I originally posted this on December 1,2011. Not long ago. When I thought about what I wanted to put out there again, I was reminded of a recent blog I read that said; "honesty and emotion" made the most interesting posts. For me,it doesn't get much more real than this. Other than the time I took my clothes off in public, but unfortunately, I'm sure that will happen again.l This won't. I hope you enjoy.
To say Daddy was eccentric would be putting it mildly. He would celebrate birthdays of ancestors long dead. He also celebrated their death dates. Maybe celebrated isn't the right word, more like remembered. I grew up thinking this was more than a little creepy, and vowed never to do it.
A few days ago I was paying tribute to my husband about how much he puts up with, especially during the month of November (NaNoWriMo). Someone commented and I commented back with something Daddy had told me about Rick. Daddy said: "I hope you know how much this guy loves you. You're a nut. He puts up with you. Don't let this one get away." That one little comment along with being painfully aware that the end of November was fast approaching reminded me that:
Daddy passed away twelve years ago today, December1,1999. In my life he was undeniably my "Most Interesting Character".
Daddy claimed he always wanted to be a doctor. His daddy died when he was three, Grandma was left to raise four small children. There was no money for higher education. Daddy resented the fact that one of his uncles promised to send him to college and later reneged.
Daddy applied for a job with the Chicago Police Department and was called up while still in the Navy at the very end of WWII. Daddy was perfect 'cop' material having been a hellion all of his life, he knew every trick in the book. Oh, I'm sure he learned a few while 'on the job' but he probably taught some too.
Daddy was 'true blue all the way through'. Anybody remember Archie Bunker of 'All in the Family'. Daddy made Archie look like a kindly old man who never met a person he didn't like. At Daddy's knee I heard ethnic slurs you wouldn't believe. It wasn't until recently that I genuinely appreciated the guys who dated me while I lived at home. They had to brave Daddy, to get me out the door. OUCH! I'm a little embarrassed about some of the guys I dated after I left home, just to spite him.
Daddy was no fool. At a young age he started to get me out of the city for the summer and send me down to the farm. The 'family farms' were owned by people who were actually good friends of the family, not relatives. I grew up calling them aunt and uncle and thinking the kids were my cousins. I was close to thirty before I learned I was not related even distantly to any of these people. Like I said, Daddy was no fool. He spent a lot of time on the farm too. He knew what those kids were doing in the haylofts. Much better to have me think I was related to them. I wonder if he ever considered their friends. I did.
I'm an only child. Daddy never had a son. I learned to fish, hunt, ride horses, drive a car when I was 12 and all kind of other 'boy' things. I was never allowed to cuss. I secretly thought a son might have been granted that privilege. Daddy wanted me to go to college in the worst way. I wanted to go too. I graduated H.S. young, he wouldn't allow me to attend the college of my choice. So, I commuted to the U of I at Chicago and studied Theater.I got into plenty of trouble right there under his nose. Daddy was steamed, but he let me do it.
I was raised to think for myself. Daddy wanted me to be an independent thinker when it came to everyone but him. That backfired. I was raised to believe that I didn't have to take NO for an answer. I was raised to believe that I could do/be whatever I wanted, if I was willing to work hard for it. I was raised to work hard.
Daddy was a hard man. There were plenty of times I resented him and his ideas. I had to, as he would say, 'toe the mark' all of the time. BUT, I never doubted that he loved me. He took the time to teach me things, especially those 'boy things'. He took me with him almost everywhere. Many a day I waited in the car while Daddy went into a tavern because he had 'to see a man about a dog'.(Seriously, he said that.) I thought Daddy was the bravest, strongest, fiercest man alive. Only once, as an adult, did Daddy ever tell me he was afraid of something. He was afraid of Sunday nights. He said it was a lonely time. I asked him why he was afraid of Sunday nights and he said because he was afraid of dying.
Cops didn't make much money back then, still don't when you consider what they do. Momma went to work full time when I started kindergarten. Because Daddy worked shifts he only worked 'days' one month out of three. We spent a lot of time together. When I was young most Mom's didn't work. School assemblies were held during the day and your Mom would come to hear you recite a poem of whatever silly thing your class was doing that month. There in the front row,on those little kid sized folding chairs will all the Mom's would be my six foot, burly Cop Daddy cheering me on the loudest.
I had some interesting family experiences with Daddy also. Go back and read my 'Ghost Story' posts. He never wanted to be a believer. But, they were always there for him.
A few months after his ninetieth birthday Daddy gave up. He fell and had a crack in the vertebrae at the base of his neck. He had to be in a nursing home for rehab. He hated it and gave them fits. On November 30th they called me in for a conference with the staff and Daddy. They made Daddy promise to behave and do his physical therapy. He promised. They sent him back to his room and lectured me about how serious this was. I went to talk to Daddy and plead with him to live up to his promise. He told me, "Barbara, I lied. I'm not going to do it. I want out of here. I'm ready to die. Let me go." I went home and told Rick. "If a person can will them self to death, I'm not sure he will see the end of the year."
They called me the next day. Daddy's lungs were filling up with fluid and he had a 'DNR'. They would make him comfortable, but offer no medication. I raced over to plead with Daddy to let me take him to the hospital and treat the pneumonia. He again asked me to "let him go". I did. I sat with him all day. He had been blind for the past few years, but during that day his family paraded by the foot of his bed waiting to take him home. He kept asking me who these people, who I couldn't see, were. He waited until evening for our entire family to be there and he quietly slipped away. Daddy died exactly the way he lived. Completely on his own terms. It was not a Sunday night, but I made sure he was not alone. I know he was not afraid.
If you have stayed with me this long you are definitely a faithful follower. Thanks for being patient with me while I ramble on about Daddy. I still miss him and love him fiercely, I always did.
Daddy used to play this song on an old record for me. I heard it a lot, but he always made sure he played it on my birthday. I love you Daddy. I hope you're enjoying the adventure.
No commas,no thinking, just my heart today.
When I originally posted this I neglected to say that my parents were well up in years before I was born. They never slowed down and kept going strong for me. It wasn't until I was in H.S. that a friend pointed out that my parents were older than her grandparents. I never knew.
I also forgot to say that Daddy taught me to shoot, all kinds of guns. When I moved to the VI, I had to leave my guns in the States. It's a strange delight for an avowed pacifist, but I do love guns. One of my prized possessions. Daddy's service revolver.