Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Random thoughts about my Dad

This time of year I always think about my father a lot. Partly because this is the month of his birthday and his funeral: he was born on August 2 and he died 3 days before his 75th birthday; his funeral was on his birthday. Also, it's election year and so many things about this election cycle would be driving my Dad nuts.

He was your original curmudgeon. Very crusty and very opinionated. Were his opinions well-informed? I don't know. He did read the paper, cover to cover, every day. For all my life that I can remember we had the daily paper delivered. When we moved here, it felt so weird not to subscribe to the paper; having the paper delivered was the right and proper adult thing to do. I don't recall my father reading anything else. Maybe Victory Through Air Power, which I still have.

Anyway, the election. He would be spending a lot of time reading the paper, grumbling, and muttering a variation on his most-used expression: "Who the hell does he think he is..." He would have a lot of comments about Barack Obama. Was my Dad a bigot, I wonder? I never heard (or remember hearing) him utter a word that would indicate that he was. I think he would be upset by Obama's youth, his socialist/liberal thinking and his negativity about the US. Would he like McCain any better? I kind of doubt it. He was a Nixon man. Really. He always said Nixon would be vindicated.

He was the child of immigrants: "Eastern European peasants" he used to say. No point going on about being Polish, or German, or Russian, because "Eastern Europe was always a mess." But his family never hyphenated. They were Americans, through and through, even if they did eat a lot of Kielbasa and pierogis. (At least, this is how I remember it. Family members may disagree. As the youngest kid, I am sure there are things I missed.) He was also of the generation that worked hard and didn't get government assistance - or if they did, they were ashamed and got off as soon as they could. He would not have patience for our welfare state. Divorce grieved him. Single motherhood by choice would make him angry, I'm sure. "Who the hell do these girls - they are not women - think they are..."

He had a great work ethic. Sometime in the '70's he got really sick with whatever flu was going around. I thought he was going to die. He had never, in my memory, stayed home from work! He worked for the same company for 50 years, from age 17 to age 67. (He finished high school at night classes.) Once I quit a job after 4 years; he was stunned and wanted to know why. When I said I hated it, he asked "how can you know already?" I am quite sure that he would not approve of my husband quitting his job to go back to school. "Not approve" is probably not strong enough: he would think him stupid and irresponsible. Maybe even evil. "What the hell is he doing, giving up a perfectly good job...." He was thrifty as that Depression generation was. But he liked nice clothes and always looked sharp. He liked nice ties, too. But he was never free with money.

Besides working hard at work, he didn't like to sit around much. He may have been hyperactive. Once I took him and my mom to a Tony Bennett concert. At the intermission, he didn't come back, but paced the lobby. Afterwards, he said he liked the show OK, but "he was a little long-winded." However, when the first grandbaby was born, he would just sit holding and gazing adoringly at that boy. He loved his grandchildren - even if he really didn't know much how to play with them and talk to them. He didn't seem to be what you'd call "good with kids." I learned all my mildly bad words listening to him put up the tent on our annual camping trips. (The really bad ones I learned from my big bro.)

He liked good food, particularly my mother's pizza, which she made just about every Sunday. Most weeks he'd say something like "well, you messed it up again!" after eating way too much. He did like his hot food hot, though, which made things a little difficult for my mother. The first Thanksgiving after he died, we were all pretty sad, of course, till my mom broke the mood by saying "at least no one's complaining that the food's cold!" To this day I am nervous about serving food that is not piping hot!

Part of his legacy was a love of '30's and '40's movies. We used to go to San Francisco to a revival movie house and watch Casablanca, The African Queen, so many others I can't remember. He would not be impressed with the current leading men. "John Wayne? He's not an actor, he's a performer. Conrad Veidt, now he was an actor!" (OK, Wayne is hardly current but that's the quote I remember.) He also loved cars - it seemed we always had a new/old car around. Lots of car photos in the boxes of old snapshots. He bought American, was specifically a Ford man as I recall, though later in life he had a disastrous fling with a Triumph. Oh, and he kept his cars in the garage, you better believe it, not in the driveway or on the street. One of my great difficulties in moving to our current house is our lack of garage space. We have to park our car in the driveway. Most people here do; in fact a lot of people have no garage at all! That was tough for me. Dad would not approve.

What would he think of this post? Probably not much. "What the hell are you wasting your time writing this crap for?" Yeah, that'd be my Dad!


edwardherda said...

Thanks for that one. Good memories. And black cherry ice cream, if I recall, was his favorite.

Marbel said...

Indeed. And red ties.

Sheryl said...

I really enjoyed reading about your dad, Margaret. It brought back a lot of memories for me.

His "What the hell are you wasting your time writing this crap for?" reminded me so much of my father-in-law. He said stuff like that all the time. That, and "Andiamo, Toots!" to my mother-in-law (while giving her an affectionate smack on the fanny.)

Thank God for the memorable curmudgeons in our lives, eh?

I miss him something awful.

smallworld said...

Beautiful post. Your kids will treasure having this snapshot of their grandfather in years to come.

Ami said...

I feel like I know your dad now. What a lovely post, and what an amazing man.