For some reason I was never as close to my father as I was to my mother. Perhaps there was distance because we were too much alike.
I inherited his impatience, his quick trigger, and his nerves. We took long car trips every summer, usually camping. He drove, and Mom was the navigator. Unfortunately Mom never shared any of the routes with him, and he never once looked at the map. It made for some truly awful trips with him getting more and more stressed out about how far he had to drive. “We’re never gonna get there!” His meltdowns spoiled everyone else’s trip, but maybe that was Mom’s fault. If she had been more forthcoming with details, maybe he would have been more relaxed.
I must have gotten some of his outgoing personality because although I’m shy by nature, I can push myself past my natural reserve when I need to. I also inherited his rounded body shape and high blood pressure, genetic and not just a result of the quick trigger. I also followed the good examples he set of loyalty and faithfulness.
He was a good man, devoted to my mother. She was his world. I’ve often said it was a good thing that he died first because he would have been lost had she gone first. He didn’t know how to cook, and he panicked when she left the room. “Where’s your mother?”
He has been gone longer than I had him in my life. I was twenty-eight when he died, and he’s been gone for thirty-one years. I wish I had known him better and known him longer.
I was often short-tempered with him. He’d snap, and I’d snap back. I probably should have had my head handed to me dozens of times, but he never lit into me. I remember being spanked a grand total of once.
He was a good Dad. I remember him running along beside my bike, teaching me to ride without training wheels for the first time. I have vague memories of being carried into the house half asleep as a child when I’d fallen asleep at the drive-in movie theatre. He always did a silly voice for my cousin and me when we’d ask him to read the words on an old billboard advertisement for a motel we passed on the long car trip to the Thousand Islands. He’d read, “Downtown Watertown on Washington Street” in a stuffy, posh-sounding, deep voice, and we’d laugh like idiots every single time. It never got old.
In his later years, he had a stroke and had lingering weakness on his left side. When he got tired, his leg would shake. Once he was trying to rotate the tires on his old Oldsmobile and I remember seeing him shaking as he struggled with it. Without being asked, I joined him and said, “Show me.” That was how I learned how to change my own tires, a skill I’ve since used several times.
Dad worked hard. He had a bad back, and he even went in to work when his back was out, and in his job he stood all day long. He never called in sick. His job wasn’t glamorous. In fact, his job is what killed him far too young, at 68. He was a printing pressman, back in the days when letterpress was the process in use. He would set huge beds of movable metal type, and he’d run the press. He came home smelling of ink and paper, one reason why I have always been addicted to the smell of new books or magazines. Back in his day, the huge presses and type were cleaned every night with strong chemicals. No gloves, masks or protective gear were worn. Those chemicals were all carcinogens, and my Dad would die from leukemia six months after being diagnosed. He survived the stroke to be taken out by blood cancer.
One of my biggest regrets was that he never met my husband or my sons. Dad always wanted grandchildren. My boys are both big train fans. So was Dad. He would’ve loved sharing that with them.
His dying was the reason I got serious about dating. He was gone so quickly and unexpectedly it made me realize I was 28 years old and still living with my parents. I was independent, I paid my own bills, had my own car, and I’d been working for nine years. I realized I had no way of knowing how long I’d have my mother. If she died suddenly, too, I’d be all alone. That was when I joined a dating agency (fail), and then answered ads in the newspaper and met my hubby.
So in a roundabout way, although Dad never met Eric, he brought me to him. Thanks, Dad.