About Dad, on this Father’s Day…

For most of my life, I really didn’t know my father very well. When I was little he usually worked the swing shift at GE, where he was a mechanic working on plane engines. He wasn’t home for supper most of the time, and I was in bed asleep long before he got home. But I do remember his occasional days off when he watched football, blew smoke rings to entertain me (if I begged him to), and the long hours he spent tending his garden and working on his cars. I’d hang around him as much as he’d let me, but my incessant questions sometimes bothered him and he’d tell me to go on and play.

There were tensions in the family, and my father battled alcoholism for a long time. He was well on his way to conquering it when my brother’s untimely death made it hard for him to maintain his sobriety. He and my mother were unable to overcome their difficulties and they separated when I was 7. I saw him on only a couple of occasions during the next 18 years, as he lived several states away at first, and then we lost touch over time.

Over the years my mother would talk about him now and then; she told me how they met, at a dance she attended with her best friend in 1938, when my dad was in the Army Air Corps (forerunner of today’s Air Force), stationed at Langley Field in Virginia. He sent her this picture of himself when she returned to her home in Georgia. She went to visit him again and this time he sent her an engagement ring on her birthday in 1939; they were married that summer.

After his discharge from the service, they moved to his small hometown in northern Ohio, where he and his brother worked on the B&O Railroad. This was taken in January of 1940 during a cold Ohio winter…

After the railroad began laying people off, he and my mother moved to Cincinnati in hopes he’d find defense work at Wright’s, working on airplane engines. He did get hired on eventually, but while waiting for work he took a job driving taxis, for which the following photo was taken. He knew nothing about the streets of Cincinnati, but told the taxi company he did, and he feverishly studied maps and relied on his own good sense of direction, and he learned quickly. He was finally hired on at Wright’s and he started working the swing shift then, and after work he and my mother would go bowling and sometimes take in a late movie, while my grandmother watched my brother at home.

Early 1940s…

With my brother in 1941…

With my brother and sister in 1946…

With me in 1957…

In the next one, Dad is lighting the barbecue grill at a picnic. He could do almost anything, from taking a car apart and putting it back together to building additional rooms onto the house. What he didn’t know he looked up at the library and taught himself to do nearly everything from books. But his garden was his pride and joy; he grew up on a farm and knew about how to grow things from the time he was a child.

Next, a photo for a work ID badge in the late 1950s…this picture always looks to me like it belongs in a 1950s cigarette ad…

In 1979, when I was going through a separation and subsequent divorce, I felt compelled to write to my father and tell him about my life and how it was going, though I hadn’t had contact with him since I was 15. A few months later he surprised me with a visit, and it felt strange sitting across the table from him at a restaurant, but somehow familiar as well. After our visit he stopped to see my sister in Ohio, but my mother was there as well. My mother and father began seeing each other again and not long after decided to remarry, which pleased my sister and I greatly. He had long since abstained from alcohol and their differences were behind them. This time they were very happily married and had 14 wonderful years together before he passed away in 1994. I had the good fortune to live in the same town as they did for 8 of those 14 years, and got to know my dad well and I enjoyed his company very much. In 1983, when my daughter was born, he relished his role as “Grandpa”…

I value those years I had with my father; he was often gruff but was a softy at heart, often opinionated but fair-minded, always busy working on his projects, but found time for his family. When I was growing up I missed having a father around and sometimes felt envious of my friends whose fathers were present and involved in their lives. But that happened just a little later for me, for which I’ll always be grateful.

So, from your youngest daughter, Daddy, I miss you, and Happy Father’s Day!

2 thoughts on “About Dad, on this Father’s Day…

  1. Really good entry! I loved seeing all the photos! I think Daddy was an inspector at GE, but he may have worked up to that position. And I also think he was a taxi driver again sometime in the early 50’s. Here is my page about Daddy. I think I made it in 2005. I seem to remember Mama helped me out with Daddy’s interests and such, when I was going to make the page. http://www.bookmice.net/fleur/daddy.html

    • Thanks! Yes, I remember Daddy being an inspector at GE, but I don’t remember hearing that he hired on at that position. My memory is somewhat sketchy as to hearing about what work he did between working at Wright’s and GE, so I appreciate your input!

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