Father’s Day: Memories of Daddy

Thinking of my father today. He was a strong man, not perfect, but he loved me with an unconditional love that made me feel special. He knew his own mind and never wavered from his course. As an engineer, he was logical and he understood structure. He was economical and efficient. Now that I’m older, I see how my natural inclination towards editing came from him. My creativity and love of writing came from Mom. But Daddy’s influence encouraged me to be efficient with words, to understand the structure and underpinnings of a story or a collection of poems.

My father was a storyteller. In his later years, he loved nothing more than to spin tales of his years as a young man in the military, disobeying orders to wear his life jacket “because you couldn’t sleep with that thing on,” as his ship sailed through the mine-infested waters of the Baltic Sea.

When I was in high school, I was surprised when my father – who was not a reader like my mother – handed me a book and said it was his favorite. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegman. I remember reading it and searching for my father within the pages. What was it about a wheelchair bound historian narrator who was trying to write his grandmother’s biography that appealed to my father? I wasn’t sure, and my father wasn’t one to discuss his thoughts.

Several years later, Daddy gave me a worn copy of Last of the Breed by Louis L’amour. “You should read this,” he said. “It’s a great book.” As an English major, I quietly scoffed. Louis L’amour was a popular author, not a literary one. But I read the book and found myself gripped by the plot, unable to put it down. And this time, I understood why it appealed to my father. A Native American air force pilot is shot down by the Soviets and taken prisoner. He escapes and must use his wits to survive as he moves through the Siberian landscape.

I couldn’t help but see my father as the main character. As a child, Daddy’s parents had been wealthy. But they lost everything in a house fire. My father told the story: “I was walking home from school one day, and I looked up and saw a charred square of ground where our house used to be.” After that, my father had to use his wits to survive. One of nine siblings, he helped to put food on the table by delivering papers on three routes. As he got older, he and his brothers earned spending money by winning fights in the boxing ring. During WWII, he enlisted, and he eventually finished college on the GI Bill.

Life couldn’t have been easy for my father. But he seemed to welcome every challenge. Even when my mother came down with Alzheimer’s, he wasn’t one to quit. He fought to hold onto her as long as he could. In his own way, he stood beside her.

Thank you, Daddy, for loving your family so fiercely.

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