My Dad

He isn’t here any more. I miss him a lot. After Mom died I was finally able to spend more time with him and get to know him better. He lived with us his last two years.

Dad worked as a carpenter at a university for 29 years while I was growing up. He also did what he called “moonlighting” with a friend of his from work. They were known at the best remodeling team in the town. I even had people ask me if I was related to him – and then they would tell me how good he was.

Once when I was 11 or 12 I was bit by the painting bug. I had acrylic and oil paints and no easel. Dad took me over to the workshop in the building where he worked and voila – with some scrap wood he made me an easel!

He was raised during the depression and at the age of 13 he went to live with his grandmother. There wasn’t enough food at home for 5 boys and they elected him to go. He called his grandma mom and his mother by her first name – until my mom stopped him doing that ………..

He was full of stories. He remembers being in the country one night when he was young and seeing people in white sheets around a fire. Jeeeeezus. He knew what they were but he wasn’t scared. I would have been petrified. I don’t know if they were having an initiation or out putting up burning crosses – but holy shit that must have been scary.

He says he started smoking when he was 12 months old – and seriously he swore up and down that was true. I think it was more like 13 because his grandma grew tobacco and I’m sure he smoked it.

He would tell about how he worked all week and would get paid. He needed a pair of shoes. He was walking on newspaper. He went to the store and with a whole week’s pay – he couldn’t afford the shoes. These things marked both of my parents for life.

When World War II started Dad tried to enlist. They wouldn’t take him saying his sinuses were so bad he wouldn’t be able to survive the percussion of the guns. So he and my uncle got in a car and drove from Illinois to Vancouver, Washington to build ships. Daddy was a little guy – cute but little – and he was sent into the hull of the ships to weld. He stayed out there at Kaiser Shipyard for a while – at least a year maybe two.

Dad liked new adventures where Mom did not. He was always up for something different and driving all the way from Illinois to California when I was 6 was just one of them. Mom sat with one hand on the dash and the other on the seat in back of her. She was terrified of mountains and the Rockies are kind of high. We would travel all day and then find a nice place to stay. We had wonderful motel rooms and I remember this being such a fun trip. We were moving my grandma – Mom’s Mom – to live with Mom’s sister. Grandma had been through some rough times with the death of Grandpa and the adoption of one of her grandchildren outside the family. She decided she would leave and start over.

When we got to California – even at the age of 6 – I remember the light being so much different from Illinois. The colors were brighter. The weather wasn’t hot but pleasant. We were in a suburb of Los Angeles and we got to go to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. We also went grunion hunting in Newport Beach. I could have stayed in California forever – especially since my aunt worked at this really cool store and brought me home my very own brown-eyed dark-brown-haired doll. My Dad did all that because he drove me to California.

Had to take a 4 hour break – he fell again – couldn’t get him up – Lord save me.

So Papa was liked by everyone who met him. He was so popular with his granddaughter’s boyfriend that they stayed in touch up until the day he died. Mark was even with us when Mom died and he named his first child after my Dad. Dad was touched by all of this. Mark was a carpenter too and they worked together – which is how he met his now ex-wife. It’s a good ex. Need I say more ——– he’s a good guy.

Papa liked to play cards – but he played MEAN. He played to win and crowed when he did. There was nothing bashful about him. He could be so irritating because we debated everything – he finally wore me out until I shut up.

He had some weird quirks which I figured out years after I grew up was a short man complex. Sorry – they do exist and I worked for enough short lawyers to prove it! Papa had to be the best. I remember one story he told about laboratory technicians where he worked. They were graduate students and had just got their paychecks. They wanted Dad – who was a union carpenter – to compare checks with them. He said he wouldn’t mind showing them his paycheck at all but they had to keep in mind that it took ambition to carry the toolbox around all day. Hahahaha! I love that story.

Once my parents went to a Christmas party for the department Dad working in. Somebody asked Mom what she did for a living. She told him she was a Domestic Engineer. Pretty funny too – they were a hoot my parents. I sure wish they were here now. I’d go home to my family and make them make this lousy life all better. I miss them. Happy Father’s Day Dad – and kiss Mom for me.


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