My father has such a gentle soul, but many don’t know it. To the average person, he comes across as a business man. He loves a good deal, is thrilled to barter or dicker, and will go to his grave over a gentleman’s handshake. He taught us all to work hard, aim high, and to never ever give up. Forever a teacher, a man who lived what he preached, his work ethic drove my siblings and I crazy. However, we cannot deny that his drive is how he is the successful 83-year-old man that he is today.
Dad grew up with very little. He lived on a family farm that was sustainable during the depression and WW2. The entire family had to work hard to survive. He rarely tells stories of his childhood, because much of it was painful. So when he does, we stop to listen.
There was lots of sadness during the depression. My father tells of my grandmother picking through grocery store dumpsters, peeling off the rot, and serving the remainder of it to the family. To this day, Dad really doesn’t like potatoes. He said he lived off potato everything, most especially, potato soup. He lost his brother to cancer at a young age, he battled painful migraines, and dropped in and out of school to be homeschooled by a verbally abusive father. He tells of sleeping in the feed trough of a favorite pony: Little Lord Fauntleroy, and taking turns with his siblings riding the pony to school and tethering him outside the schoolhouse.
As my father grew up, he learned to become independent. He is proud of the fact that he started his own lumber mill in High School, and had his own crew. He is even more proud that, despite my grandfather’s ad in the paper stating that he would not be responsible for the failure of the mill, that he made enough money to put himself through college. This taste of success allowed him to purchase a saxophone for my uncle that my brother used all the way through college. My favorite stories include his skiing and motorcycle antics with his brother. It pleases me that he found time to play during a tough era.
Dad met my mother through his sister. Aunt Miinnie was my mother’s roommate in college. It wasn’t long before Mom and Dad were married and they had me. Around the same time, they bought their first apartment building. Now they own 23 units in 4 buildings, and condo’s that they rent for business owners. They also make and sell compost and sell maple supplies on a diversified farm with my brother and his family. As painful as it was, when they sold the cows in 1987, it took away a huge financial burden, and forced them to get creative. Now the farm supports itself and my parents in their 80-somethings are still able to keep the family farm running.
Dad taught math and science for 19 years at South Portland High School and was the head of the Teacher’s Association by day, and worked on the apartment buildings by night. I must admit that during those first years, I don’t remember seeing him a whole lot. I do remember talking midnight walks around Yarmouth while he tried to shake a headache, and going sailing with Dad and Uncle Bill so that Mom could nurse my baby brother in peace, but memories are sketchy. When I was in the fifth grade, the school had a budget cut. He was the last hire, so he lost his job. Dad decided to switch gears and return to his roots. So, we moved 2 hours north to a Dairy Farm surrounded by 350 acres. Talk about culture shock for my brother, my sister, and I!
It was during this time that we really started spending time with Dad. To be honest, we spent a lot more time than we wanted with him. He was and still is, ALWAYS around. He wanted to have a hand in every single thing my siblings and I did, and he rarely left the house. He wanted to be involved with school, decision-making, and to this day, he would be involved in every single aspect of our lives if we would let him. His high expectations have always been for us as well, for our families and for our friends. He has never accepted mediocrity, expects us to aim high, run strong, and to excel. I suspect that he is absolutely the opposite of what his father was like. I never met Grandpa, but I have heard about him. It seems that Dad has spent his whole life being exactly the opposite of what my grandfather was. He never laid a hand on us, not once- well, except for a rolled up newspaper as we flew up over the stairs, or a slap on the bottom: a “sweetener”, often on a bare bottom just out of the tub. We did not like sweeteners.
The good news is that my Dad had wonderful women in his life to counterbalance a difficult father. He had fabulous sisters that he adored, has a baby brother that he admires, and had a younger brother that his siblings missed desperately. He had a strong mother who was the brains of the household, and then married my mother, who is practically saintly. He is quirky and challenging, and often drives us crazy when he over analyzes every single thing, but is a gentle soul. How can we get upset with a man who just wants to be involved? He gets his feelings hurt if you leave him out of important decisions, if you don’t visit often enough, or if you don’t ask his opinion.
So, to my Dad, I thank you for encouraging me to push through school when I became pregnant with Matthew, to get my Master’s Degree while the children were still home, to work tirelessly, aim high, push through, and to love hard. Thank you for teaching me in your later life to make health a priority and to take time to play. It was fun to square dance with you and Mom while I was pregnant with Cailea. Many Dad’s were absentee fathers, but you were not. We could count on you to encourage us with our music lessons, and I know that when we played trios in the living room, we made you smile, because it is something you always wanted to do, but were never able. Thank you for teaching us to drive in the snowstorms by stomping on the brakes, and for watching from around the corner while I took my driver’s test for the 3rd time. For the record, I knew you were there. Thank you for loving my husband and children, and fussing when we all moved off the farm one at a time. Thank you for helping us to find just the right car, and the house on the hill that overlooks the family farm. I love looking out the window each morning to check in on you.
I will never forget the day that both you and Rusty were baptized in 1998 and became members of the church together. I will never forget you squatting on the hospital room floor, waiting to hold Elizabeth after she was born. You were taking a class at the University, and you were the first to arrive. I won’t forget the hours spent on the porch enjoying a cookout with the family or cock-and-bull story lessons with the kids on the picnic table on the front lawn. More than anything, I love how you love the people I love the most.