My dad was born on December 7th in 1903. He was 2nd youngest of 13 kids and grew up in rural Kansas ... went to school until the age of 13 when the family needed his help to work the farm. He used to tell us stories about his early life ... (like cracking open watermelons & eating the center before feeding the rest to the pigs) ... and wished he could move his family back to Kansas (or Colorado where he lived on another farm with his family as a teenager before moving to California in his twenties). Mom was a 'city gal' who wouldn't hear of it!
He married my mom in May of 1933 (or possibly '34?) in the Dutch Reformed Church. I don't know much about their early years other than that they met through their respective relatives in a 'traditional' manner. Mom's favorite brother who had married a cousin of my dad's introduced them and they fell in love.
My brother was born in October of 1936 ... my sister in March of 1941. Both were extremely ill as infants and required stomach surgery to survive. Each was skinny throughout their lives. I was born in February of 1945 as healthy as they come. They delighted in my 'sturdy chubbiness' and I grew up 'chunky' ... struggling with weight-related issues most of my life until I joined Weight Watchers in my 40s and learned to eat right.
Dad worked long hours as a maintenance electrician in a rubber plant that manufactured battery cases (among other things). It was his job to keep the ‘Banbury machines’ running, and whenever they broke down … the plant called & dad went back to work at all hours. He never complained, and when WE did … he reminded us always that he was fortunate to HAVE a job to bring home a paycheck each week.
We always ate meals together … said grace before … engaged in conversation during … and listened to Dad haltingly read from the Bible afterward. We took turns drying the dishes, but Mom always washed because she didn’t trust us not to break anything in the large sink filled with soapy water.
We played Canasta, Pinochle & board games as a family. Dad enjoyed tossing the baseball, playing ‘catch’ with each of us … and pushed us in the HUGE SWING he constructed in the back yard (so high that Mom would worry & tell him to be careful) but we knew we had to hold on tight and no one ever fell.
He taught me to turn a somersault when I was 3-ish … sang silly songs & told stories in the car when we went as a family for Sunday drives … loved baseball and listened to 2-3 games at a time when he was home … looking through ‘change’ to find missing coins for his ‘collection’ …
Dad was a gentle spirit with a kind heart. He never drew attention to himself, would give you his last dollar if you needed it, always had a joyful twinkle in his eye, shook hands with people as they left church through the side door … telling them he was glad they’d come … making friends we didn’t know about everywhere he went.
After ‘Scratchy’ … our feral cat got into a fight that resulted in half of his face being torn off and there was no money to take the cat to a vet, Dad climbed the tree in the back yard twice daily for weeks to apply antiseptic medicine that undoubtedly saved that cat’s life.
Everyone in Dad’s family lived to a ripe old age … well into their 90s & even over 100. What no one realized when he returned from work covered from head to toe in coal dust looking much as if he was wearing ‘black face’ make-up like Al Jolson was that breathing that coal dust for all those years would result in the wide-spread cancer that killed him in the Bicentennial year … 1976.
As I remember Dad on what would have been his 105th birthday, I offer this ‘quiz’ … suspecting it would produce that wry grin.
Click pie image above for other Slice of Life participants and these links for more of my family memories shared previously at Small Reflections.
Thought for Today
“If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” Haim Ginott