Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Dad

This is a different kind of post than I usually write. And it's long. And it's personal. So read with a kind heart :)

I haven't really said a lot about the family I grew up in. I probably won't at this time, but I am going to post about my dad.

My dad's family had mental health issues. He was born in 1919, and at the time diagnosis and treatments weren't readily given. His family wouldn't have been able to afford it anyway. He had a twin, but sometime before the age of 2, both my dad and the twin had high fevers and the twin died. My dad was delayed in skills and such from that time onward.
My dad and someone. Maybe his sister? 

At age 16 he dropped out of school although he had not yet passed 8th grade.

He was drafted into WWII. I have the New Testament he was given,his dog tags, uniform and some misc medals and such. I don't really know much about his time in service. He didn't talk about it.
These are the medals etc.

These were with them, but I don't know what they are.

This too. I don't know if it's from the army or something else.

Here is his WWII NT alongside myNT from 1973 (5th grade?) and 1982 (college)

Can you imagine a message like this coming out of the White House now?

This is the flag from his casket.
My dad moved out when I was 8 or 9, and from then on I only saw him on Saturdays. The routine was the same. He'd pull up outside the house at 11 a.m. every Saturday. Drive to Hardees or Wendys or occasionally the nice Chinese place. Eat. Drop me back off.

To say that our family was not affectionate either in words or physically would be an understatement. Imagine the Care Bears Land Without Feelings, and you're close. It was just the way things were.

However, my dad was definitely the most social member of the family. But being quite delayed, he didn't relate the way most adults do. That was okay with me because I don't always "get it" either. I have a master's degree in education, and I still don't "get it" most of the time.

I wish I had inherited his ability to sing and his sociability. I seem to have gotten the downside of both sides of the family.
My dad and a friend (the one whose lake house we went to on our IN trip) on graduation day

But anyway, during my high school years I wrote for a special Saturday section of the local newspaper that was all teen written. My dad would get a copy of the newspaper and read my article before he picked me up. And it never failed, we'd be in line to order our food and he'd pull out that section of the paper and ask the unsuspecting waitress/cashier "Have you read this yet? My daughter wrote  it." And thrust the paper in her face.

Sometimes I wanted to crawl under something. But I didn't. Because I realized that by doing what he was, my dad was affirming my writing and in his way showing that he believed in me. It was just never verbalized. I wish it would have been. Doing it over, I would go into journalism. I went into teaching because I like kids, I thought I would probably stay single and adopt children, and being a teacher would work well in that scenario.

The problem with teaching is that it changed too much, plus you have to be certified in the state you live in and there is a test to pass in order to do that and you have to take more college classes. I was once certified in IN and ND and by ACSI when I taught in FL before I got married. I am certified nowhere now.

I didn't go into journalism because I didn't want to write obituaries and cover school board meetings for the local paper. For one thing, I have IC so don't have the bladder for long meetings!! And I wanted to write features like I was for the special teen section. I could pick any topic and write about it. That wouldn't be true as a real reporter.

If I'd known I'd be moving a lot, I'd have gone into journalism and photography and done travel writing. But we can't go back, so forward we go. (And I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be if I grow up. I was happy being a military wife and then a foster parent, but those years are behind us.)

I don't actually like news, people interest me. And I can get really nosy. Just ask my kids :) We study people on our trips. We find characters for my books etc. "Doesn't that boy sitting in front of us on the Epcot trolley look like he could be the boy who dies in  "Death List" (an idea for a book I have). At Turkey Run, "Do you think that boy behind us on the trail looks more like the boy?" At pool the guard was telling another guard his ethnic background, and I was like, "Could you say that again? I need the perfect character for a book I'm writing." My kids don't blink. They even point out cool looking teens to me now. The small blonde drummer in marching band with Jasmine, also a 9th grader, as small as her or smaller and marching with a bass drum. The kid we see at the food court in the mall. A teen who has made the news and so on.

But, back to my dad. He and I went on vacation together every summer starting when I was either in jr high or high school. We went to Turkey Run State Park one summer and Brown County State Park the next. I was sharing about this with my kids as we hiked the trails. Told them about the time my dad stepped off the bottom of the ladder and fell flat on his back. I wanted to take a picture (film camera of course), but I was afraid he might have been hurt. He wasn't. I should have taken the picture. :)
This is from a year we did the covered bridge routes near the state parks.

Jessica, Jasmine and I did the covered bridge routes several years ago.
Around 2009?

Me in high school or college
The same or similar place this summer.

I wonder where Ty got his need to climb everything?

My dad on the ladders in the late 70's

Kayla at the same spot this summer

My sister, dad and I went to Mackinac Island together. She and I shared a bed, and he was in the other bed in the same room. Thing is, he could really snore LOUDLY. We could not get to sleep. We kept laughing because he was so loud. We woke  him up laughing, and he was like "Was I snoring?"

One time during the time I was a college student, I was at his room at a boarding house. I brought up how our family was never affection. I pointed out that no one ever said "I love you" even once while I was growing up. Or hugged. He said, "But you always knew I loved you, didn't you?" I affirmed that.

He had a stroke between then and my next visit. So much for that discussion. Sigh.

He was never the same after the stroke. He had another one the next day. For a while, he seemed to be getting better. He was moved to the Veteran's hospital in Fort Wayne, and  they were doing therapy with him, and he could talk. But then he had more small strokes and lost that. But then for some reason, he was moved back to town and put in a nursing home and wasn't getting any therapy. Very little care at all. It was really bad. And I think he gave up.

About five years after the first stroke, and seven weeks before my wedding, he died. I had just signed a DNR paper because they kept resuscitating him, but the dad I knew no longer existed. He could not eat on his own, pee on his own etc and didn't know us most of the time. I think he would rather have been dancing on streets of gold. I'm glad I signed the paper when I did, although his sister was really angry with me when she found out.

When we got the call, we were making Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, and my sister and I were addressing my wedding invitation. The hospital said we needed to come. He was already gone, but they didn't tell us that until we got there. We'd left the cinnamon rolls at home, and ate them much later after we got back from the hospital. Isn't it funny how you remember details like that?

I know he had plenty of faults. I know he had limitations. But he was the one who believed in me. And I didn't have to worry about being perfect with him. I think we understood each other.

For some reason he's on my mind lately. Maybe because of going to Elkhart this summer and stopping at the cemetery. Maybe because of Turkey Run.

 And I got an idea. Since he was proud of my writing in high school, I'd take a picture of some of my books by his marker at the cemetery. I knew I had the Trivia book and Princess book with me. And it turned out I had some give away copies of the others books. In fact, we found all but the Guide to the Bible in the SUV.

I also took a picture of The Women at the Well, which is the section he's buried in. I use it in a YA novel I'm writing.

Later it bothered me that there was nothing on his marker. (Not sure what it's really called.) So on another trip over there (it's a ways from the house), we stopped and put flowers on the grave.

Right after he died, I wrote letters to him in a journal. I did that for a year. And later I threw it away. I wish I'd saved it.

I hope he knows the difference he made. I hope he knows about the books I wrote. I hope he's still cheering me on. Or is looking down from heaven going, "You see that book? My daughter wrote it!"

I miss you, Dad.


mmscl said...

This was lovely. I read your blog often but don't always comment. I, too, am an adoptive mom, and I enjoy reading about your family's adventures. Thank you for sharing about your father. We all need a cheerleader, and he was clearly yours.

Rose Anne said...

This post makes me me miss my Dad also , it will be 48 years in Aug for me this year. I often wonder how differant my life might have been if he would have been around longer.
Keep writing cause you are good at it!!!

Lou said...

I always remember the cinnamon rolls when we got the call from the hospital too though I don't remember anything else about that day and evening.
I do remember him asking everyone if they had read your articles. I am sure he would be dragging your books all over town if he was still around.
We didn't get over to the cemetery to put flowers for Memorial Day this year which is why there was nothing on his grave. The weather was so lousy in May and the holiday just slipped by.

Carol McAdams Moore said...

Thank you for sharing from your heart, Kathy!

One Crowded House said...

I love that he was able to support you and show his love, even in his unconventional ways. Thank you for sharing this!!

jleiter said...

Thanks for sharing about your daddy, Kathy, and how him believing in you affected your life. That's all most of us really need....someone who believes in us.

megan said...

Dad's are special. I miss mine too. You made me cry but it's a weepy kind of day for me today anyway. :( I'm glad you have mostly good memories of your dad. My dad wasn't touchy-feely either, I think it was just the era they grew up in.

Lori Ewart said...

Kathy, I related in many ways to this piece... I wish I had known him better when I was your teacher... I wish I knew then what I know now about many things... I am so glad I asked you year's ago to write for the Go Section, obviously that was God using me in a small way to touch your life and help direct you.

Mrs. D. said...

I remember your dad well, Kathy. I would always say 'Hi" to him on Sunday mornings in the foyer when he used to come to church. Sometimes he made little crafts and would give me one. I know he loved you, even if he never actually spoke those words to you. He definitely was proud of you!! Sometimes I remember the things I wished my mom had never said to me more than the "I love yous." Maybe someday I will tell you some of the things about my family while growing up. Most people seem to think we had a perfect family. We all loved each other very much, but it was a very dysfunctional love at times. Thanks for sharing!

BIG DOG said...

Your dad's medals:
The Yellow w/rwb stripes - American Defense Service Medal
The Red w/white stripes - The Army Good Conduct Medal
The one by itself - European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Three-sixteenth inch diameter bronze and silver stars denoted participation specific campaigns. Your dad was in 3 campaigns
The silver with the iron cross and target is marksmanship. The bar below denotes (obviously) sub-machine gun.

Your father was a brave man and loved you very much.

Dawn said...

Simply beautiful.