Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day

I'd like to wish all of you out there a Happy Father's day.

When I think of a father, of course I think of my dad first, then my husband, his dad, and my sons, sons-in-law, and of course my brother and brother-in-law.

My dad and my husband's dad have both passed away. They were amazing people. They came from the Depression era. Both were artisans in their own ways. My father was artistic from the time he was small, and at one time, his small town in Nebraska had his hand-painted signs gracing every single business. He taught himself drafting and was able to whip out a blueprint in no time at all. He was also a pilot and an airplane mechanic before he became a draftsman. The next job was a machinist at the University machine shop. I don't know what them made there, but I can still imagine I smell the pungent odor of grease and metal, and I remember loving the ball bearing drawers that housed all sizes of ball bearings.

He worked with a crew of men who were all so nice to me. One of my first memories of these men was a Christmas party. I was five and I sang a solo for them called "That's What I want for Christmas". I looked it up online and found the words right away:

Make my mommy's life a song
Keep my daddy safe and strong
Let me have them all year long
That's what I want for Christmas

Let my dolls be made of rags
Fireman hats of paper bags
Just write love on the greeting tag
That's what I want for Christmas

When I wake up Christmas Day,

I'd like to find a sleigh,
But if I don't dear Santa Claus, 

I won't really mind because,

All I really want is this, 
Sisters smile and Brothers kiss
Fill our life with Peace and Bliss
From Maine down to the Isthmas, 
Yes That's What I want for Christmas.

Animals that never bite
Never giving any fright
Soldier boys who never fight
That's what I want for Christmas
Yes, that's what I want for Christmas.

Daddy went on from being a draftsman to opening the shop for the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He designed the shop with tiled floors and acoustic ceilings. This was met with skepticism because usually machine shops are dirty with metal shavings, but he proved them wrong and the shop always stayed clean. Each man who worked for Daddy carefully kept their area perfect after using each machine, and because of the acoustic tile absorbing the sound from the machines, they were able to listen to music as they worked. They built rockets that were fired near White Sands New Mexico to test the atmosphere. 

People who knew him always spoke highly of him. He didn't get a college degree, but he did well. He provided our family with a beautiful place to live in the country. His dream was to build a gyrocoptor, but it never got finished. His dream was to fly that to work, avoiding the rush hour and flying over everyone in a matter of minutes. Mom was afraid for his life, and discouraged it strongly. 

He milked a cow every morning. My job was to go get Swapsy, the Jersey cow the night before, and he would let her out after milking her to rejoin her calf. He could do this so quickly that he would put on a pot of coffee to percolate before he went out and would be back with a 3-gallon pail of milk by the time the coffee was done. That was about 10 minutes. When he went away on business trips, my job was to milk the cow, and poor Swapsy would stand there patiently, eating several cans of grain and flakes of hay as I slowly finished the job. Daddy's bucket had foam at the top. Mine never got as full and never had foam. 

He invented, patented, machined the mold and built a novelty item called the Solitaire Dueling Pistol. It looked like a real pistol, but the barrel was facing backward. He sold hundreds of thousands of them, and our garage became the place of the cottage industry. My brother, sister and I would earn 4 cents per gun gluing them together. He invented the method of gluing them as well. We could earn up to $10 an hour, which, back then was a LOT for that time. Eventually his patent ran out and was not renewable unless he changed something on the original design. He eventually sold it to a company called Loftus. They went on to sell many more, except this time the sent them to China to manufacture. 

I was proud of my daddy. He was amazing. We used to go to Estes Park and look at all the gag gifts and novelty items and he would express his dismay of how he wished he had thought up that idea. Well, he finally did realize his dream to invent and sell something. 

But his talent didn't stop there. He was handy with the sewing machine too. When our Ken dolls arrived from California, sent by his Uncle Glen to my sister and me, they came with just beach shorts. They were scheduled to be married to the awaiting Barbie brides. I had sewed a wedding gown and it would never do to have Ken show up in shorts. Back then, Colorado didn't have Ken dolls, so Uncle Glen agreed to send them from his state. His sweet wife, Aunt Kathryn, owned a floral shop and she sent real live stephanotis flowers to grace the doll's wedding. 
I voiced my dismay at Ken's attire, and the next morning awaiting us were some nice looking Ken pants that my dad had fashioned for us on the sewing machine. They even had tiny zippers.

But his sewing skills don't stop there. He also reupholstered things. The most impressive was for his Honda Civic. He fashioned such beautiful seats that he patterned after the lounge rocking chair in the living room. They had tufted seat backs that were cushioned. 

He was a builder as well and made mom the most beautiful walnut cabinets for the kitchen. He made the dining room table and the lamp that hangs above it. Anything he tried he succeed at. He totally remodeled our house, with an addition. He did all the wiring, plumbing, carpentry and masonry. He built the fire place and got the draft just right on the first try. He built the stairs for the basement, and I remember he realized a mistake just before bed. The stairs went down half way, and u-turned at the bottom. But he realized that if he did this, there would be no way for entry to the master bedroom. The next morning the stairs had been redone and were an "L" shape. He worked miracles in my eyes.

To this day, he gives me courage to try things that I may be afraid of. I think to myself, "If Daddy were here, he would encourage me to try." And most of the time, with that courage, I succeed too. 

He was an artist and painted some beautiful pictures. I have one of a covered bridge hanging above my piano. 

Daddy died when he was 77 years old. He had suffered from Rheumatic Fever when he was a child which damaged his heart. Near the end, he was on 12 liters of oxygen. 

One of my fondest memories was his pet name for me. It was Tweety, a shortened version of Sweetie. I loved that name. He was the only one who called me that, and I still feel warm when I think of his sweet voice and his arm around me as he called me that. 

Thanks, Daddy for the legacy you gave us. You were such a great Dad. I wish you were here for me to hug. 

to all those reading this, go hug your dad. 

In the mean time, I will go hug my wonderful husband who has been such an amazing dad to our children. And to all the men in my life, I wish you a Happy Father's day. 



Anonymous said...

Love your words they are so meaning full! Wish I was with my Dad to give him a hug!

Sailor said...

That was a nice post. Your dad was great. I miss both our dads.

Janet said...

Good tribute and summary of Dad's life!
<3 Janet


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