I fondly recall a time, a long time ago, when as a child, my father drove all the way from California to Guthrie, Oklahoma to surprise his father on Father’s Day. A distance of some 1,600 miles and about three days. I remember how my father’s face lit up, when he looked at that old man (my grandfather) and said, “No really, did I surprise you? I really wanted this to be a surprise.”
It was so important to him at the time. An object lesson in love, how he always strived for their love, but in the end, got so little of it in return.
If I remember it right, it was a trip by means of U.S. #50, “The Loneliest Highway In America,” and across Kansas that trip. We came back every two years, and we always came a different way, if it were possible. In order to visit different locales, and see different things.
Pulling into sleepy little Gunnison, Colorado early in the morning, and Mom commenting, “Lord, look at the price of that gas!” (which at the time was about 21 cents per gallon) Driving down to the end of a dusty road out on the prairie to see “The World’s Largest Prairie Dog” (which was made out of concrete).
The land of To-To and Dorothy, the Kingdom of Oz and the Yellow Brick Road. Old Dodge City and the fragrant feedlots of the plains. Rivers that ran as red as the sun, mile after mile of nothing but wheat, no trees.
I remember watching out the window, the thunderstorms on the plains, and how fascinating they were, as we did not have thunderstorms in our particular area of Northern California. The awesome beauty of them, and the awe that they carried along with them, the power, the majesty, the wonder of it all. Now some fifty years later, I am somewhat jaded, and very used to them. Strangely I am still not comfortable with these storms but they still hold wonder for me.
My Dad, showed all these things to me when I was a kid.
Your father is the guy that will give you the watch for a present after the race, and you will say, “But Dad, I didn’t win the race.” And he will smile and say, “it is not for winning son, it is for trying.” No playbook available for being a Dad, you just shoot it from the hip. When I was young I used to believe that my Dad was Superman, but then I grew up and realized that he just wore the cape. He passes on the wisdom of the sage, which in my case was “Use your head for something b’sides a hat rack!”
Your Ol’ man is the guy that had to get up and milk 25 head of cows before breakfast, in order to get an allowance of .25 cents per week. Who walked five miles to school, uphill, both ways, in snow five feet deep and he was only four feet tall. I remember when I quit smoking, I called my Dad and said, “Hey Dad, I quit smoking!” he said, “That is great son.” My mom called me a quitter.
I remember one time, we took him out on a freight train, as he was a great train lover. We put him behind the controls of that locomotive, little old short train, not very heavy, not much to keep track of. My brother in law told me later, that my Dad “talked about running that train for years afterward” and each time it got heavier, and heavier, an a whole lot longer.
That was my Dad.
Dad is gone now, been gone 10-12 years, I have lost track, but I still miss him. I keep a picture of him right here on my desk and every day I glance down at it and I remember. I see him in my minds eye, standing in the airport in Oakland, California, huggin me before I went to boot camp and eventually to the ‘Nam. A 17 year old wide-eyed vagabond soul who toured the world for some three and one-half years before coming home, a tatooe’d seasoned veteran.
I see him washing and polishing his old Merc’ and shining up the chrome. Laying on the bed in the bedroom, watching “Wheel Of Fortune” and yelling out to no one in particular, The Green Grass Of Home …. I knew that!
Shaking his head from side to side and muttering .. That dumb kid.
Losing Dad early has not helped matters all that much. I don’t have a “sounding board” to find out what is going on. He went before me, and I expected at this stage in life, I would have someone I could call and ask questions of concerning how it is I feel, what I believe my tired old frame is doing these days. Why don’t I have any strength left.
Find out if it is age or if it is the diabetes.
But he is not here, he has gone on, and I have to stumble blindly thru life, trying to make sense of it all. And believe me on some days, it can be a real head scratcher for me.
We were out in ‘Vegas once, and I got a little lucky, had some extra change in my pocket, so I looked at my Old Man, and I said, “Here, I am kind of flush, doing alright, I want you to have this $50. You did a lot for me when I was a kid, and I want you to have it.” and then I handed the bill to him. “Take it Dad, and buy something with it that will make your life a little bit more comfortable, a little better.”
I suppose he bought my mom something with it. That’s just the kind of guy he was … My Dad.