Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Father

This is my father, in about 1950 before he married, looking more dapper than I ever saw him, complete with flower on the lapel of his double-breasted suit. I don't know the story behind the photo, and there's no one left to ask. He was an only child, of strong Oklahoma stock transplanted to California in the Depression. Does anyone have a clue about the make/model of the car?


Christmas 1954: I am but a wee thing lying on my mother's knee. I like the way I'm watching my dad with my older brother, wanting to be in his arms.



For the first two years of wedded bliss, my dad was a "sheet metal man" by trade and a member of the National Guard on weekends. Always the class clown, he met some kindred souls and made lifelong friends. From his poor beginnings, he later went into business for himself as a heating and cooling contractor.


Dad's roots were clear in his pronunciation of "crick" for "creek" and "jurnly" instead of "generally." Poorly educated, he was a whiz at mathmatics, and he could visualize and construct complicated air-duct systems. He liked to write songs although he couldn't play a musical instrument, and he could spin a good yarn.

He whipped me for the last time when I was 16. He wasn't always a great dad. But he grew more loving as the years went by. When I was 28, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. In six months, he was gone. He left me with a mean game of dominoes, a killer instinct in gin rummy, and a knack for telling stories.
Here's one of the last poems I wrote for him:


Chemo Strikes the Child’s Colossus


Black hair streaked with silver
slithered down the drain.
As far as he could see
down the long white length of him
down the slick white walls,
his black hair swept.

Did he clutch at straws.
Did he lift rough hands in disbelief
before he laid his face in them.
Not moving, making no sound,
who was he then:
the bald man bowing
head to the water
to the unknown



This is a Sepia Saturday post. For more personal glimpses of history, visit the Sepia Saturday blog here.

28 comments:

evalinn said...

Nice poem! :-)

the walking man said...

I do believe that is a 1940 Ford 2 door convertible but not the deluxe model. Definitely post 30's pre WWII

Martin H. said...

A wonderful tribute to your dad. You paint a vivid picture of a strong man.

Alan Burnett said...

Another great post. I have no idea about the car, but what is beyond doubt is your love for a fine man. The poem seems to express so many of the questions we all ask about our parents.

Brian Miller said...

those last few lines carry the punch of this poem...sad the way he was taken. he did give you some good things though...would love to hear a story...

Scott said...

man Chris, that hit me...

I'm sorry bout losing your dad like that but what a beautiful psot.

Peggy G said...

Dads... Mine is 85 and I read the newspaper to him in McDonalds today. I'm grateful he is still around and that I live close by. Good memories... Thanks for sharing.

Georgina said...

Sometimes I think that the precise moment we go from being an innocent kid to an adult is the moment when we finally see our parents as vulnerable people who shed tears and have fears, just like us. I can still remember the day such a moment happened for me.
This was beautifully written. - G

Syd said...

Very moving tribute. My father and I had a fist-a-cuff when I was sixteen also. But I also loved him. He taught me many things. Thanks for sharing another part of your history.

Nana Jo said...

You write so beautifully, Chris. Through your words, I feel like I actually know your Dad. He looks like he had a bit of the 'wild boy' in him ... even a little James Deanesque in a few of those pictures.

Magpie said...

Daughters and fathers...such a complicated dynamic. I'm sorry for your loss at such a young age, but he obviously left a strong legacy.
Did you share your poetry with him and did he encourage your talent?
This post is a beautifully expressed love for a man who helped shape a beautiful person...you. Blessings, Chris.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Wonderful photos, strong memories, lessons still being learned, and taught.

Poetikat said...

Wow, that is quite a poem! Really Chris, that is something - the clutching at straws really got to me.

Man, oh man, weren't they so young in that Christmas shot? Your dad looks like a high school kid and it's only the lipstick that makes your mom look any older.

You're lucky to have inherited your dad's story-telling. He may not have been educated, as you say, but that ability is undoubtedly part of what has made you the fine poet you are, I believe.

Kat

willow said...

What a powerful and poignant piece of poetry, Chris! Lovely sepia tribute to your dad. What a blessing to have inherited his story telling abilities, so obvious in your gift for writing.

Terra said...

These are great photos, especially the first one of your dad and the car, and I enjoyed reading about him. Sad that he died rather young. My mom died at age 54, which is young to me. It looks like your dad enjoyed many aspects of life.

Mike Golch said...

That is a Nice tribute to your Dad.I found an old picture of my Mom and Dad on their Wedding Day in 1949 reght around the time he was ending his service in the Army Air Force.

lakeviewer said...

A handsome, strong man! Yes, we do want to know more about your parents, trying to piece it all together so our own portrait is complete.

TechnoBabe said...

You have some positive memories of you with your father. The pictures are wonderful and I know they are so special to you.

Betsy said...

I enjoyed this post very much! What a handsome man...your poem to him is wonderful!

Nancy said...

What a wonderful tribute to your father.

~ Tabitha ~ said...

Wow.What a powerful post about your Dad and your history with him,Enchanted.I always appreciate your honesty and creative way of delivering it here.Thank you.

Crystal Mary said...

Your dad was so human, like us all, full of fun, life and a little naughtyness. The photos show him was. A lovely presentation, very enjoyable.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

It's interesting the mellowing that happens over time and experience.

Now I'm not sure that my dad was as angry and foreboding as I was obstinate and angrily oppositional.

Thank God I lost the fight and found Him, and that I can show my dad all the love in my heart now.

sarah said...

your dad was one hunk of a guy...sometimes I wonder though..why people...parents have to hurt their children..why don't we realize early enough that we're only pass through life and to walk gently. I think you're pretty amazing. You walk in forgiveness...

L. D. Burgus said...

Your dad could of been a movie star. He had the looks and dressed the style. It is so wrong to lose him so soon. Your poem is touching.

Jingle said...

award winning poetry,
Happy Sunday!

crownring said...

I asked Hubby about the car and he sent me to this website.

http://rodcustom.automotive.com/69340/0602rc-patrick-quinns-1940-chevy-convertible/index.html

I look at the photos and I see James Dean looks and cool. I'm glad you have good memories of your dad to outweigh the bad.

God bless!

ME

Christine H. said...

What a beautiful poem. Great pictures and memories. Corporal punishment was considered part of good parenting in the old days, so it's hard for us to come in with today's values and criticize people for that. As with many parents, he was doing his best, and it's great that you have good memories of him. The sudden death by cancer must have been very hard.

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