Sunday, June 18, 2006

Gestalt of Dad

My daddy didn't have a name. His parents meant to name him, after his grandfather actually, and call him by his initials, but the doctor who filled out the birth certificate put only the initials down. I don't think it affected his life much, except that he couldn't buy or be named on US Savings Bonds.

He graduated from high school with only 9 other people, only one other boy. It was WWII and most boys quit school to enlist. Dad graduated then enlisted in the Navy. My dad as a Navy man is always somewhat amusing to me -- my view of him is as more nerdy and henpecked and it just doesn't go along with my view of the armed services which is built on the heroics of my uncles. Nevertheless, he did serve and he even got a tattoo. I loved the tattoo on his forearm as a kid, and remember it on his arm as he lay in ICU dying. He always said he wished he hadn't gotten it but when he’d say that, a shroud of mystery would cover his eyes and make me wonder at his secrets.

He was even AWOL once, for a few hours, when he'd come home for a funeral and old orders had run out and new ones hadn't come in yet and it was snowing and he hitchhiked to the bus station knowing he was going to be traveling back to base AWOL the whole way. I can see him in those blues, duffle slung over shoulder, see what the small town down the mountain from the home place must have looked like in those days. When the orders came in, they left a message at the bus station and he came back home.

After his enlistment was up, he went to school. The story is he met my mother driving a coal truck past her house on Snowball Holler, but truth is, their families had always known each other at least peripherally. He was 25 and had graduated and was gainfully employed and well on his way to self-employment before they got married. I was born almost 10 years after that.

He defined being a good dad as providing for his family, and he did. And he was a good dad. He didn't spend much time with us, and he didn't relate to us much on our terms as kids, but he always listened, considered, helped if we'd ask. As an adult he took the time to understand me, not agree with me (because he didn't) but see whatever it was the way I was seeing it.

I picked a real different sort of fellow to be the father of my children than I picked for my own father and yet they have a lot in common too. Good men, doing their best every day, and loving me.

Thank you, fathers and grandfathers through all the ages of my family. To paraphrase Amistad, my children are the only reason you ever existed


CM Edwards said...

My grandad wanted to quit school and enlist in WWII (the Navy too), but my great-gramma made him finish school first. His opinion must have changed about the military after that even though he would never outright tell me so- because he was pretty miffed about being called back to Korea after he served in the South Pacific.

Just wanted to share that with you.

Morgan said...

That was beautiful. My father was in Veitnam and I despite being generally against the military think my father was brave.

Susan Gets Native said...

What a nice post about your Dad.

His not having a real name made me think of Harry S Truman...he had no middle name, just an initial. With no period after it. Weird.

This has nothing to do with your post really...just some trivia.