Sunday, June 17, 2012

DAD & HIS GIRLS - about 1942

It is hard to describe my dad.  Do I talk about the man who was my buddy, who made my childhood one that any kid would love and remember?  Do I talk about the man who was successful in business and provided our family with lots of things we never imagined we would have but who lost himself in John Barleycorn and ultimately became so besotted that he ended up familyless and living in a board and care hospital?  Or do I talk about the independent and growing senile old man who in the years after 1982 wanted to do life his way and made me more often than I like to remember cry at the difficulties I had in being a "good daughter?"  He was all these things, and when I remember him on Father's Day it is with a mixed bag of memories. 

I loved him though all those periods.  He wasn't always like he was at any one point in my recollections.  I keep hoping that the last part of his life and the awfulness of that period will fade from my memory and I'll only remember the good times.  His time of drinking didn't affect me as much because I lived in a different town, was married and busy raising my kids, but I saw what it was doing to my mother and my little brother. 

Each Father's Day I remind myself that this was the man who began at the age of 10 taking care of his widowed mother and his sister by dropping out of school in Colorado and selling newspapers on the street corners; burning the trash, a janitorial chore, at the incinerators of Glockner Sanitarium in Colorado Springs; washing dishes at a Manitou Springs cafeteria to help make ends meet.  This was the man who in 1932 married my mom, and began taking care of his mother-in-law and my mom's younger siblings through the Depression.  This is the man who provided rent-free housing in some apartments he eventually built to my mom's younger brothers and sisters as they each started out their married life.  And he did it for me and my sister too when we married.  This is the man who in his old age kept sending me to See's Candy stores to buy boxes of candy for his friends and family, something he was known for during his adult life in Long Beach.  And this was the man who was honored on his 90th birthday by his family and any old employees we could find still living locally, who all agreed that he was the best boss any employee could have.

And each Father's Day I look at the picture above, my favorite, and remember that this was the man that made childhood so good for my sis and me.  We agreed that we had the best childhood a kid could have.  Each Sunday we took drive somewhere -- to Balboa for a ride on ferry, to Anaheim or Montebello Park for a jar full of pollywogs, to Belmont Shore for a Currie's Mile High Cone, to Wilmington where the smell of the refineries was strong and he told us that the smell was the smell of money, which we believed.  He drove us out on Atlantic to a feed store each spring when they put all the fluffy newly-hatched chickens in a window where we could get up close and see them.  And many a game of Miniature Golf was played at Shady Acres, with him always whipping the socks off of all of us.  He drove me around wherever I needed to go, and since I didn't drive many a time I called him from college in Los Angeles, asking him to come pick me up, that I wanted to come home for the weekend;  he happily drove up on a Friday and took me back on Sunday, pleased to do it for one of his girls.  He did the same for my sister.

He was a good father.  That he had a serious personal flaw was no different than many others have and I work on finding a perspective that allows me to celebrate the goodness and set aside all the other stuff.  What I want to remember on Father's day is my dad, dressed to the nines, with a smile on his face and his arm around his two little girls, my sister Ginnie Lou and me.

No comments: