Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some of my favorite stories of my father

Even though my father was very stern and reserved with me, I do still have some very good memories of him.

This one starts out hard, but ends up with a great line...
I had to pretty much run away from home to go to college. My father forbid me going, and I ended up living at home a couple of years until I turned 18 and could leave on my own.My mother understood it was something I had to do, and I think that is because she couldn't afford to go to college when she graduated from high school in 1930. So, I turn 18, and I am on my way to the bus station to head to college. The last thing I hear my father say to my mother is that "Nothing good will come of this, she'll go off and come back pregnant." He had such faith in me! So of I went to college, majored in theatre, ended up working in theatre and radio, won awards in both careers. My father saw me on stage one time, and heard me on the radio once. A few years later, when their health was failing, Papa had congestive heart failure, emphysema,and Alzheimer's. Hard to believe, this was a man who retired from a roofing company at 65, and went back to work at the roofing company at 67, and the young guys couldn't keep up with him. He fell off a roof when he was 73, around Halloween. He broke his hip and had surgery to implant screws and a rod the first of November. Doctors said he would take 8 months to a year to walk again. On January 1st, we were watching the news and there was a fire at the company where he had worked for 50 years. He said "They're going to need everyone and went back to work on January 2nd. He worked for several more years, until the Alzheimer's got bad enough that he couldn't work anymore.But I digress...when his health was getting worse and he and mother couldn't manage on their own anymore, I left my career in radio and back to California to take care of them. I did not know at that time that I was pregnant. After I had been there a couple of months it became obvious I should see a doctor, and I was shocked to learn that I was expecting. Remember what my father said when I left for college? Well here it was decades later,I was an award winning actress, designer,and broadcast news director, afraid to tell my father that I was pregnant because I was his old maid daughter. So, I call my little sister (two years younger than me) who was a married mother of two. My sister tells my mother, and my mother goes in to tell my father while I sit on the porch. It is late summer, and the windows are open and I can hear my mother telling my father what the doctor had said and the next thing I hear is my father's voice..."I told you if we let her go off to college this would happen, she came home pregnant."

Did you notice that I was his old maid daughter? This is one of my favorite stories. I was working at a theatre on my 25th birthday. We didn't have a phone back in the costume shop, so if there was a call someone would have to come get us. So it is the afternoon of my 25th birthday, here comes the office girl who says "You have a phone call, it's you're father." My father? My father never calls. He always has my mother call, even his favorite sister. He will talk on the phone  but he never makes the call. Assuming the worst, that something is wrong with Mother I run to the office to answer. I pick up the phone and say hello. My father says hello, and I ask him if everything is OK. Is something wrong with mother? Here is the rest of the conversation...

"No, your mother is fine, I wanted to talk to you."

"Is everything OK?"

"Do you know what today is?" 

"Yes, sir, it's my birthday."

"Do you know how old you are?"

"Yes, sir, I am 25."

"What did you do last night?"

"We had a show, I worked."

"What are you doing tonight?"

"We have a  show Papa, I am working."

"Did you get married since the last time we talked to you?"

"No, sir, you know I didn't."

"Are you sure? Do you have plans to get married tonight?"

"Yes, sir.I am sure.No, sir, no plans to get married.""

"Do you know what it means when a  girl turns 25 and she's not married?"

"No, sir, I don't."

"It means you are an old maid.If you turn 25 and you're not married you are an old maid. there has never been an old maid in my family.I'll be the first one to have an old maid daughter.Do you know what happens when you turn 35 and you're not married?"

[By this time I am laughing]
 "No, sir, I don't know."

"If you turn 35 and you're not married,and it doesn't look like you're going to be,at 35 you become the little old lady who lives on the corner."

[I am really laughing now]
"Papa, I am 6'1" and weigh over 300 pounds, I hardly think I will be a LITTLE old lady."

"It doesn't matter, at 35 you become the little old lady who lives on the corner. I won't be able to hold my head in my family."

And then he hung up. I am not sure to this day whether he was serious, but once again I did not disappoint my father. I was 47 when I married. I wish he had still been alive to come!

Here's the last one I will share today. I only talked back to my father twice in my life. The first time was when I was 13, and it was the last time he whooped me with the leather strap. It had to do with me sassing my mom, and that was NOT allowed. The second time, I was 22. It was the night before my sister's wedding. For reasons that don't really matter anymore, my father had decided he was not going to the wedding. My sister was hurt. Some in the family thought he didn't want to get dressed up. He wore bib overalls every day of his life. I only saw him dressed up in slacks and jacket one time. But my sister didn't care if he came in his overalls, she just wanted him to come. One of our older brothers would be walking her down the aisle because of my father's stubborn stand.So, since we are all busy getting ready for the wedding, it is decided that we would go pick up some take-out food. I ask my father to go with me, and he does. While waiting I get my nerve up and I say to him "I am going to say this and you can whip me if you want, but you are going to that wedding." "No, I'm not," he answers. "Yes, old man," I say, "you are going to that wedding if I have to knock you out and take you there myself." Nothing more was said, the food came and we took it home. We all went to the wedding the next day, and left him at home. We got dressed, and the music started.As the maid of honor I start down the aisle just before my sister, and there in the last pew, sitting on the aisle, was an old man in bib overalls. I looked him in the eye and smiled. He did not smile back. My sister, who had not cried yet that day started crying when she saw him. So, later as I drove him and mother home from the reception,a reception where he had a great time and maybe got a little tipsy, he said to me "you were right, but don't you ever talk to me that way again."  I never spoke back to him again.

The morning he died, his mind was amazingly clear. I had him up and bathed and dressed in his beloved overalls. he was playing with my son, who was about a year old. Papa told my son he loved him, then looked at me and said "He's going to grow up to be a fine young man, I wish I was going to be around to see it."

I treasure those words, and I miss my father, and I wish he were here to see that his words are true. My son is an amazing young man, and I tell him the stories of my father.

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