They’re hazy, for the most part – the watercolor memories I have of my Dad.
A few details stand out: He was of average height, sallow skin tone, moderately pitched voice and a handsomely chiseled face. From my earliest memories, he had curvature of the spine. I even remember wondering how all the other Dads stood up so straight and tall when my Dad didn’t. I learned he was that way from an injury sustained during World War II. Dad served on a tanker ship in the Pacific Theatre. A swiveling cannon hit him in the back one day on that ship, and he became a disabled veteran with an honorable discharge. He went on to the Citadel. I still have The Ring, it’s sharpened edges softened by time. He met my Mom through mutual friends when she was a coed at the College of Charleston.
There were a couple of other unusual things about my Dad, and indeed, my childhood. Dad didn’t work outside the home. While many of my neighborhood friends had their moms at home, we had Dad. And a maid who looked after him, us, and the house, while my Mom worked. It was quite the novelty, and held great fascination for friends on our street. He took us places, taught us things, made us laugh, schooled us about world events. He had a firm disciplinary hand – disrespect was not tolerated and he kept us in line. When he wasn’t doing these things, he seemed to rest – a lot. There was noticeable tension within his face. The glass beside his easy chair late in the day and early evenings often held a dark golden beverage. My older brother and I were told it eased chronic pain – pain that he lived with from my earliest memories. But I never heard him complain about it – not once.
A few more years passed. Dad spent considerable time in and out of hospitals. We moved to a bigger house, and my maternal grandmother came a lot. He went into the hospital one last time in April of 1972, and never came home.
Today is the very first time I have ever put fingers to keyboard about my Dad. As the years have passed and the memories faded, I’ve struggled to pinpoint just how he influenced, and continues to influence, my life. My time with him was too short. I wish he’d been here to see me graduate college. Walk me down the aisle. Kiss his grandchildren. Share an adult conversation. Is he proud of me? My life? I hope so.
Perhaps I’ll never entirely figure any of these things out. I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. All that matters, really, is that he was my Dad – and that’s enough.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.