Father’s Day

Father’s Day is coming up soon. These thoughts came to mind.

If I remember correctly, the temps were in the seventies with a gentle breeze blowing off the water. Mark and I were sitting in a couple of plastic chairs outside a motel room on the shores of Lake Texoma. We had a fishing guide lined up for the next day, all set to do some damage to the striper population. It was one of those father/son bonding moments, at least that’s the way I saw it. Mark worked on a beer while I sipped my usual spooker, both of us enjoying the moment.

At some point, the conversation turned to fatherhood when Mark asked, “What was your dad like?” I had to stop and think about that. My eventual answer was, “I’m not sure. I never really knew him.”

I have my memories of course. One of the first was on the farm. I was probably around five or six. I got caught outside during a horrific thunderstorm, and was too scared to make a run for the house. I had taken shelter in the old barn and was completely safe, but the crack of lighting and bone-jarring thunder had me quivering in fear. Then, through the pouring rain, my dad appeared. He took off his jacket, threw it over me, picked me up, and carried me to the warmth and light of our modest home where my anxious mother waited. All without a word.

As a farmer, my dad worked from sun to sun–sunup to sundown–in the fields, corn and wheat mostly. If the ground was wet, his days were spent on the never-ending upkeep of the farm buildings and machinery, not to mention the livestock; cattle, hogs, chickens, and two horses. When there was no longer enough light to work, dad would come in, eat supper, maybe listen to the radio for an hour or so…and go to bed. If there was conversation in the house on any subject, I don’t remember it. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, both mom and dad were probably too tired for idle chit-chat. A new workday on the farm was coming, and in a few short hours.

Soon after my twelfth birthday, the folks gave up on farming and bought a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Horton, Kansas, population 20,000 or so. Mom cooked. Dad waited tables. Again, it was a time of long days and short nights. It got worse. When the restaurant sputtered financially, my dad took a night job as a policeman. I seldom saw my father during those times. But it was no big deal, right? I was a teenager now, totally self-absorbed in my own little world. Father/son talks? Who needs ‘em?

My dad stayed with it until a new opportunity arose, a job as a mechanic and gas station attendant working nights at a Gulf station in Tulsa, Oklahoma. By now, I’m in high school. I have a car, a girl friend, lots of buddies, and hated staying at home any longer than I had to with my old fogey parents. I remember tearing low gear out of my 49 Ford while acting the idiot, and limped it down to where my dad was working. He listened to my sad story and said, “Put it on the rack.” That was it. End of discussion.

I finished high school, joined the Navy, got stationed in Texas. Got married in Kansas City. My father didn’t attend the wedding. I don’t remember why. But he did make the long drive to Beeville upon the arrival of his first grandchild. Dad was beaming from ear to ear as he held that baby. It was, I think, one of his proudest moments.

It wasn’t long after that when I was called off the flight line for a phone call. My mother-in-law broke the news. “Your dad died of a massive heart attack.” He was 58 years old.

With the help of a friend, my wife and I made the 870-mile trip for the funeral. There was a lot to think about during that drive. Why hadn’t I made more time to be with my father? I could have passed the evenings with him at the Gulf station. But no. I had friends to see and hell to raise. Why didn’t we go on fishing or hunting trips together? Or camping? Or just go to a ball game once in a while?

Why hadn’t I simply called and asked, “How you doin’ Dad?”

I vividly remember standing over the coffin, tears running down my face, and looking at the man I wish I’d known better. Too late. I loved you, Dad.

 

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man in the moon

“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when But we’ll get together then

You know we’ll have a good time then” 

by Harry Chapin

 

 

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Published in: on June 3, 2017 at 11:15 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. brought tears to my eyes cuz.

    I was so fortunate to work with your dad at Goff Grain for a short time (couple months?) before going to KC taking a job with post office.

    I recall shortly after being discharged your folks & I went on a short trip to visit MCANANYS (joann & billy)

    had a great time. your dad was one of the finest men I have ever known!! many good memories..


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