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My Father

June 20, 2008

 I can hardly believe it has been 12 days since I made a post. Time sure goes by fast. I received a layoff yesterday from my job so I should have more time to catch up with everyone.

Slice of Life Sunday is a meme dedicated to preserving the accounts of events cut out of the lives of average people just like you and me from all over the world. And like having ice cream with your pie, there is more to this meme than meets the eye – it’s a meme a` la mode. I hope you will join me and share a Slice of your Life.

 

It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.                         Anne Sexton

 

My father’s name will not be found in a history book or on a medical research paper, nor will it be scrawled across the corner of a famous painting or printed in bold in a Who’s Who of anything.  My father has always been a simple man seeking simple pleasures in life . . . laughing with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, eating a hearty meat and potatoes meal, mowing his yard, and piddling in his woodshop with my brother. He never asked for much out of life and was always grateful for what he had. He has calloused hands from a lifetime of being a blue-collar worker and a soft heart that melts at the site of small child. He is my dad.

Dad never talked much when I was growing up. He would rise early every morning so he could be at work at least thirty minutes before the starting buzzer rang. After supper every evening, he would work several more hours on a project, usually having to do with woodworking. He wore the same type of outfit every day of his working life, a set of blue Dickies. I will never forget those Dickies. They were a symbol of what he stood for – stoic, solid, and hardworking.  Except for a couple of hospital stays, dad rarely missed work. He would make the twenty-five mile drive to work in the middle of a blizzard only to be sent home because his co-workers living down the street didn’t show. I learned from dad that a good work ethic was the foundation of who you were.

I can not recall dad laughing much as I grew up, except when he was drinking.  Alcohol was his Achilles Heel and he was a week-end alcoholic. He would begin drinking on his way home from work on Friday night and would be drunk on Saturday night.  Sunday was always the day to recover from a hangover by working in the yard or on his car. He and mom had numerous very physical arguments during a seven year period in my childhood, several with me being the one to call the police. Their last fight when I was thirteen was particularly violent and I had to crawl out my bedroom window and run to the neighbors to use their phone. Dad was taken to jail and mom decided she wanted a divorce.

Dad came the following weekend to get his clothes. Mom called a family meeting to inform us kids that they would be getting a divorce, she would be moving to grandma’s, and we were all old enough to decide which one of them we wanted to live with. I can still see the four of us lined up in birth order like we were posing to have our picture taken. As soon as mom made the big announcement, my two sisters immediately ran to her side stating they wanted to live with her. I paused only a second and then walked and stood by dad, never saying a word. All eyes turned to my little brother who slowly, with tears streaming down his face, walked to stand beside me.  As Rick put his trembling hand in mine, mom exploded into a fit of rage. “How dare you split up this family!” she screamed. Her rage was not levied against dad, but at me. “You’re the one who said we could choose and I choose dad.” I replied as I found my way to stand slightly behind dad for protection with my little brother in tow. Mom proceeded to rant and rave, then to cry, and finally dad told us to all go to our rooms while he talked with mom. After an hour of talking outside, dad came in to talk to me. He wanted to know why I chose him over mom. I said simply, “Because she doesn’t like me. She never has and she never will.” He went back outside and after another hour they both came into the house and called us into the livingroom. Dad said there would be no divorce and he would never drink again.  He kept his word and quit drinking. There were no more physical fights and dad rarely even raised his voice to mom.  For the next thirty-four years until her death, dad stood aside to allow mom to do what she wanted, when she wanted. The only time he stood up to her was when she would get too mean to me.

I moved in with dad after mom died eleven years ago. I will forever be grateful for this time we have had together. We have had many long talks and I have learned so much about his childhood, which was very “Walton-family during the Great Depression” like, except without the love of his father. Dad has great respect for his father, despite the outward showing of affection, and a great love for his mother.  His mother was meant everything to him. My brother is testimony to that. When Rick was 10 years old, he and dad were working on a fence. Dad told him to do something and Rick became angry. In his anger, he made one of the biggest mistakes of his life – he called dad a son-of-a-bitch. Dad took off his belt and beat Rick all the way back to the house stating he would learn to be respectful to his grandmother. Dad’s love and respect for his mother is the reason why he talked mom into staying together and he quit drinking.

During one of our talks, dad told me when I made the decision to live with him instead of mom, and he saw how distraught she was over the possibility of losing two of her children, he remembered how hard it had been for his mother when one of his older brothers, who was drunk, had been killed in a car accident. Dad said he didn’t think his mother ever “got over that” and he didn’t want to cause that kind of pain for anyone. I asked him why he hit mom when he was drinking. He said he honestly didn’t know and most of the time didn’t even remember doing it. It was like he was a different person when he was drinking.  He spent 34 years trying to make up for what had done when he was the other person. Yes, my father made many mistakes in his early years. I do not condone his hitting my mother. He admitted his mistakes and sought to make right by her.  

I gave Dad a pair of blue jeans when he retired after giving 40 years of his life to one factory. I was surprised when he retired from his Dickies along with his job. He has worn blue jeans ever since. I think his blue jeans are a symbol of who he is today. More relaxed, more than a little worn out, but still as solid as ever.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2008 5:48 pm

    Cricket, that was a very touching story about your Dad. I remember you writing once about how your Mom didn’t like you very much. Since you felt that way, I can understand why you chose your Dad to live with. I’m glad things worked out between your Mom and Dad and that they were able to stay together and make a good home for you all.

    ~~Thank you Betty. I know mom and dad both tried in their own ways to make things work between them. For many years after the big decision day they did appear to be happy. But I also know mom was never truly satisfied regardless of what dad did. I think she chose to hang on to the bad things in her life and use them as guilt weapons to get sympathy from new friends or expensive fur coats we could not afford. Dad would have been in bancruptcy court after her death and would have lost his home, but I moved in and paid her bills. In some ways I am like my mother. She hung onto the bad things in her life to make other people’s life miserable, as well as her own. I just hung onto bad things and made my own life miserable. This blog and Slice of Life has help me let go of so many things. Cricket

  2. morgansvoice permalink
    June 21, 2008 6:00 pm

    Beautiful story.

    A layoff? Is that good or bad?

    ~~Hi Morgan, Yes, the layoff is a good thing. I would not have asked to be out of a job but do to the situation where I worked, layoffs were needed to help save the company. I am looking forward to the summer off and hope to be back to work in September.

  3. June 22, 2008 9:54 am

    How difficult to have to choose between both of them. What a great story. I am also worried about the layoff. Are you going to be OK?

    ~~ Hi Selma, Actually it was not difficult for me at all. As many of my stories have revealed, my relationship with mom was trying at best. Thank you for your concern over the layoff. I am financially Ok, not rich but OK. My home is paid for and I will receive an unemployment check each week. I am looking forward to the summer off. I have a huge yard of picket fence to paint and I wanted to re-wallpaper my livingroom and hall. The time will be good for these projects. Cricket

  4. June 25, 2008 6:51 pm

    I’m just getting over here now, I know that busy feeling of going all that time without writing. I wanted to read what you wrote…:D
    I haven’t written mine yet, still mulling it over. This was one of your best stories of your life yet!

    ~~ Thank you Jen. I am so happy you enjoyed reading this. I sometimes worry my stories are too long. I just write what I remember and how I feel about those memories. Cricket

  5. June 26, 2008 9:16 am

    Thank you for your story. You are blessed to have him.

    ~~ You are most welcome Lonnie. Yes, I am very blessed to have my dad. He is such a large part of my life, it scares me a bit to realize his age and to know he won’t be here forever. I just enjoy the time we do have together. Cricket

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