Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's Day! I've been reading Wisdom of Our Fathers by Tim Russert, and of course thinking of my own father. I have mentioned him before in the blog, perhaps several times. My earliest easy remembrance of him was when he taught me how to hold a hammer. We were working on a project of some kind in the driveway at 1700 Faxon St. in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an old two story house my mother and father bought and were working continuously, throughout my early childhood to fix up. It took a lot of work, it was hot and humid, and my father was nearly always dripping sweat.

Several homes and years later, we lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and my father came home from work on my 14th birthday with the used Shop Smith I still use today as a drill press and lathe. It is a model 10ER, one of the earliest models. My father, manager of a hardware store at the time, took it in on trade and bought it for the trade-in value of $75.00. He believed that the 10ER was the best machine Shop Smith had made and the fact that it still serves today proves his assessment.

As I grew up in the late 60's I was his helper weekends and summers through high school and summers in college in the hardware store he owned and operated in Valley, Nebraska. It was his encouragement that led me to restore a 1930 model A Ford. As a combat veteran from WWII, he was troubled by my conscientious objector status in the Viet Nam War, but he lived long enough afterwards for us to make peace and for him to see some of my first woodworking projects. As with many WWII vets, he suffered from undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder. And it really angers me these days to see American servicemen and women put into unconscionable situations for reasons that the best American spin-masters can only explain by lying to the American people. The painful price of war can be passed on for generations, and those who send young men and women to war should know something of what they are sending them into. These things were lessons I learned sitting quietly at night, listening to my father's stories, told reluctantly and only under the liberating influences of alcohol and emotional distress. In the meantime, being a father myself, and reading Tim Russert's wonderful book, I celebrate fatherhood. My father? Perfection he was not, but I was never given cause to doubt his love for me. One day, in spring, he asked me, "Don't you think we should go fishing?" He had been ill from a serious nervous disorder, no doubt resulting from his 299 days of combat, and that kept him from feeling that he was giving me enough as a dad. He voiced that concern on that day as we cast our lines into the water. We loved each other... a point neither of us missed and a thing for which I will always be grateful.

1 comment:

  1. I love this very loving yet honest story about your father.