Monday, June 19, 2006

My Father ... an Unauthorized Biography

I promised a post about my father ... and in honor of Father's day, here it is ... a few days late

My father was born in 1949 in a little town called Crawfordsville, Indiana (motto: Way more cows than you're thinking). He was the first of five children, but we'll get to that later. What's interesting to note here is that my grandmother, who gave all of us grandkids "the talk" when we turned about 15/16 (this was much to late for some of us, btw) was only 16 when he was born. So all that "wait until later in your life" stuff was defenitely from experience.

Since my grandfather was a carpenter, he followed the work across the country throuout the fifties and sixties, and my Dad lived in many places, including Miami (motto: where the fashionable castro-exile sends their cast-off children, to be eventually forcibly returned by the federal government. Thanks, Janet Reno!) , where his final two siblings were born, and he eventually graducated from High School in Prescott, AZ (motto: there's an aerospace university around here somewhere). During these years, he worked as a butcher in a Grocery Store. When he graduated, he joined the navy, and expected to work in the galleys because of his experience. However, when they gave his the military aptitude test, he was off the scale in his mechaniacl apritude, so that's what they did with him. They made him a mechanic (and also tore up his wrist, but at least he wasn't sent to Vietnam, so ....)

About the time he joined the navy, his family moved back, permanently, to Indiana (motto: combining the worst of the tropics with the worst of the arctic since 1816!) . Why? I do not know.

In the navy, he was stationed at Treasure Island, in the San Francisco Bay, on a tug boat. While in the Bay area, he would meet up with some family friends who lived in Fremont (motto: yeah, there's a town here) , and he started going to church with them there. At this church, he met a high school Junior (I think) named Kathie Fleig. They started dating and by the Christmas of my Mother's Senior year, they were engaged. And at some point, she gave him mono. But, whatever ... These are the stories my grandmother tells.

They were married the next August amidst rumors of pregnancy among my mother's frieds, and, sure enough, a mere two and a half years later, I was born. (Seriously. These were church kids when that actually meant something. They were good.) My arrival coincided with the end of my father's navy career, and Dad decided to take his young bride and infant son back to his homeland ... the great midwest (motto: come for the blizzards, stay for the mosquitoes!). My mother, because she was young and naive, though maybe he'd stay in California (motto: what? we're' california, doofus) , but reality landed on that dream, and she came without complaint. Or, with complaint, but with compliance, not realizing she was soon to be subjected to a completely flat landscape, and snatched of mid-January conversation like this "Hey, it may even get above zero today. Actual temperature, anyway. Yeah wind chill will still be -20, but you can just tell, spring is coming ... eventually."

After working with his father for a while, my Dad got a job at a bottle-cap factory, and he was there for the next 30+ years. He becamse the head of maintenance, and worked long hours throuout the 80's boom and even longer hours through the 90's bust when they let go all of his help. He kept the place running through accidents (he was almost fried in an oven once. He didn't tell us, Mom found out from someone else), ownership changes, stroms, floods, all of the usual horsemen of apocalypse, and he only left, at the tun of the century, because of me. Again, more on that later.

I grew up during these years ... and, I've always loved my Dad, and I know he loves me, but I was not exactly a normal child, and I think sometimes he'd look at me, and think to himself .... what kind of a weirdo have I spawned. Except, he wouldn't used the word spawned. It was probably more like "what the ... you need more comics? You want a structure in your closet to do what with your action figures?"

I was not an easy child to raise, for a variety of reasons. I was undiagnored distracted type ADHD, way to into "the life of the mind" as I like to call it (others call it "living in the clouds" or, alternatively, "head up your ass syndome") I likes Sci_fi and comic books and read huge book sries and had to travel with about 4000 pages of various tyoes of reading material. I was NOT athletic, and worse, yet, had not inherited any of inherit mechanical skills. He actually tried to teach me, several times, how to fix things or build things, but it just didn't take.

But my dad was there for me anyway. When we'd go to strange towns, Like Indianapolis (motto: hey look, a race!) he'dalways help me find the hole in the wall comic shops and books stores and listen to me prattle on in the car. He defended me against those members of his family who thought I was not to be indulged and that all of these things were going to warp my brain somehoe and make me unholy. Turns out they were right, but ... you live, you learn. My Dad may not have always understood me, but he loved me and supported me anyway, which I think is even more of a testimony to his character. He didn't need to "get it" to be there for me. He stood up for my right to be wierd.

And wherever I have been, when I've had a need, he's been there. When I got sick he moved the world to get what I needed to make me better, when I needed help moved (several times, actually) he dropped everything, usually after having worked a 10-hour shift at the plant, to load of the trailer and haul all my stuff (most of which were really heavy boxes of books and comics, actually, now that I think about it) across the county. When things have broken in my house, he's there to help fix them, include 2 recent removals and replacements of toilets. He an Mom are there to watch the kids almost every weekend, and in 1996, when I knew I needed to leave Indiana and go somewhere else to live, he was sad, but he understood.

and then, in a time in his life when he should have been able to think about retiring comfortably from the factory and living out the rest of his life on the property he'd purchased in the 80's and had just paid off, he instead quit his job, and moved across the country, hoping for the best, so he could be there for me and for his grandchildren. And to, you know, help me fix things.

So now, my father works long hours as the head of maintenance at a nursing home, watched my kids on the weekend, and of course, takes care of the rest of the family. He gave up a lot to make this move, and I never really thanks him properly. So, thanks Dad ...

like he's ever going to read this ...


Kim said...

Wow, sounds like quite the man. I enjoyed reading that.

Kim said...

Okay Chad, we've waited patiently...your public needs another post. ;)

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