March 03, 2013

One of the Good Guys

Today would have been my dad's 92nd birthday. 

He was one of the good guys.

He wasn't famous, and he didn't earn a lot of money. He worked hard and got dirty, and came home every night to us. He wasn't brash or boastful; he was quiet and shy. He had a sense of humor, though in his quiet way of speaking, you might miss the joke.

He liked to fish and hunt, though he had no deer mounted on the walls, and never caught a record-breaking trout. He liked camping and read Field and Stream and mapped out vacations without telling us our final destination.

Many times, my mother was heard saying, "Not Canada, AGAIN!" as she packed her clothes into whatever camper or motorhome we had at the time.

Back row: Dad, Mom, S-I-L Nancy, Terry. Front row: Greg, me
Our first trip to CANADA - 1963

He didn't ask for directions, so some of our vacations were more scenic than others. One time, we ended up on a deserted stretch of beach and some local kids showed us the turtles that had just hatched. Another time, our Canada excursion included a ride on Quebec's metro - where all the signs were printed in French - and we got lost for a bit.

When a skunk approached our campsite on a trip with our extended family, he ran into the tent with us - and watched in horror as my mother jumped on the picnic table and peed all over the tablecloth...and my Uncle Bob, up there on the table beside her, screamed "She's pissing all over the table!"

My dad was a fixer and a tinkerer. He made my brother Greg and I toys out of a couple of  Tinkertoys, a rubber band and a sliver of soap. We watched those gadgets spin all over the patio. On one vacation, he used a Pepsi can and some wire and fixed a hole in the car's muffler. He liked to play cards and board games (Clue), and always wanted to invent a new game.

He taught me how to spin a top with a string; he helped me learn how to ride my bike, though he couldn't bear to look at my banged up knee when I took a spill and needed stitches. He couldn't stand the sight of blood, and his stomach would turn if we said gross things at the dinner table.

I was daddy's little girl, the only girl in a family of four boys. Dad acted as the go-between with my mother - he negotiated with her about the clothes she bought me (too many ruffles - he called them "pussy things"); he'd give me permission to go places with friends while my mom would say no. He was my "yes man" - I always asked him first.

I learned to say "full of wind, piss and excitement", and "Hell's bells" - some of his favorite sayings. I was his "twerp", his "schnookie".

He was a kind and loving and more affectionate grandfather than father. He often had a grandkid in his lap, and he'd read to them, or they'd sit together and chat. Although he had this thing about nobody touching his hair (his one vanity), he let Shannon and Erin curl his hair with my mom's curlers - and even allowed photographic evidence of the act.

I wish I had that picture - but it disappeared long ago.

My dad died in 1983 - next month, he'll be gone from us for 30 years. There are grandchildren and great grandchildren who will never know this gentle man - and it makes me sad for them. I often tell The Boy that my dad would have been nuts about him. I know that Pap Pap would have been a great role model, and my dad would have loved knowing that there were several other redheads in the family.

Dad's last Christmas - 1982
Mom, Steven, Dad, Todd, Terry
Front row: Stephanie, Erin, Shannon, Tammy

The grandkids, right where they belonged
Before my dad died, he still had travel in mind. After his death, my mom found magazine and newspaper clippings for places he'd like to visit. In his quiet way, he was quite the adventurer...and I've tried to be as much like him as I can.

Happy Birthday, Dad.


  1. Your dad sounds a lot like my dad. When he got the itch to travel we'd take off. This is such a wonderful tribute to your dad.

  2. Oh … what a lovely tribute to your dad. I'm sure you miss him fiercely.

  3. Beautiful post, Kim. Your dad sounds like a wonderful man. Every little girl should be so lucky!


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