Dads make their indelible impressions in different ways
My father finally agreed to come to the wedding, but he refused to escort me down the aisle. He found many reasons to enthusiastically hate my chosen life companion.
On the one hand, the groom was a soldier, a newly created second lieutenant (“there is nothing lower,” added my father). “And you know,” he said grimly of soldiers in general, “they’re only after one thing. I wasn’t too sure what this thing was – there wasn’t any TV or social media yet – but I was pretty sure I was in favor of it.
Dad had been a cowboy and a backpacker in the oilfields, a gandy dancer for the railroad. He saw the world through a curtain of dirt and hard work.
“I don’t remember hearing daddy laughing,” my youngest son mused last week when I asked my six children for memories of their dad. “I’m sure he laughed, but I just don’t remember seeing him.”
“Yes, he did have a good laugh,” said our firstborn. “We smiled together when he walked me down the aisle.” She added, “I will say her organization and attention to detail made me a damn good operating room nurse!”
“I pretty much remember the model airplanes,” said son number two, “and being yelled at.” Well of course that’s how you know you are loved.
Their father built magnificent airplanes out of silk and bamboo, works of art that often sold for several thousand dollars – when he parted with them.
When the older kids were 4 and 5, their dad designed three-sided kites and took them to the grassy quadrangle near our quarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground to introduce them to the art of kiting. After a while he entered the house – alone – and sat down to read the newspaper.
“Where are the children?” I asked. They were out in the grassy plaza, with plate-sized eyes, each with a trihedral kite strapped to their wrist, a motionless statue. As long as they were strapped to the kite and the kite was in the air, he would know exactly where they were, he reasoned.
The eldest son reports: “He made me a wonderful glider for a birthday. (I never had the touch.) We launched gliders with an electric motor powered by a car battery. I’d seen about a million glider launches, had done a few myself, but was going to go for this one on my own. He said, “Pull hard while the engine pulls the tow rope.” So I stomped on the battery, pulled the joystick hard, and the glider flew away like a scalded cat. At one point (about 200 feet high?) The motor was trying to pull the paraglider forward and down and me, pulling hard, pulling the paraglider back and up, so the wings (about 5 feet long) decided they had enough and snapped in half so hard that the wing tips touched. I had never seen anything like it in my life. I don’t think daddy either.
“I think there was a whole semester of course in aerodynamics, material resistance, physics and human psychology in the 10 or 15 seconds it took for the nearly wingless glider to come back to earth. . No one said a word. I think we’ve just put the pieces together and headed home. Lesson for life: Sometimes there are no words to describe what just happened, so don’t even try. “
When Father’s Day premiered in Spokane in 1910, The Spokesman Review wrote that it would have been much better if Sonora Smart Dodd had just instituted a National Fishing Day. Sometimes a special day helps.
I never really understood my own father until I got the chance to see him playing on the floor, engaged with his grandchildren like he never could have been with his own children, recounting the story. tale of three little pigs with a different voice for each pig, and sending the wolf home embarrassed at having made a misstep but not really hurt.
My husband didn’t live long enough to watch his boys become fathers. And I guess my point – in case you were wondering, “What’s his point?” – is that we all understand each other by little glimpses. A broken plane, a kite string, an old Limeliter song. I never manage to put all the pieces together, but every once in a while we can take a day together to share the stories we remember, piece together the past – little by little.
Where to find Dorothy in June
- 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on June 12: Launch event for the new book on artist Fred Oldfield at the Western Heritage Center, Puyallup. Readings of the new book, “Better Than I Believe”, with the Silver Sage Radio Players. You can attend in person or on Zoom; register at https://CowboyFredOldfield.com
- 9 a.m. on June 14: Zoom Coffee Chat (and change the world) Honor fathers and celebrate men in general. A quick hour of guests, resources, ideas and fun. Register on www.mygenerationgap.com
Watch Dorothy’s podcast, Swimming Upstream Radio Show, at https://SwimmingUpstreamRadioShow.com
Contact Dorothy at PO Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327 or by phone at 800-548-9264 or [email protected]