Today I am one year older than my father was when he died. So, I’ve been thinking about him quite a bit.
My father didn’t suffer adult fools lightly. He told wonderful stories and he told them wonderfully well, but was otherwise kind of a stern man with adults.
He was tall, muscular, but very thin and had large, strong hands. He could hold a sturdy kitchen chair at arm’s length by the bottom of one of its legs and he could do that with either hand. If you think it’s easy, you try it. His demeanor matched his appearance.
Maybe he was stern because he was a police officer. Maybe it’s because his father died when he was a child and he supported his mother, brothers and sisters from the time he graduated from eighth grade at the age of 13. It was a different time.
Because he had both an eight-grade education and a passion for learning, he would have loved to see both of his children get master’s degrees. I would have loved for him to see that too. I know he would have loved to know his grandchildren, especially when they were little kids.
With little kids he was different. He wasn’t stern at all: instead, he was sly. He knew little kids love foolishness and absurdity. When my sister and I were young children, he would tell us that he was pretty. We would insist that he was handsome and we would argue back and forth until all of us were laughing.
After he retired from the police force, he was a school bus driver. I went with him a couple of times when my school and the one he drove for had different holidays. Once he stopped the bus with its red lights flashing, making an ice cream truck coming the other way stop too. He bought me some ice cream and a couple of the kids on the bus complained that he bought ice cream for me, but not for the rest of them. I guess they didn’t realize we were related. And I remember him asking a boy in kindergarten at the beginning of the school year whether he was married and what he did for a living. The little boy laughed and for a while forgot he was nervous about this new thing called school.
He was 11 years older than my mother and he didn’t age well because for much of his later life he was in poor health so he looked older than that. A couple of the little kids in our neighborhood would knock on our door and ask my mother if her father could come out and play.
I still miss him sometimes, more often than you would think.