August 13, 2020
… Older Than My Dad !! WHOA!
The audience demographics for this website have always skewed “BBoomer”… and “Almost BBoomers”. But any/all ages and eras are welcomed.
With that in mind, today’s subject does not qualify me for a niche, a pedestal, or even a participation trophy.
Last week I joined that club of Men Who Have …. Outlived Their Fathers. We have simply been fogging mirrors for more days, weeks, months, years than our Dads did.
It is all “quantity” and not “quality”… sheer number of days … not that we used our days to “achieve” as much or leave as indelible a mark as our Fathers may have.
Whether our respective fathers were “high achievers” or left indelible marks is as arbitrary as whether or not “we” have done so.
This is a gender-specific comparison. My Mother lived to 93. I have a ways to go to match her family mark. Like Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripkin … “take’em one game at a time”. Not sure I even want to.
My Mother – like many mothers – was a fount of “sayings”. Pertinent to this discussion was the following “classic” said at 91 … “when I was 68, I bought a little black dress to wear to funerals and such. If I had known I would get so much use out of it, I’da bought a nicer dress.”
My Mother buried THREE “bridge clubs”.
We often measure Time by Events. I always know how long it has been since my Dad died by the Roman numerals after Super Bowls. I was at Super Bowl II in Miami – Packers vs Raiders – when he passed away – January 1968.
My Dad had a debilitating stroke in August ’67 leaving him unable to communicate. You always wish you “had 5 more minutes” when you lose a loved one, but – fortunately – with my Dad and I there were no fences to mend … no “I’m so sorry …” wounds to heal either way.
My Dad was – by all measures – a Very Good Father … and, heck, I was “a good Son”. I appreciate that such is not always the case.
It’s been over a half century since … … I never had a man-to-man talk with my Dad. I had not reached “manhood” chronologically or psychologically when he died. I did not yet “know the questions” to have appreciated his “answers”. Especially that one about Life ain’t Fair.
I always figured when I got to THAT question at whatever age, Dad woulda smiled … patted me on the shoulder and said –
“No, Son. it isn’t. Some folks never figure that one out. Good for you that you have.”
Many the times, especially in my 20-30s, I wished for his counsel as regards career directions. There was a rough patch in my early 30s when I kept “zigging” when obviously a “zag” was called for – DUH!. Insert “headslap” …
Would I have taken his advice? If so … would that “road not taken” have led me to Blondie and Kid and “Pastor Danny” and ReRe and YaYa and Baby Danny … and to You Guys and Gals ???
NOTE: Acknowledging that I am basically an antisocial smart aleck SOB … the cyber “friendship” I have with many of you is darn near perfect.
That such a bizarre techno-universe exists for us to share is a blessing I cherish.
“Do Overs” in Life come with a price. Everything after the “do over” changes. Sure you can say “If I just bought 100 shares of Apple at …” – or – “If I had gone to Law School” – or – “If I had kept that ’79 Olds Cutlass …”.
If George Bailey had jumped off that bridge on the snowy night … how would all those lives in Bedford Falls have been different?
NOTE: Since most of you reading this are “BBoomers” I don’t have to explain that “George Bailey / Bedford Falls” analogy … do I?
If my Dad had been “my Clarence” might he have advised “Stay the course Son … it’ll all be OK. Trust me …” I like to think that has been the case.
Of all the people I have encountered over the years and to what degree I really “knew” them. My Dad LOVED his two chosen careers more than anyone I can imagine.
My Dad was living proof that NOT ALL Men … lead lives of quiet desperation.
My Dad grew up literally “across the street” from my Mother in Kinston. Between them they had 7-8 brothers and sisters.
He served in both World Wars I and II. In the Army Artillery in France in WWI and “building The Burma Road” in WWII. Like many Fathers & Sons, we never spoke much about all that. He was not in direct one-on-one combat but I’m sure there were “experiences”.
He was career Army retiring as a Bird Colonel shortly after I was born. From all accounts he loved “being in The Army”. I think it was the camaraderie … the “Band of Brothers” thing.
My Dad was “a Hail Fellow Well Met”. I recall meeting men who served with and under him and the sincere respect that they had for “The Colonel”.
When Kinston celebrated its Bicentennial in 1962, my Dad was asked to head the Planning Committee. He loved his Home Town. He was The Perfect Choice.
His second career was as a Land Surveyor for 25+ years. He was self-employed with his “crew”… working out of our house. That picture up top is at his desk where he drew his maps … after being out in the field all day with his “instrument” and chains. Waaaay before lasers and computers.
I think he loved “being outdoors” and “the exactness” of the profession. “Close” was not good enough.
He never “retired” … still going out in the field the day before he had his stroke.
“They say” my Dad was “the best there was” at what he did / surveying. Even today… maps all across Eastern NC that have his name on them are deemed accurate “to the inch”. He was known for his Honesty and Integrity… personally and professionally.
He taught Jr Hi Boys Sunday School at First Baptist Church for 20+ years. Handing out silver dollars when a boy could recite The Books of The Bible. I learned years later how many “men” still had those silver dollars.
Dad was not perfect. There was his pack/a/day Old Golds unfiltered … and the nightly “Seagrams Seven” … and probably assorted “guy stuff” that he never got around to sharing. Probably for the best for all concerned.
We were not “wealthy”. My Dad was not “a mover/shaker” but he was “a City Father”. He never ran for public office but he was regularly consulted for his opinion as “city officials” plotted the present and future of his Home Town.
Are there still such animals in America as “City Fathers / Mothers”? Are there “city fathers / city mothers” these days … in Portland and Seattle and Chicago and New York et al? … sigh.
I apologize if this was “too personal”. I intended to share these thoughts to stir similar thoughts for you about your parents. Regardless of your circumstances, I hope there are “good memories”.
Obviously my Dad never “knew” Blondie, Kid, “Pastor Danny”, Ruthie, Scout and Baby Danny. They never knew him.
I like to think that buried in amongst all the accumulated flotsam and jetsam that is “Me” that there is “Some of Him” that might seep thru on occasion. Maybe in the above words …
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