Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day

My dad died in May 1986. It was a few weeks before June and that first Father’s Day without him was one of the saddest days of my life.

I had lost grandfathers and a grandmother but nothing prepared me for the experience of losing my dad. I still feel melancholy at times when I think of him. But my father left things that I cling to.

He felt at home in work clothes. I’m not sure if he got married in overalls, but he wore them in the only surviving picture from their wedding day when he married my mother. When he landed a job as a welder, he started wearing coveralls. He wore them when he worked at home too.

When the family was young, feeding his wife and kids took most of the money so if the car broke down, he fixed it. His diagnostic procedure was always the same. He’d draw a cigarette from the pack in his pocket, tap it gently on the fender to tamp down any loose tobacco, open his Zippo and swipe the flint wheel on the leg of his coveralls. When the tiny flame sprang from the lighter, he’d lean his head to one side and light the cigarette. With the hood open, he’d study the motor as if it were an ancient text. After a while, he’d say, “I think I can fix this.”

When old enough, I became his designated helper, holding flashlights and fetching tools. I also kept a cold glass of ice tea within his reach. He didn’t consider himself a mechanic, but his philosophy was, “It ain’t gonna fix itself.”

My folks scrimped and saved enough to buy a Jim Walter shell home in the early 1960s. After the sound of knocking hammers and hacking handsaws faded, my dad’s work began.

My brother and I helped him wire the house, install light fixtures, hang sheetrock and install plumbing. That house kept the family warm and dry for years. I think he coined the phrase, “Just Do It,” years before Niki trademarked the concept. That’s something my dad taught me that has served me well through the years.

The relationship between my father and me was rocky after I returned from the Army. I had grown tired of people wearing green telling me to cut my hair so when I returned home after my service in 1973, I decided to go with the flow and let my hair grow. My dad had a problem with that. I was young, stupid and stubborn. I got the stubborn part from him, so our relationship suffered.

During that time, he didn’t say much to me but he still talked to Jilda. He adored her.

After a few years, I think we both grew weary of holding on to the anger. Afterward, it was as if we’d never had a harsh word between us.

This morning after our first cup of coffee, I heard Jilda’s car keys jingling, and I realized she had an early morning session at work. She called over her shoulder as she walked out the door, “The fan in the bedroom is making a funny noise.”

I poured my second cup of coffee and went into the bedroom. I sat and sipped for a long while looking at the fan before saying to myself, “I think I can fix this.”

Happy Father’s Day.


12 comments:

  1. Fathers can be wonderful!!

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  2. That may be the same kind of house my family built probably at about the same time. It was a great house built with a lot of hard work and a lot of love. I was sad when we moved to another town. Today I drive by the house every once in a while.

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  3. This is a wonderful memory of your dad..I really soaked in the words. My dad and I were at odds when I was a teenager because when I was 16, he was 68! The age gap was hard on both of us and he was truly old school but, by the time I woke up and knew I could learn from him, he was dying from brain cancer. We did get closer which I am so grateful for but I wish I was older so I would have asked him questions about his time during the depression, out west and the war. He already told me stories but I would have picked his brain even more. He would be 103 now and I still miss him.

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  4. Awe Rick this is such a sweet memory of your dad... it sounds like he installed a great work ethic ...I like his just do it attitude ♡

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  5. This is good Rick. There is just something about a man 'comfortable in work clothes.'
    Good tribute to a fine man. A great picture of the you and the pretty one.
    Jim Walter's building techniques completely revised the home building industry. The simplest thing he did was build walls on the floor then raise them, until then we stood one stud at a time.

    I really did enjoy the entry, love that picture of your dad! Man I do admire a welder.

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  6. Exceptional post, Rick. Today, I got calls from Daughter in Chicago, Sons in Marin, San Francisco and up the American River. Now it's midnight and I'm having a glass of wine, thinking of my own dad who died in 1960. In the mere 10 years I knew him, I learned much by example --as you did. And you brought back happy, busy memories. And my kids ended their calls by saying they love me. Didn't mean to turn to jelly on you, but you have a way with words.

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  7. This is great. You told about your dad as if you were staring out of the window at him. Sounds like a sweet and smart dad. Hang on to those memories.
    Lisa

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  8. That's a beautiful picture of the two of you !

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  9. A wonderful tribute to your dad. I miss mine as well.

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  10. When I read things like this it makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have my wonderful, awesome father still in my life and how close we came to losing him in 2009 to lung cancer, he fought and is still with us and each day we have him is a blessing he is a wonderful loving man

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  11. Love is a thread through this post. "I can fix this..."

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  12. Your Dad sounded like my Dad. I always thought there wasn't anything he couldn't fix or do. Maybe it was that generation. I'll always have fond memories of him either under the hood of the car or under the house fixing plumbing! He also built the house Mom still lives in. Good memories. Your Dad sounded like a good Dad who never stopped loving you even if he didn't agree with everything you did.

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