My Dad was one of the good guys.
He worked hard all his life and he came home every night to his family. The only time he was ever “out” for the evening was when he attended Union meetings. Being a Union member came with his job as a printer. He went to meetings, but he wasn’t militant about it. He used to get so mad when another Union within the shop went on strike, and he had to be out of work, too.
He was a Printer, and he always smelled like ink when he came home from work. I can still smell that smell. I have always thought that is why I like to sniff new books or magazines. In smelling the ink on the pages, I remember my Dad.
My Dad taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels. I can remember him holding the seat and running alongside me, encouraging me to keep pedaling. I didn’t realize he’d let go until I was halfway down the street.
My Dad was also a nice-looking man. When he was young, My Aunt always thought he resembled the actor Glen Ford. He wasn’t real tall. He was 5’8”. My Mom was 5’8-3/4”. She used to tell the story about when they got married and were having wedding photos taken. The photographer pulled out a box and asked my Dad to step up on it so he’d appear taller than Mom. Mom was mortified, but she said he hopped right up on the box. It didn’t bother him at all.
My Dad liked fishing. Every summer we went camping to the Thousand Islands, and Dad and Grandpa would go out for the day in Grandpa’s boat. We knew Grandpa had emphysema, and he would never have been able to stand the cold of the water if he had fallen in. We didn’t find out until years later that not only didn’t they wear life jackets when they were out, but Dad couldn’t swim very well (he could barely doggy paddle). I went out with them once, and they teased me about putting me out onto a buoy in the middle of the shipping lanes in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. Those huge freighters going by terrified me, and I cried until they brought me back in “to fish for rock bass” much closer to shore.
Dad was an impatient man, and he was quick to grumble and complain about things, but he got over it fast. He got impatient with things or situations – never with people. I think he got grumbly when he got stressed or nervous about something. He had trouble knowing what to say sometimes. You’d fall down, and he’d say, “What did you do that for?” He wasn’t a mean man at all. He was truly worried about you when you fell – it just came out wrong.
My Dad was also a softie. He cried when we had to say goodbye to Missy, the dog I had when I was a kid. He was quite attached to her. He “pretended” not to like the second dog I had. Bennie was a poodle-Pekinese-cocker mix who was real grouchy. When Bennie got crabby or snappy, Dad would say, “You brought him home. I didn’t.” Bennie would get up on my Dad’s lap when he sat in his recliner. Thinking no one was around, Dad would say, “There’s my boy.”
Dad adored my Mother. He could barely stand it when she left the room. He wanted to be with her all the time. She’d go downstairs to do the laundry, and he’d say, “Where’s your Mother?” It got so after a while I’d say, “she ran off with the Mailman.” He was so lost without her.
I have a vivid memory from when I was real little. I went for my shots before I started Kindergarten, and my mother had dressed me all up and let me wear her red lipstick (!). I am assuming it was to get me to buy into the whole going-to-the-Doctor thing. I remember my Dad holding me while I cried as I got my shots. After he let go of me, I remember seeing the perfect imprint of my red lipstick dead-center in the middle of the chest of his bright white t-shirt. I apologized, but he said it was okay.
I wasn’t as close to him as I got older as I could have been. I think we were too much alike. We argued a lot. I thought I knew everything in those days like most young adults do. I think I missed out on not getting to know him better as an adult. It was my loss.
He always wanted grandchildren. One of my biggest regrets is that he died before I found my hubby and got married and settled down to raise a family. I know Dad would’ve loved my boys. They grew up to be railfans and train-watchers just like their Grandpa was. He never knew them, but they share his hobby. It wasn’t anything intentional on my part – it just turned out that way. I suspect sometimes that my husband took them trackside to watch trains run by because he knew it was something my Dad loved. My Mom, Aunt and Grandmother used to attend antique auctions Saturday nights in Bergen, NY. As kids my cousins and I were easily bored at these “events”. Dad would take us outside. We’d walk up the sidewalk and stand at the crossing to watch the trains race by. My boys have been to that same crossing more times than I can count, and yes, I have sat there in the car waiting with them for the trains to come by. Dad would be thrilled to know that we’ve carried on that tradition.
My Dad was a good guy.
I miss you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.