Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hey, Dad

My dad died May 25, 1989.

My Dad, where to start? I loved my dad for his strength, even though he was an alcoholic. I loved him for his wisdom, even though he barely graduated from high school. I loved him for his love of life, and I understood his sorrow towards life.

He grew up in Baker City, Oregon. His mother had probably already died from the flu by the time this picture was taken. Dad's the boy in the middle.

He met my mom in Chicago. They married after Dad came home after WWII.

Dad spent three long years as a POW in Japan. While he was in captivity in the Philippines, his only brother died with him. Their father died before dad returned to the states.

My dad, Neil (on left), with his best friend, Jack. I'm in the middle.

The house we lived in for 16 years of my life.

My dad with one of his monkeys. Yeah, we had monkeys. And no, it wasn't fun.

At my first wedding.

And involved in his favorite activity, something he enjoyed along with my ex.

Dad was a difficult person to love. Alcoholics, as many people know, are quite the challenge. He was often a complete asshole. But I never, ever, doubted his love for me. I can't say the same of my mother.
I miss dad's directness. He never beat around the bush, that's for sure. And he taught me to at least try to be my own person no matter what people may think.
Dad was the one who picked me up at school if I had cramps, and I could actually talk to him without embarrassment on such subjects. He was the one who wondered what was wrong if, as an adult, I wasn't having sex with my current boyfriend. But he also shamed me by making loud, drunken, sexist remarks in public.

I remember Dad puttering around in his garden after he retired. He loved growing vegetables. For a time he kept a rooster in his backyard; the damn thing would run me out when I would come over to gather lilac blooms. At some point Dad killed the thing, ate it, and used the feathers to tie fishing flies. Typical dad. I still miss him, but when he died, I spent that night on the couch where he fell from his heart attack/stroke, whatever, and I remember that I finally, as a 34 year old married mother, I finally felt safe in the home I grew up in.


Jeffrey said...

That was a great post. I appreciate the honesty in it. Thank you for sharing the pictures and words.

Genie said...

I'm shaken by the similarities between your father and my grandfather. The monkey was the clincher. I don't know where Grandpa picked up the monkey but it lived in the house with them until my grandfather killed it one morning--probably still drunk--when he threw it across a room.

My grandfather was an alcoholic too, but Mom didn't have a single "safe" memory or happy memory of him before she died. I think the military really screws our people up, you know? And they seem to encourage alcoholism. Grandpa was never a POW, I'm sorry your father had to go through that.

I quit drinking almost 10 years ago when I realized that I was becoming/had become an alcoholic as well. I didn't want to be like my grandfather but knew I had the genetic propensity for it. I'm glad the alcoholism didn't seep into your genes the same way!

I'm glad you can love your father even through all those horrible times. I have no love whatsoever for my grandfather and did a private little jig when he died. I wonder if it would be easier or harder if there had been some loving memories in there, but I just don't know.

I hug you big knowing, vaguely and only through my mother's stories and experiences, what it must have been like for you as a child. Children should always feel safe.