Thursday, 17 April 2008

Happy Birthday, Daddy

43 Things about My Dad

1. He was born 17 April 1918 in Minneapolis, Minnesota & named Lyle.
2. He grew up in Madison and Milwaukie, Wisconsin.
3. He was an only child and I am his only child (so far as I know).
4. He was the last male of his family going back at least 3 generations (which is why I was supposed to have been a boy, but he was pretty nice to me all the same).
5. He was raised in the Lutheran church; I have his childhood prayer book.

6. He graduated from Riverside High School in Milwaukee; I have his 1933 yearbook.
7. After finishing high school he attended business school, where he learned to take shorthand at 200 wpm (and his handwriting never recovered).

8. He didn’t talk much, but he had a ready wit and he liked to play jokes on people, but not very mean ones.
9. He was 5’8” and had brown hair and brown eyes; he wore size (US) 8 shoes.
10. He struggled with his weight, which fluctuated between 160 and over 200 pounds.
11. His first wife’s name was Adeline.
12. His second wife’s name was Kathryn – Kay – my Mom.
13. He served in the US Army Air Forces in WWII and was stationed at the base in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he met Mom, who was working in a photography lab.
14. They married on the 28th of September 1944 in Ft Smith, Arkansas, a week before his unit was sent to Italy to fly reconnaissance missions for a year. I have Mom’s almost daily letters to him, which he saved and brought home.
15. He smoked Pall Mall cigarettes (the ones without filters) until a few years before his death from heart failure and emphysema.

16. He was an introvert, very uncomfortable with making ‘small talk’ – incapable, really.
17. He got a kick out of the fact that as a child I would do whatever he did – including eat handfuls of dry dog food; it doesn’t taste too bad, but there’s lots of sand in it -- at least I like to think it was sand.
18. He was a self-employed portrait photographer for many years. He was especially good at photographing babies. His pictures, painted by Mom, hang in many of the older, distinguished homes in Oklahoma City.
19. He drank Schlitz beer.
20. He also drank scotch and water – by the quart glass.
21. He had a moustache for most of his life.
22. His favourite meal was salad, a very rare steak and a baked potato.
23. I always thought he was handsome; as a child I told people my Daddy looked sort of like Santa Claus (because of his weight) and Clark Gable (because of his moustache).
24. He liked to work the cryptoquote in his head and to tell Mom the solution when he passed the paper over to her to do the crossword.
25. He was not a morning person – very grouchy until after some very large cups of black coffee.
26. He had 14 years’ sobriety in AA at the time of his death.
27. He was never very good at managing money; he was known to be a soft touch for a loan and usually insisted on picking up the ticket at restaurants.
28. In the late 60’s he took a job as a sales tax auditor for the Oklahoma Tax Commission. A few years later he was selected for training to be one of their first computer programmers.
29. He drove cars very fast but proficiently; he didn’t believe in using the brakes unless absolutely necessary (a smooth ride was the aim); he got upset with people who carried on conversations, looking around whilst driving.
30. For a short time after retiring from his State job he drove a taxi; I asked him if he was insured against his passengers having heart attacks.
31. He was introspective and tended to be hard on himself for his shortcomings.
32. He had a strong sense of duty and felt it was important to be of service to his fellow man.
33. He had beautiful manners; I used to say he had the fastest (cigarette) lighter in the West; he always opened doors, walked behind a woman going up the stairs (and in front of her going down), walked on the street side of a woman if going along the sidewalk. I was taught to say 'please', 'thank you' and 'may I interrupt?'
34. Women almost invariably liked my Dad; and strangely enough so did babies.
35. He had a deep, gravelly voice.
36. He quite admired Gina "Lolla-mygosh" (Lollobrigida).
37. He rarely laughed, but he smiled and his eyes twinkled.
38. He was a voracious reader and had a large vocabulary; he particularly liked detective stories and science fiction, but dipped into many other kinds of books.
39. He was fascinated by the US space program. I’m not sure if he was just humouring Mom, but it’s possible he believed in UFOs, life on other planets and the like.
40. He had pithy, memorable sayings:

I've always heard it paid to advertise (expressing disapproval at my wearing tight jeans).

It’s important to be useful as well as decorative (encouraging me to continue my education).

Having a lot of things means having to take care of a lot of things (after I complained about having to do so much laundry).

Everyone has a contribution to make in life, even if it’s only to serve as a negative example (this may have referred to one of my boyfriends).

Feeling useful is very different to feeling used (speaking of his own experience in doing some sort of service work).

I find the less you say, the more intelligent people assume you are (people generally regarded him as very smart).

41. When undergoing tests for stomach cancer, which proved negative, he told me that (a) he’d named me as his next of kin and (b) I should remember that the quality of his life mattered far more to him than the quantity.
42. We spent many contented hours together sitting in the same room in very companionable silence; it was a communion we shared as only children.
43. He died the 27th of September 1988 in his bed at home in Oklahoma City.

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

Sounds like someone I wish I had known. A nice tribute to your dad.