Ain’t No Father’s Day

20 Jun

I didn’t exactly have a father growing up. I didn’t exactly have a father after I was all grown up. I lived with (was officially adopted by) my maternal grandparents for a part of my childhood so my step-grandfather was my only father. He was a force of nature. He made his own hooch. Nevermind the gnats that congregated in the house and dinged us in the head as we watched “Welcome Back Kotter.” He always drove old beaters that pooped and sighed for several minutes after he’d turned the engine off. He had so much junk in the yard that we suffered teasing throughout our entire childhood. (“Our” being my grandparents’ two youngest kids, my aunt & uncle who were more like my brother and sister). He (still talking about my grandfather) would eat right through moldy foods while we cringed and gagged. He rarely wore new shoes, preferring hand-downs that were “just as good as new.” He worked hard and loved the “women-folk.” When my grandmother got ill, he took care of her like a nurse. He bought us watermelon and cherries and sparklers in the summer. He drove us to school when we missed the bus. In fact, he would drive my sister-aunt and I to McDonalds for what we specifically wanted and then he would drive my brother-uncle to Burger King to get his Whopper, etc.  He never said, “Just eat from the same place.” No, he got it and he accomodated us. He was gentle and kind and fun and precious.

Our daschund loved him more than all of us put together. She would climb into his lap the moment he got home and would not move until he moved. After his kitchen chair nap that he took while still wearing his government jumpsuit with his name patch.

He outlived so many people. He had obituaries piled in boxes. Some of the people he succeeded were half his age. He rented rooms to random people, gave them a place to stay when they were hard up. He loved plants and tools and gardening and the wonder of fruit growing from trees and springing up from soil. He loved the History Channel in later years, sometimes leaving the channel on for days at a time. We would tell him, “Pop, there are other channels.” He would hear none of it. He fought in Pearl Harbor. He was stationed in Guam. He worked on the railroad. He built things.  As an adult, he let me live with him many times either rent-free or dirt rent cheap so that I could “get on my feet.” He was the King of Hospitality offering his home, his sheets, his food, his bathroom, his bread, even his car at times.

He saw so many things come and go, come and go. He lived through assasinations and civil rights and was actually able to see a brown man become President of the United States. With a cane supporting him, he voted for the first time in his life for his “man”, Obama.

His eyes have seen the glory. He loved the Redskins by default. He loved to dance. He loved to tell tall tales.

He was an institution.

He died earlier this year at 92 years of age. He said he planned to make it to 100 but cancer made other plans.

I was driving today and thought of him. Again. I thought, “Gosh, I wish I could just call up Daddy and hear his voice, hear him tell a tale. Go visit him…”

92 years was too short for such a man. Such a man.

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