POST OF THE DAY
Living Below Your Means
Father's Day Thoughts
In Memory of My Dad

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By tlbate
June 13, 2003

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Oh, yes, he was good at living below his means. He was a child of the Great Depression in a family with four children. His dad drove a coal truck and his mom was a teacher who retired upon her marriage. He walked to school; he went home for lunch. For vacations, his family visited nearby relatives on their farms.

He played the clarinet. He met my mom, a French horn player, when their two civic bands rehearsed together for a community event. He was a private pilot (I have his framed solo certificate; his first solo flight cost $8) and my mom was so excited to get a ride home from a pilot. In those days it was perfectly all right for a young woman to accept a ride home with a young man she had just met.

My parents got married and lived in New York where their first three children were born. My dad worked for American Airlines and when WW2 began, he volunteered to fly for the Air Transport Command. He flew C-47s back and forth across the Atlantic and in the CBI [China-Burma-India] theater (some on this board know what that means). Years later he would tell me about his flights, the cities he visited, his refueling stops at Gander, Newfoundland and at Prestwick, Scotland.

We never had a lot of money. But we did get a treat now and then. I can still remember the warm summer night, the sky still light, when my sister, age 3, and I, age 5, had already gone to bed in the bedroom we shared. The Good Humor truck drove past slowly, bells jingling, and darned if my dad didn't go out for ice cream bars and brought them up to my sister and me. We ate every bite, and we weren't even made to brush our teeth again!

We all grew up doing low-cost family activities: Sunday afternoon drives ending with visits to Prince Castle for ice cream; camping before it became trendy to camp (my mom, my sister and I got the tent; my dad and the two boys got the Nash with the front seat turned down flat); visiting playgrounds and zoos. We often sang in the car; my dad was in SPEBSQSA [Barbershop Quartet Society] and my mom was in Sweet Adelines. We kids learned the songs, the words, even the tenor and baritone parts.

My dad was usually the one who was nearby as I did my high school homework, and he'd answer my questions and check my math. He'd also give me pointers about using the Encyclopedia Britannica as I was writing a report. And he was a good critic of my reports. My reports usually got A's.

When I went off to college, my dad was the one who helped me get everything loaded in the car and then unloaded into the dorm. Through four years of college (I never had a car of my own), it was usually my dad who at the beginning of a holiday would make the 125-mile drive to the campus to pick up me, and several friends; he would deliver each friend to her doorstep before we headed home.

When I began my first post-college job, he sometimes traveled on business and would visit me and my roommate in our studio apartment 500 miles from home. He would cheerfully sleep in the recliner after treating us to supper at a nearby restaurant.

He was the proud father at my wedding and he happily wrote a check to cover the reception. He so enjoyed being a grandfather, but his time as a grandfather was brief. He developed multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) and died at age 56.

My mom has carried on much better than many widows do, but I so wish she and my dad had gotten to do what they wanted to do together: travel after he retired. He never got to retire, although very often my mom went along with him on his business trips. I wish my children had known their maternal grandfather, but my son was 2 when his grandfather died and he has only vague memories.

If you are fortunate enough to still have your father, be sure to give him a hug and wish him a Happy Father's Day. And say thank you. If you are too far away to hug him, phone him with that wish. Or make the trip to visit him. And if you've become estranged from your father, maybe this is the time to start on the path to reconciliation.

Life is too short to stay angry, and none of us knows how much longer we have. I have never stopped missing my dad.

Happy Father's Day to you.


Terry


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