Today is a day to remember fathers. Not all are created equal and some did not choose to be fathers or stick around to finish the process. Many have and will continue to be nurturing, supportive, and loving dads.
My dad was not a perfect man. He was a good man. Born in 1911, he lived a life not unlike many of the men of his time. He was first generation American, with an English father and an Irish mother. As the oldest of seven children, his youth was difficult. His mother died early, leaving her trolley man husband to raise the children, ranging in age from an infant to young teenager. He failed entirely, slipping into alcoholism and anger at his life and lot. He was abusive, not a good provider. My dad…he worked hard, many times 16 hours a day and attended school. He supported the fragile family, excelled in school, and struggle to make his life count. He stayed at home raising his brothers and his sister and providing them educations and each a home of their own, however humble. Eventually he traveled the rails to explore life. He held many occupations of the time: coal hauling, welder, and eventually an aspiring chemist. He was a brilliant man but saddled with life’s experiences. From the pictures of his younger years, he had fun as well as responsibilities. I have a photo of him as a handsome man, floating in a zodiac style boat, smiling, and smoking a cigar.
Ultimately at the age of 33, he met and married my mom in 1944 after only three months of courtship. Their pictures show two happy people, surrounded by my dad’s six siblings and my mother’s 8 siblings. My mom said their first argument was on their wedding day. They persisted in loving, yelling, and their marriage for many years.
They were living in New York City on VE day and like their generation, WWII and the bookend events of the depression and the post war period defined their lives. They settled in Maryland and my dad worked as an industrial engineer, earning his Bachelor of Science from Johns Hopkins University. He worked as a civilian employee as Chief of Ordnance for the Army, retiring at the age of 62.
He and my mom were married just a few months short of 60 years when he died at the age of 93. That’s the short bio. The longer story is he had two children, was rather abusive like his dad, bought my brother and me homes of our own, and was a difficult husband for my mom. He stayed, shouldered his responsibilities, worked hard, and lived to enjoy the benefits of his life. He was a much better grandfather, living next door and helping to take care of his grandchildren until they grew-up and went on with their lives. Today they speak lovingly of Pop Pop and all of their good times with him. They have only good memories of an aging and loving man who had quirks, drove them to all of their lessons, helped them with homework, and taught them many of life’s skills.
I loved him; I feared him; and I was always grateful to him. He was there for his children, was supportive of my mom, rescued us from our life’s disasters, but never quite taught us patience and gentle caring. He gave us both intellects, love of reading, careers to earn a good living, and was an example of leadership in the community. He was a wonderful grandfather.