Dad – November 29, 2020
The last couple of weeks have been busy. We celebrated my brother’s birthday on the 17th, my son Josh graduated from the Police Academy on the 19th and we were together when he arrived home that night, then we celebrated that event on the 21st. We celebrated Thanksgiving on the 26th, and my brother-in-law’s birthday was today, the 29th. Throughout this whole time, I kept thinking something was missing. We have a fairly small immediate family, just the same people for the most part at each of the events due to Covid. We broke bread together, told stories, had a toast or two and a prayer over the meal. But something was missing. I knew what it was, but I kept myself too busy to think about it. Tonight though, as we sat around the table, I couldn’t deny the twinge I felt, missing an extra chair.
My dad was gone. He passed away back in April. Due to Covid, we have been unable to have a service to memorialize him. Sometimes I wonder if that would have helped my working through grief. Honestly, I don’t know. We wanted to do military honors and give him the respect that he deserves, and maybe someday we will be able to. For now, he is resting in our home, in a beautiful box that contains his ashes. I think he would have liked knowing he was resting with his family in familiar surroundings.
Up till now, I haven’t been able to adequately put down words about my dad. Truth is, I’m still not able. But they are beginning to seep out of me and so I figured I’d just put them down, even if they are disconnected ramblings. So, what follows is some of my thoughts, though certainly not everything, and not the full extent of my description of what my dad means to me. I mean, how can one ever do that justice.
My dad was a fairly quiet guy, polite, and friendly when he needed to be. But he would always rather be sitting in his recliner, reading a book with the tv on, than in the middle of a group of people. He loved family though, and never missed a time when we would gather. The truth is, what I have been missing isn’t so much my dad at the end of his life, but the dad I knew growing up and before his illness caused decline. The funny guy who would stick his tongue out at you for no reason, The one who would break out into some crazy zany kind of 1950’s twist dance in the middle of the kitchen when we were cooking a family dinner. The one who loved candy, particularly chocolate (and strangely enough, circus peanuts) so much so, that one year at Christmas, my mom discovered that all of the foil wrapped chocolate bells that she had hung on the tree were empty, and she thought it was my brother and I… funny when she realized it was dad. Probably not so much if it had been us kids, LOL!
My dad wasn’t religious, but he did believe in God. His dad had been a traveling preacher, as well as a one room schoolhouse teacher while dad was growing up. The family left Arkansas and came to make a home in Washington State to try and find work and make things better for their family. Dad enlisted in the Marine Corp. and did a tour in Japan, although he didn’t see any action. He came back to the new family home in Washington, met my mom, married and continued serving in the Marine Corp. Reserves for a number of years. I’ve always been proud of his service, and he was always, for life, a Marine.
I brought up the part about him not being religious because to me, it shows some of his character. My mom became a Christian after they were married. And I and my brother attended church with her until we were out on our own. My mom shared with me once that dad didn’t want to go to church because he didn’t want to be a hypocrite. You see, my dad was a smoker. Had been since he was quite young. Seems like in the 1950’s so many smoked, as well as when you were in the military. Dad did try to quit a time or two, but the addiction was just too strong for him. And, to tell the truth, he liked it, he enjoyed it. Honestly, I believe he was telling the truth when he said he didn’t want to be a hypocrite. He couldn’t/didn’t want to quit, and he felt he would be judged as smoking was frowned upon at church, and he didn’t want to bring that upon us. My dad had a strong set of morals, and his own ways to live by. He didn’t mind if mom, my brother and I attended. He was perfectly fine with that.
Dad was an amazing, loving and the most supportive father. In spite of him not wanting to attend Church regularly, EVERY single time I had some type of performance or event, he was there. Mom didn’t have to make him. He came, because his child was doing something special. I used to sing (solos, trios, ensembles, choirs), I performed in plays and musicals, I even gave a “sermon” one Sunday during Youth Week. He was always there for me. The same with school. Oh, it was a pain to have to sit through all the other stuff when Christmas performances came around. He’d want to leave after my group sang, but mom would say “Nope, we gotta sit through the orchestra too because Jayne said that’s the polite thing to do for the musicians.” And they did. And it was the same with my brother. Oh, it was easier with him, because it was mostly sports, but my brother did play the trumpet in Jr. High, and so we as a family trudged into that gym and listened to the band play, every performance, every parade. So although he may not have attended Church with us, he still supported us and was true to his choices and convictions.
My dad was also soft hearted. I remember only one time that we raised voices at each other. I think I was college age and living at home during breaks and summertime. I don’t even remember what it was about, but we were cross with each other. Later that afternoon, dad came into my room and presented me with a vase of flowers. I know that my mom had gotten them for him to give to me, but he was the one who brought them in. I don’t even know if we said sorry… we just hugged and that was enough. My mom and dad very rarely fought/argued, at least in front of us kids. I do remember one time when I was about 11 or so, and I got scared and asked my mom if they were going to divorce (fighting between them was so foreign to me.) My mom quickly said oh no, they were just trying to figure something out. She then promptly went in and spoke to dad privately and I don’t know that I ever heard them argue again. Mom did all of the discipline, but I do remember one time when dad hit me over the head with the paperback book he was reading. I was sitting on the floor next to his chair, and I’m sure making all kinds of disruptive noise. I was so shocked that I settled right down! Dad was, for the most part, the most gentle soul I’ve ever known.
Dad and I did have a thing that was special just between us. We both enjoyed parades. We would go together, I’d round up the folding chairs (we had nice ones because of all the baseball games we attended for Josh), grab some throw blankets (it was usually chilly, at least at first), we’d stop for coffees (latte for me, black for him) and then head to our usual place to set up. A couple of times it was when my husband Joe or Josh was Police Reserving and they’d end up on parade duty, so we kind of made their intersection our go-to seating area. I loved the bands and the floats, dad loved the military entries. I learned early on from dad to always stand whenever the flag would come by, and usually dad and I were the first ones, then everyone around us would follow suit. Dad would always wear a baseball style hat with a Marine emblem on it, and would be recognized for it. He would receive salutes and finger points from any military dignitary that may be passing by in a car or on a float. But the part that warmed my heart the most, even to the point of tears, was when the Boy Scouts would parade by. One would run over to where we were sitting (standing if the flag was with them), shake dad’s hand and say “Thank you for your service.” One time, one wee little boy did just that, then turned around and said to the adult who was walking in the formation with them, “Did I do it right?” My dad just beamed and the adult said “yes, perfect.” I will never forget that. What an honor to be in the presence of my dad, someone who truly loved his country.
My dad loved kids. He would see children, playing, or just being held by one of their parents, and he would watch them. He’d make funny faces and try and get them to smile and laugh. Then he’d turn to me and say “You need one of those.” I knew it was because he would love to have one that he could have close again on a regular basis. When Joe and I found out that I was pregnant, we waited to tell our parents in person. We got to the house and dad was in his tv room. Joe stayed in the living room with mom while I went and asked dad to come in and join us. I was so excited, and I knew it meant the world to him, so before I could ask him to come into the living room, I blurted it out… “You’re gonna be a grandpa!! I’m going to have a baby!!!” Then I said “Oops!! You need to come into the living room!!” He said “WHAT??!!!” I got him into the living room and then Joe and I together shared our announcement. I don’t think I told mom for years that I had told dad first. I felt bad, but I knew that he would be soooo happy. Well, I knew mom would be too, but for some reason, I just wanted dad to know. It was important for me to tell him.
When Josh was born, he was the apple of everyone’s eye. The only grandchild, he never lacked for attention. Sometimes I wonder how he came out as well centered as he did. When it came to my dad, he would do pretty much anything for Josh. Of course, dad was that way with my brother and I, but even more so with Josh, as once dad retired, he had the time to devote specifically to him. But before that happened, one significant thing occurred. Times were changing, and not too long after Josh was born, I sort of indicated that I really didn’t want Josh around any cigarette smoke. Dad took it upon himself to not smoke in the house anymore, always taking a break outside. I felt this step was an indication just how much dad cared about Josh as well as our wishes.
Mom and dad were the only babysitters Josh ever knew. Dad was always eager to take him and feed him his bottle. He did draw the line at diapers though, haha! Joe and I would come back after an evening out and find that Josh had fallen asleep in dad’s arms while he rocked him, and dad hadn’t wanted to put him down. Don’t get me wrong, mom spent even more time with Josh as dad was still working, and mom would have Josh during the day many times. But Grandpa time always really pulled at my heartstrings. It was about this time that dad made the decision he was done with smoking. He cared so much about Josh, and there was so much more info out there now about smoking and second-hand smoke, I think he just didn’t want it to have any effect on him. Dad quit cold turkey, and you would hardly even know he was going through it, although he did develop a pretty hefty gum habit. I was so proud of him. Oh sure down through the rest of the years, he’d sneak one now and then, or share a cigar time with Joe and my brother. But for the most part, particularly when Josh was little, it was pretty much a no smoking zone. The fact that he came to the place where he made the decision to quit smoking due to Josh being the catalyst, even after all of those years where it had been a normal occurrence in our household… my heart full of love for him grew 3 times bigger at that point.
So, yes. My dad loved his family and would do pretty much anything for them. We shared a wonderful relationship, and I love and miss him very much. These ramblings are just a sliver of our times together and what I thought about this man. There are so many other things, like the time I was riding with him in his old truck around our neighborhood, probably about 5 years old. The passenger door swung open and dad grabbed my arm just in time, my feet flying out the door and up in the air as we cruised down the street. His comment to me? “Don’t tell your mom about this.” And I didn’t. Yeah, so many other things like that.
Miss you dad.