My Father's Son - Jun 20, 2010
I have scant pictures of my dad. He, like I am today, didn't like to have his picture taken. I have memories, but with age they will fade. I can't lie.
My dad was a paradox. In his youth, I am told he was a handsome man. A ladies man. A man with a wild streak in him. He told me tales of his youth running the hills of Tennessee. Hot rod cars. Beer joints. Fights. Dust ups with other rowdies and occasionally the police.
He grew up in destitute poverty. He enlisted in the USN during WWII, but was put out for being too young. He joined the Army and served in the Army of Occupation in Japan. I have photos of this rake, hat cocked to one side, with Japanese barmaids at his side.
He left Tennessee and came to Virginia to find work. I know he was in the City Fire Department, and he worked on the C&O. Nor sure where my mom came into this picture. She, living 200 miles away. I know nothing of their courtship or marriage.
I then my brother came along. I secure in the knowledge I was the eldest child. We were raised in a strict household. Dad drank, more than a little when I was a child. I can still remember some of the fights.
One day, I got sat down and told we had a visitor. His name was Danny. At the time I did not know I had a older brother from dad's previous marriage. Apparently mom did not either. He came visited, left, and I have never seen him again. If I needed a drop of his blood to survive, I would not know where to start to find him.
Dad managed to get himself onto the railroad in Civil Service. This resulted in a move, from the apartment we lived in. It was a secure place. We knew everyone and they knew us. Little did I know that my special by myself trips to the market, were watched by many eyes. Each watching that I looked before I crossed the street. Doubtless, my mom followed me, quietly, making sure.
My brother and I shared a room. The house still stands. I drive by it occasionally. The apple tree that we used as a snack pantry in the summer time, is long gone. The neighbors I grew up with moved on, or passed.
We were middle class. Maybe a little higher up in it. Dad had a good job, and he made decent money. We were the first on our block to get a color TV. Which might sound strange in todays world, but for a time, seeing something in color on the TV was a big deal. We tore into the Sears Wish Book each year, and made the trip downtown to Sears to see Santa.
On another day, mom and dad took us aside for another talk. I had a sister coming to live with us. Huh? Now I was number 3 in the pecking order. My half-sister - whom I have always refered to as my sister, showed up from Tennessee. Leaving a brother and sister of hers, that dad would not acknowledge as being his. If you looked back, this was the beginning of the end. Mom apparently did not know about wife 2 of 3. Nor did she know of kids 4 and 5 and 6 of six. Between a butchery of a female operation she endured, and her own feeling of betrayal, she and dad just tollerated each other from that point on. I grew up in a house, where there was little love, and no contact. Happiness and love left. This lesson haunts me to this day.
We outgrew the house, and with one final move, moved into the last house they owned in Virginia. It too still stands, though it has been forgotten and neglected. The den that Dad, Mr Moss and his son Ronnie built is still there. I helped as a kid could. I was never too good with my hands. Never had mechanical or trade abilities.
I guess all in all I was a disapointment to them. Kinda a mommas boy. I was more into books and sciences, instead of sports. Doubtful I was what they had hoped for.
Mom and dad made us do our schoolwork. They insisted that we get an education. I guess there is where we fought the most. Restriction awaited any of us that brought home a failing grade. Failing meaning anything below a C. And the C's brought them to push us to do better.
When college time came around, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I gave the railroad and the Fire Department thought, but was unable at the time to get on either. I drifted. Dad took ill and had to retire. They moved to Tennessee, getting a house in the outskirts of Chattanooga.
We had made many trips there, during my childhood. All I could remember was the poverty, and the people who I could not comprehend. I stayed behind, in VA, when they left, working 2 jobs, and thinking I was going to make it on my own.
When I got ill, and had to move there with them, I saw it as failure, and not a new beginning. I became closer to the family there. Again drifting, I was at a loss at what I wanted to do. I joined the military, basically in a display of waving the white flag.
I was never good with romance. Be it the knowledge that I did not know how to treat others, or some other combination of things. I had my shares of loves of my life. Gail, who I boldly told everyone I was going to marry as a first or second grader. A gal named Karen, who I thought might be the one, till I asked my dad if I could become Catholic - not even knowing what that was. His answer, when given to me, ended that. A couple of others. Nothing ever worked. I was the square peg in the tiny hole when it came to relationships.
I had a long running love, for many years. Thought she was the one. It unraveled in an act of betrayal on her part, and we both died slow painful deaths as things fell apart. She became a Ghost to me. But that was long, long ago.
In the same light as my joining the miltary, I married a gal I met while in the Army. To this day I can't say if I was in love or not. Just thought I needed to do this, and after believing I had lost the person I really wanted to be with, it just happened.
I guess I am my fathers son. I was not very good at marriage either. It ended badly. Divorce is always painful. But a necessity, at times.
I came back home to VA and started my career. Minus the ex-wife, I figured I was done with all of that. I had no idea how to be with someone. Just figured that was that. The one I wanted to be with turned me down when I proposed to her, so that closed that door, as I found out later.
Met another gal, who seemed to be able to put up with me. My emptiness and unability to let anyone come in close to me, seemed to balance out with her ability to sooth and comfort me.
I almost lost her when I thought about that gal from my past again. Things changed here - just retracing my fathers steps - and they will never be the same. But we endure. Not sure if it is just comfort, or what. We exist in this house, with little or no friction.
After the passing of my grandmother, father and mother in a 25 month span, I have spent the time afterwards trying to reconnect with my family in Tennessee. The half-sister, and half-brother that mom and dad denied, are now parts of my life that I am trying to make up for lost time, as fast as I can. I guess if I was to be angry with them over anything it would be this. Denying me a chance to have part of my family. Trying to make up for the damage that my father did to them. And to me.
For me, there is little else. Money, fame and fortune do not motivate me. Self-satisfaction, accomplishment, and family do. My father withheld these things from me. The disapointing kid, who never quite measured up. Like a 10,000 piece puzzle with a bunch of pieces missing.
But I am my fathers son. In many ways he and I are identical. And today, as so many folks spent the day reliving memories of their past, I do as well. Some good. Some bad. But it is all I am. The sum of the total of the parts. I wish I had 10 minutes to thank him, flaws and not, for making me the man I became. He might not say so, but I think he might be proud of what I accomplished.
At the end of the day I can look myself in the mirror. And thats OK with me.