hard working men alright. I laughed at collecting the corn husks. My dad would load up his four kids and bring us to a farmer’s apple orchard after the workers were done picking and we would gather all the missed apples for winter. Riding home after a cold morning on top all all those apples is what I remember. See you very soon and thanks for the warm memories.

    • Oh, Caroline, thank you for reading! Yes, those boys were workers! I love the apple orchard story! I wonder how many other parallels come from the fact that our fathers were cousins?! See you soon!

  2. You got me with your final paragraph. It’s weird how people who are long gone still jump to the forefronts of our minds in certain circumstances. Not that we ever forget them completely, but sometimes we forget they aren’t around any more.

    Your dad sounds like he was a hard worker from good stock. Unfortunately I was reminded of a saying my dad taught me ~ “A farting horse will never tire, a farting man is the man to hire.”

    Oh, why am I telling you all of this?! Sorry.

    • Oh, Sara, that makes me laugh! I hadn’t heard that saying before, but I guess it addresses the course country stock that were raised as workers. My Dad was in that category.
      I think because I lived away from my parents, and only saw them a few times a year, it sometimes still takes me be surprise that they are gone. Dad loved getting letters, so I was always alert to things he’d be interested in hearing about. After all these years, I still am!

  3. This is a real treasure, Cindy. All I knew of your dad was what I could see in church on Sundays. I always imagined him as a kind, quiet man. I loved reading about him. Nothing you say is a surprise to me. There are a lot of things I’d rather lose than the memories I have of my parents. So glad that you have such good ones, too.

    • You’re right, Kate, the memories are so precious. I feel sometimes that I never appreciate enough the moments and the people that have touched my life…until they’re gone. Lately, I run though lines from “Our Town” in my mind as it seems so pertinent in my life. But, to hold the memories dear, and to treasure everyone I have here is the best I can do. Geez, I’m sappy this evening! Thanks for reading, Kate!

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