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“Daddy’s Song”
by Jackson Browne (from “The Pretender”)

Originally published on January 18, 2007, the fifteenth anniversary of my father’s death, to honor his memory.
~~ This article is included in the Blog Village Family Blog Carnival and the Favorite Meme Carnival hosted at Mimi Writes ~~

1. He had a very dry, witty sense of humor.

He actually looked a bit like Henry Fonda and had a droll, dry sense of humor much like the character of Norman Thayer in “On Golden Pond.” (But my father’s humor was not biting or cruel.) Just when you least expected it . . . zing! you would find yourself laughing heartily.

2. He never allowed us to disrespect our mother.

Many men today could take a lesson from our father’s generation. They knew how to command respect — for themselves and the mothers of their children.

I remember mouthing off to my mother a few times and living to regret it! That old cartoon series, “Wait ‘Til Your Father Gets Home,” comes to mind. I used to hear his footsteps and try to hide (which was futile) because I knew that as soon as he came through the door, my mother was going to tell him exactly what I did, and then he was coming straight to my room . . . and, well, you know the rest: “To the moon!”

3. He was a gentleman who would never use foul or distasteful language in the presence of his wife or daughters — or allow anyone else to do so.

Men in my father’s generation did not curse or use foul language in front of their wives or daughters. It simply wasn’t done.

I remember once bringing a videotape of “The Verdict” over to my parents’ house. I really thought they would enjoy watching it. But the beginning scene is the last one they saw. When Jack Warden’s character comes to the office of Paul Newman’s character to find him passed out and late for a court appearance, Jack Warden drops several f-bombs in the process of rousing Paul Newman’s character. My father got up, pulled the tape out of the vcr, and told me in no uncertain terms that we would not be watching the rest of the movie because of that language. I was surprised and, at first, annoyed because they were going to miss one of my all-time favorite movies. But I respected his feelings on the subject.

4. He was a regular “guy.”

It wasn’t until BigBob and I were married that I found out my father was really a regular “guy.” Up until that time, he was just my dad — I had never really viewed him in any other way.

The two of them worked alone on a home improvement project one day. I never heard the details, but I was assured by BigBob later that my dear ol’ dad was, in fact, a “guy” quite capable of engaging in “guy” banter when his wife and daughters were not around. I have an idea what that meant. I don’t really want to know for sure, but I suspect it involved some of the language he would never use in front of us.

5. He could fix anything. And if he said, “I can’t fix it,” you just had to junk the item in question because it was a total lost cause.

He was the master at all things mechanical. So many times over the course of the past fifteen years, something has broken or quit working and I have started to walk over to the phone to call and ask if he will look at it for me, only to catch myself when I remember that he is gone.

6. He always kept my car running perfectly.

I remember the first time I had to actually pay for someone to fix my car. I thought the world had spun off its axis.

Why?

Because Papa was an auto mechanic — a transmission specialist employed by a Lincoln-Mercury dealership for 27 years. We always had cars that were impeccably maintained and ran perfectly. And if something did go wrong, it was just a matter of giving him sufficient time to repair it. He always could. Plus, he never let the gas tank fall below half-full, and scraped the ice off the windshield and warmed up the engine for me in the winter so that all I had to do, quite literally, was get in and drive off to school. I was spoiled rotten!

Look at this picture of him standing next to his 1966 Mercury Park Lane, the ugliest car ever built. This photo was taken in 1989 just before he sold it. It had well over 100,000 miles on the original engine, but looked like the day he brought it home brand new from the dealership where he worked. My sister and I called it “The Tank” and hated when he made us drive it. ((It had the old-fashioned, highly sensitive power brakes. I remember nearly sending him through the windshield a couple of times when he was teaching me to drive.))

My parents kept that car so long that it was notorious around Lodi. People would say, “Oh, I saw your parents at . . . ” or “Did your parents enjoy going to . . . ?” because they saw the car parked in various locales around town.

One day I drove by the mall and glanced over at the parking lot. There was “the Kennymobile,” as BigBob called it. When I got home, I called my mother and asked, “So what did you buy at Macy’s?” She started laughing, knowing that I did not go shopping myself, but just drove by and there, like a beacon in the fog, was this unmistakably ugly turquoise car!

I spent a lot of time in the backseat of The Tank. We used to drive to South Dakota to see our relatives. He would wake us up about 3:30 a.m. and we would stumble to the garage, curl up in the backseat with our pillows and blankets, and go back to sleep. He’d wake us up again as the sun was rising over the mountains in Sparks, Nevada, just in time to have breakfast at his favorite cafe. Then it was back on the road across scenic (not) eastern Nevada, across the Salt Flats of Utah, and all the way to Rock Springs, Wyoming. That was just the first day.

And, for the record, that’s a distance of about 1,100 miles and he did virtually all the driving. ((My mother only drove across the vast expanses where, in those days, there was no speed limit or traffic.)) Then we would check into his favorite motel and get up the next morning to drive the remaining 900 or so miles to the little town in northeastern South Dakota where my parents grew up. We’d stay for ten days and then journey back home, arriving on Sunday night so that he could go to work on Monday morning. I still don’t know how he did it. I would collapse!

7. He worked harder than any other human being I have ever known (with the possible exception of my mother).

He worked all the overtime offered by his employer, then came home and worked in the yard, around the house, and performing small jobs (like a brake change) for his friends. The man just didn’t sit still.

8. He taught us to appreciate and take care of the things we worked to earn.

His toolbox is sitting in the garage right where he left it. His friends in the neighborhood come over to borrow a wrench or drill bit or other item. They still tell me, “Your dad took better care of his tools than any mechanic I have ever known. His tools were always clean.” I would use the word “fastidious” to describe his habits and philosophy.

9. He never thought of himself or my mother as “old” or “aging.”

And that’s what kept both of them young for so long. It’s all about your attitude!

I will never forget the time a local widow stopped by to ask a question about her car. Afterward, we were eating dinner and my parents were talking about how long she had been living alone. My mother asked my father how old the woman was. He responded, “Oh, she’s real old. She must be about 60.”

Things got very quiet as we watched my mother decide how to respond. Finally, she said, “That old, huh?”

My father got a very sheepish grin on his face as he realized what he had said. You see, my mother was, at the time, 62 years old! But he didn’t think of her as a 62-year-old woman. In his mind, she was still his young bride and neither of them had aged a bit!

We laughed and laughed . . . and teased him about that incident for many years. Whenever the subject of age came up, we’d say, “Oh, be careful here, Papa!”

10. He taught us to be kind to animals.

Barney was a Cairn terrier. My sister adopted him from a rescue organization, but he ended up living with my parents. I told people that I’d finally gotten something I’d always wanted: A baby brother!

That dog was treated practically as well as my sister and I were when we lived with our parents. He was totally pampered and spoiled to the point that he almost became human. He had a huge vocabulary because my parents talked to him all the time. And my father actually used to go to the backyard and drag the bar-b-que out for the purpose of cooking 1 hamburger patty. Why? For Barney’s dinner, of course!

You think I could make this stuff up?

I would post a photo of Barney, but we don’t have any. He freaked out every time we tried to take his picture, with or without a flash. He ran and hid behind a chair and sat there shaking. After a couple of attempts, we never tried it again because to do so would have been cruel. We speculated that perhaps he was mistreated by a prior owner. My father always wondered if someone hit him with a flashlight, causing him to think the camera signaled more abuse. We’ll never know.

11. He had an iron will to live.

Through two open-heart surgeries, the second of which included the implantation of both a pacemaker and defibrillator, he was determined to follow his physicians’ orders and live. He did anything his doctors’ told him to, religiously adhering to a low-fat, low-cholesterol, no-salt diet, exercising, refraining from lifting, etc. He was a model patient.

When the doctors wanted to perform open heart surgery for a second time in 1989, they explained to him that it would be a painful, arduous ordeal. We all told him that he had to made his own decision because it was his body. He asked the surgeon if the surgery would prolong his life and for how long. The doctor responded that he would definitely die quickly if he did not have the operation, but if he did, his life might be extended for as long as ten years. That was all he needed to hear. He took the consent forms, signed them, and prepared himself for what was to come. It was a 7.5 hour surgery, followed by many months of recovery. But it kept him with us for 3.5 more years and he never regretted his decision.

12. He wanted to live so badly for one very simple reason: His boys.

After my parents became grandparents, I used to come over to their house and think, “Who are you people and what have you done with my parents?”

That’s probably not an unusual reaction. Like most people, they were transformed when the first grandson arrived. Simply put, no one and nothing mattered more to Papa than his boys. He would have allowed the doctors to do anything they wanted to him so long as he could come home, sit in his rocking chair, and have his boys climb up on his lap.

The January 17, 2007, Wordless Wednesday photo is of my father watching cartoons with my oldest nephew. The little wooden chairs and matching table are in my bedroom now. They were originally purchased for my sister, and then I used them (she’s eight years older). My father refinished them for the grandsons and I just couldn’t bear to give the set away so I am saving it in case I ever have grandchildren!

I think he laughed the hardest the day he spent hours childproofing my sister’s house for her. He installed little gadgets on every cupboard door and drawer in the house. He had just about finished the kitchen when my oldest nephew toddled in.

“Hi, Papa,” he said, as he studied what my father was doing.

Then my nephew walked right over to a drawer, opened it, popped the little catch that released the drawer so that it could open all the way, looked at it, and then pushed it back in. As he did it, we all just stared in amazement, realizing that my father had just wasted his entire day installing those gizmos. Nobody said anything for a couple of moments. And then I looked over at my father and the edges of his mouth were turning up . . . before we knew it, we were all laughing until we cried. My father mumbled something like, “Can you believe that little . . . ?” So much for the childproofing!

As to my #1Son . . . he somehow became “Peanuts.” I have no idea why. One day Papa just started calling him that.

Whenever we would come to my parents’ house, Papa would hear us drive up and be at the door before we could even pull the car all the way onto the driveway. The kids would make a mad dash for the door, hug and kiss him, and then he would tell them, “Go find Nana!” They would tear into the house, yelling, “Nana! We’re here!” My father was so busy chasing them, he usually didn’t even notice or bother to greet us. But we didn’t care. I don’t know who had more fun: The kids, my parents or us as we watched them together. I think it was a toss-up.

13. He would be so proud of his boys today.

Papa’s boys are now 23, ((My oldest nephew took my father’s death so hard that, to this day, we dare not talk much about Papa with him because he gets very upset.)) 20, 17 and 15, and they’re all more than six feet tall.

There’s nothing I wouldn’t give for a photo of the four of them enveloping my father in a big bear hug! I can just see him grinning proudly . . .


47 Comments

  1. Your post made me cry! Your dad was a really great dad and person! It’s so difficult to find people like this nowadays and also someone who appreciates these traits. Great list!

  2. Your father sounded like he was a great guy, no wonder you miss him. He was a rare bird indeed.

  3. Sweet Kitty

    Wow. What a wonderful way to keep up memories. My mommy died 1998 and she was a wonderful person. So I really understand you.
    I’m sure your dad’s with you all the time!

    Big Hugs,
    Sonny

    P.S:I’m up too. Please visit my blog and have fun.
    I will excercise for comments!

  4. Awww, I absolutely wish I knew your dad. I hope more dads stop by and see your post, too. Seems that all of the golden rules your dad lived by are lost on so many fathers anymore.

    What a wonderful man. Thanks for sharing him!!

  5. He has left a lasting legacy–what a fine man your father was…

    Best,
    Peg

  6. What a beautiful tribute to your father! I can tell by reading about him that he touched a lot of people’s lives in a very speecial way. Thanks for sharing with us!

  7. That was THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TT I HAVE EVER READ!
    That post should have come with a warning. Have your kleenex handy.
    What a beautiful and moving tribute to your Dad. What a warm, loving, beautiful soul he was. Your words about him touched me more than my words can express. Thank you for sharing him with us.
    Hugs and Love
    Raggedy

  8. That was the best 13 I have read so far. It was a very nice tribute to what sounds like a great man. Very nicely done.

    My 13 are up.

  9. Your father was a great role model and you can tell how much he was loved and is missed.

    I wish we could all write such wonderful things about our parents.

    Great tribute!

  10. momtoanangel

    A lot of men could learn from the way your Dad lived his life. Sounds like one really great guy!

  11. It sounds like he was an amazing man. You are a very lucky lady to have had him in your life.

  12. Your father sounds like a great man. I know that anniversaries are hard. Grief is normal and there is no easy way to deal with it. Close your eyes and remember your childhood and the happy times spent with your dad.

  13. THANK YOU ALL for your very kind comments. Kenny would be very humbled by your remarks. I didn’t include that in my list, but he was indeed a humble, unassuming guy!

  14. Your Daddy sounds like my Dad, who also loved to see the grandkids coming! He died July, 2001, when my first 2 grandchildren were 15 mos and 2 1/2 and he loved to see them coming.

    Thanks for visiting.

  15. Barbara H.

    I didn’t get to a Thursday Thirteen yesterday, but this caught my eye when I came to read your Friday Feast. This is a wonderful tribute. Your father sounds like a great man. I think many men today could take a lesson from him in all of those aspects.

  16. Chickadee

    Your father sounds like a wonderful person and you have many memories to cherish. I smiled when I read about the “Tank” 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by my 13.

  17. I think we really realise the complete worth of a person only when he/she died!
    My parents are still alive, but there is not one time that I play cards with my family that I don’t think of my aunt, who loved to play with us!!(And I have big tears right now…)

  18. You’re dad sounds like a very good man. It’s too bad that “dads” nowadays don’t seem to be like that. Happy TT.

  19. Janie, this was such a moving post . . and an absolutely beautiful tribute to an amazing man–I feel like I got to meet him!

    Your last line had me in tears. I wish, too!

    P.S. I loved the pictures, as well! They made me smile.

  20. Lovely post. I came here from Mimi’s Carnival, and I’m glad I did. Your dad sounds terrific and very different from mine.

  21. What a wonderful tribute. I came over from the carnival and am so glad I did. I think it wqould have been great to know your dad. You have honored him well here.

  22. Janie:

    I came over from THE COUCH for the CARNIVAL.

    What a wonderful tribute to your dad. Thanks for sharing…

  23. Man, this one really got to me. Your Dad sounds like one in a million. It made me miss my Dad to read this. They would have gotten along great.

    I had a Leave It To Beaver childhood because of great parents. We’re both blessed.

  24. Dad’s are amazing aren’t they! Thanks for sharing this post in the carnival!

  25. What a great post…what a great guy! I bet you miss him. I bet he would be proud of “his boys”. : )
    Thanks for submitting this Meme to the carnival!

  26. I came over from the Carnival and I’m glad I did. Your Dad sounds so much like the beloved grandfather that I still remember with so much love and loss more than 30 years after his death. He sounds to have been a wonderful man – thank you for sharing your memories of him with us.

  27. MarillaAnne

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and inviting me over to yours. I really enjoyed reading about your dad. He reminds me a lot of mine … and some of the reasons I should call more often.

    see ya next week!

    pam

  28. Palm Springs Savant

    My dad passed away in 1986… not sure where the time went. It was so nice to read this. Thanks for making me smile, and think of my dad too. How I miss him

  29. local girl

    What a great tribute to a great man. The song is perfect!

    Thank you for sharing this with the Carnival of Family Life.

  30. Just here (late) via the bestest blog carnival. Your post made me cry. Your father was a remarkable man, and someone all young men today should try to be more like.

    he never let the gas tank fall below half-full, and scraped the ice off the windshield and warmed up the engine for me in the winter so that all I had to do, quite literally, was get in and drive off

    My own dad did this for my stepmother, and I really wish my husband would do it for me.

  31. CyberCelt

    Here from Blog Village Carnival. Your father was a blessing to the family. This is how it should be.

    God bless…

  32. Back again, for the Carnival.

    Your Dad is someone I would have been proud to have met.

  33. Janey Loree

    Your Dad sounds like my grandfather!!

    I followed your link from the BLOG VILLAGE Carnival!!!

  34. It sounds like your father was a wonderful man. You can tell by the way you write about him that you really loved him. Thanks for sharing your dad with us.

    Here via the carnival of family life.

  35. I heart your Dad!!

    My husband is a mechanic. I can imagine my daughter some day having to pay for car repairs. She doesn’t yet drive, but she does have a horse. Brian gets the horse ready for her, warms him up, cools him down, saddles him everything. All she has to do is get on and ride.

    Good Daddies are hard to come by.

  36. Dirty Butter

    My Daddy is almost 102, and he sounds a lot like your Dad. I truly enjoyed reading your post. Thank you so much for sharing it with our BLOG VILLAGE Family Blog Carnival!!!

  37. 13 years and your memories of your father is unfaltering. You must have loved him so much. This warms the heart Janie.

  38. I love the pics of him with that car, and your sons.
    I miss my dad too.
    Actually he was my Saturday Photohunt this week.
    http://thememesection.com
    Much bloglove,
    Frances

    Frances’s last blog post..saturday morning update 1/19

  39. We gain recognition as good parents by the way our children speak and treat us. Reading this post, you’re father is an admirable man, a person who had so much love to give.

  40. Steve Elliott

    That is a fantastic story and it is clear that there was a great deal of love and respect.

    I must also admit to a bit of the green eyed monster. My equivalent story would be “13 reasons why I wish I knew my OWN father”.

    A long story and for the most part one that stays firmly in the back of my mind. Suffice it to say that I did know and spend a lot of time with my father until we (my brother and I ) were in our mid twenties. For no other reason than his remarriage, or so far as we can tell, we have not seen him since.

    Well not to speak of, and that was 10 year ago.

    Hold on to your memories while you can !

  41. RunDMB112

    Wow, I’m glad I landed on your blog! What a fun read…makes me want to be a better father, as well as appreciate my own.

  42. Hazel Chua

    Tear-jerking… I love my dad to pieces but how I wish he’s half as great as your dad. 🙁

  43. Hieyeglasses

    Sounds like a great person. You’re very lucky.

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