Yesterday was Veteran’s Day. Linda reminded us that it’s also Remembrance Day in Canada. I have remembering on my mind, particularly remembering my dad. He fought in World War II. It was his side of the family from which my Canadian relatives came. The Ottawa and Thunder Bay areas.
I was a Daddy’s girl. He was my hero from the time I have any memory. He had a big voice, a big laugh, big arms, and a bigger heart. He wasn’t home a lot. In those days, when a man couldn’t find work at home, he left home to find work as close as he could. It was the late 1950s when my memories of him start. The supposed halcyon days in the U.S. except they weren’t. Times were hard in northeastern Kentucky where I grew up. My dad worked hard.
He tried to come home on the weekends. That was my favorite time because no matter where he had to go and what he had to do on Saturday and Sunday, he took me with him. I went to lots of lumber companies, sawmills, and hardware stores! I learned about lots of things little girls didn’t often know. But, no curse words, nothing bad. My dad’s friends would never say or do anything bad in front of me. I wore little pairs of blue jeans and flannel shirts, just like he did. We took these weekend trips until I was 15 years old or so. Sometimes even after that. If he was going to work on someone’s house, I would even go with him to do that.
When I was in the third grade, my dad left home to work in Wisconsin. He was gone for an entire year. That was one of the hardest years of my life. I found out many years later that my parents had actually separated that year. I’m glad I didn’t know that then or I would have been terrified. I wrote him thousands of letters and he responded to every one. They apparently worked something out because, at the end of that year, he thankfully came home.
When I met my first boyfriend, I think it hurt him. He worried. I was only 15. He was 16. But sending me off in a car to be with our friends scared my dad to death. I see that now. Of course, I didn’t then. It turns out that he was right to be scared.
I went to college in my hometown and lived with my parents. That’s all they could afford and there really weren’t scholarships to go to the Ivy League like I wanted to do and like you can find now as a high school student. I graduated from college early. I was 20. I moved to Frankfort, KY, the state capitol, and worked in state government for six months. I’ll never forget the day I moved. My dad cried. That was before the days of cell phones. My dad gave me a telephone calling card. He told me to call him daily – more than daily if I wanted. I still had that credit card, and used it, the day he died about 10 years later.
I, then, moved to Lexington, KY, the second-largest city in the state. A wonderful city. As a girl from the country, it was pretty overwhelming. Daddy helped me find an apartment where I would be safe. I worked a few years but I wasn’t satisfied. I needed to go back to school. I was interested in teaching in a university. My dad had paid for my education as an undergraduate student. He then paid for me to get my Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree even though I was working and had married in the interim. He wouldn’t even discuss letting me pay for it myself.
My dad was a blue-collar worker. My parents weren’t exactly rolling in money. They got by. Financing several college educations for me could not have been easy in any way. There was no arguing with him.
That wasn’t all he did. My husband and I were married very young. We bought a small home in a nice section of Lexington. Not only did my dad fix everything that was wrong with it, he insisted on making the down payment and helping us with house payments until we got on our feet.
I finished my MBA at the University of Kentucky and was recruited by the Director of the doctoral program to go into that program which would lead me, if I wanted, to a career in college teaching and research. Since I loved living in Lexington, I decided to start the doctoral program there, at the University of Kentucky in 1981. Once again, my dad insisted on paying for it.
My area was finance and it was hard work. I studied a lot and when I wasn’t studying, I was teaching classes. I didn’t see my parents much, even though they only lived 70 miles away, during the next couple of years. They understood.
Then the unthinkable happened. My dad was 63 years old. He became ill. He was diagnosed with lung cancer the second week of November, 1983. I spent as much time as I could with him. It was hard. I was in denial. He wouldn’t talk to me about it. I was in school and working. A horrible time.
From the time he was diagnosed until the time he died, only six weeks passed. My mother called me on December 20, 1983 and told me to come home as soon as possible. My dad had surgery but the cancer had spread and he was home but in pain and having trouble breathing. As soon as I got there, we called an ambulance to take him to the hospital in Lexington. My dad, who loved Christmas and who had made me love Christmas, died on December 22, 1983 and was buried on Christmas Eve.
He talked to me some, as much as he could, those last two days in the hospital. I remember every word of those conversations. He was in a coma at the end, but if I would speak to him, he would nod his head and open his eyes. It must have taken a super human effort.
I was in shock and incredibly sad for a long time. When I went back to school in January, I found that he had already paid my tuition for the spring semester. I took incompletes in my classes that semester. I just couldn’t do it. By fall semester, 1984, I had pulled myself together and finished up the class work for my doctoral degree.
I’m retired now from my career as a Professor of Finance. I had a wonderful career. It was thanks to my dad.
Someday, I’m going to write a book about him, but probably a funny book because he could be a hilarious guy, especially when he was with his brothers and sister. He was the son of immigrants from Sweden, fought in the WWII, and had a really interesting life. It’s been 33 years since he died. Maybe, by then, I won’t cry when I write about him. #SoCS #family #amwriting #amblogging #writing #WWII #USSBlessman
*This post is sponsored by SoCS Nov 12/16