Father’s Day is this weekend, Sunday the 18th to be exact.
This will be my first Father’s Day without my dad.
This will be the first year in my life that I will not have to make a phone call, find a funny to-the-point card, buy a gift, drive up and say hello for Father’s Day.
My father had a very simple philosophy: I’ll go out and earn a living, and you cook for me.
He was a three pound baby born in a rural farmhouse in 1928 North Dakota. He was the youngest of nine brothers and sisters. One of his brothers already was married and had a kid (dad’s nephew) when dad was born.
Six brothers and two sisters. His father married twice. After the first wife passed away, he married her sister. Devout Lutherans. No playing cards ever. The only card game I ever saw at any of my uncles was Rook. No reading the funnies on Sunday. My dad told me he used to sneak out, get the funnies, and read them secretly…Dad, you rebel you.
When he started school, he did not speak English; he spoke Norwegian. He attended a one room schoolhouse, then went into town for high school.
Big time for them was going into Fargo for a visit. Always get dressed up for that.
Big time Saturday nights were spent in neighbor’s barns where ale, wine, and ‘shine flowed.
Dad was drafted into the Marines in 1951, and became a Corporal, and a telephone specialist. He only spoke once of his adventures in Korea…it scared me to hear how close he was to getting killed.
He got out of the Marines in 1953, and went back to the farm. That was short lived, as after all the things he had seen, and places he’d been, he said he could no longer live on the farm, where time stood still.
He married mom in 1955, moved to Tombstone AZ where he worked for the Soil Conservation Service, and I came along in ’56. Soon, a brother in ’57, then move to OK in 1960.
My dad always worked. I got my ethic from him as I have worked since I was fifteen, until 2013. I think I have passed the work ethic to my boys as they have both been gainfully employed since they were old enough to work.
My dad hated summer vacation when we got out of school.
It gnawed at him, and made him angry at us. He was mad in the summertime. He did not like knowing that my brother and I would be sitting around the house doing nothing. Mom was a teacher, so she was home too, but the household chores were not enough to keep us busy all day every day, so dad would leave us a list of shit to to….every day.
It got to the point where we spent more time doing dad’s chores than helping mom, which opened up a huge can of worms as then it was competition as to whose chores were more important.
Some of the shit we had to do….
The number one chore that was absolute agony from start to finish was…trimming the hedge. The front sidewalk ran from the front door, straight through the yard to the street. It was lined on both sides by a hedge. I don’t know they particular variety, but it was vicious. I was a spiny thing that bled milk when cut. We had to wear gloves to cut and handle it. Dad would drive stakes into the ground, and using string, indicate how much to take off the top and sides. The most dreaded of all. It was usually saved for punishment, and if we behaved, we had to trim it anyway.
The next chore, a close second, was trimming the grass from under the chain link fence. This was the day before weedeaters you know. Handheld trimmers were the only way. Oh yeah, in the tip o’ Texas, the summers are deadly hot. We had to show progress every day or suffer the wrath of the Marine.
Another chore that never went away was keeping the weeds and grass from growing under the citrus trees. We had orange and grapefruit trees in back and they required trimming, as well as the ground under them. At least it was shady, but lots of bugs that liked oranges; and it smelled funny.
It got to the point where we did the damn chores without being told which really threw him a curve. He ran out of shit for us to do. It hung him up.
Not far away, was the local rental store, that also fixed small engines. My brother and I frequented the establishment as our mini-bike had a Tecumseh 4 hp engine that constantly broke down. More specifically, it required constant replacement of points and condenser. We got to know the owner quite well, and ended up buying a 5 hp Briggs, which was like a brand new mini-bike.
One morning, before dad left for work as we were not allowed to sleep late, he told me to “go down to the rental shop and sit on the wood block all day.”
WTF? Are you fucking kidding me man? Don’t you think the boss has a say in whether or not I sit in his shop all fucking day? I’m on fucking vacation man! Fuck that! I’ll run away from home before I do that shit man!
All these thoughts flashed through my head, but said nothing. I knew better. I liked my jaw where it was.
I did go to the rental shop one day, and asked for a job. The old man hired me, and I began my career fixing lawn mowers at $1.40 an hour.
My dad never asked me to trim the hedge, trim under the fence or citrus trees, or mow the yard again.
I never had planned on having children, yet I have two grown now.
I didn’t want my kids to be afraid of me like I was of my father when I was young.
Truthfully, I divorced their mother when they were 8 and 5. I could not live with their mother any more. I never liked taking orders, and she turned into the boss.
That left a rift in the family; some never got over it. I didn’t get to watch my kids grow up except a month in the summer, and every other Christmas. My own fault. I get a text on Father’s day, and maybe a gift card, but rarely a conversation initiated by one of them.
My youngest was hurt the most from the divorce, but he knows not how to express it. He’s just sad.
I am overjoyed that they are good boys/men; better than I was. That is our goal as parents is it not?