My father was a complicated man-loving on one side, the other side a short fuse with a temper. Giving, but don’t cross him or his vindictive nature would come out. He could cut people off and out of his life. I share many of his traits, and often wonder if it is learned behavior or genetics, or a combination of both. Unlike my father, I have worked hard and continue to try to change the behaviors I know can lead to difficulties in relationships brought on by my own doing. He and I became estranged for almost 14 years through my 30’s & 40’s. His doing, not mine. A new wife, a different life, his ego all contributing factors. I was glad I was old enough to understand the whys, and glad that while I was growing up he had always been there for me. I needed him less as an adult. We reconciled 4 years before he died when I found out he was sick. I thanked him before he died for playing such an instrumental part in my becoming who I was as an adult. The many good qualities I had that I knew came from his teaching.
What I learned from my father:
A love for birds, taking me bird watching with him when I was a young child.
A love for clothes. He was a sharp dresser and had an appreciation for good clothes and style, and was always fastidious about grooming.
A love for collecting He collected cast iron dog door stops,
“Pink Pigs Fairings”, which were whimsical figurines made in Germany.
Try foods before saying I didn’t like them. If I tried it and didn’t like the taste, fine, but don’t turn your nose up at something just because you don’t like the look of it.
A love for mayonnaise! He made the BEST fried egg sandwiches on white bread slathered with mayo. I can remember coming home as a teenager, late on a Saturday night to find him in the kitchen, and he’d say he was just going to make a sandwich, did I want one too. Oh yeah.
I learned table manners from him- sometimes the hard way. The napkin needed to be on my lap when I sat down to eat dinner. Chew with your mouth closed. Use your knife to push food onto your fork, if you dared use a finger you were banished from the table, whether you were finished or not. Certain things pushed his buttons, and table manners was one of them.
We watched Star Trek, F Troop, McHale’s Navy and Jonathan Winters together. I loved when he would laugh uncontrollably at some skit Jonathan Winters was doing, laughing until he cried.
He grew up poor with an alcoholic father and no education past high school, but succeeded in rising above it and away from it, following the lead of people willing to help him, observing people, paying attention to how they got to where they got to, and reaching those heights himself because of it. Did he have a darker side, yes, but I am happy to remember what was so wonderful about him, and understand where the darkness came from and why it was a part of him and accept it.
His favorite poem was Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
He read it to me many times, and always reminded me of the importance the following lines held for him.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
He shared his love of music with me, and taught me how to sing using my voice properly. Here is his beautiful voice.