Tag Archives: daddy

Happy Father’s Day

DaddyInUniformSmallWhen I was two years old, I knew my daddy, in some ways. I didn’t know him as a WW II veteran of the US Army Air Force.

I didn’t know him as an airplane pilot or airplane mechanic, small engine repairman or insurance salesman.

I didn’t know him as a brother, uncle or son, or as a husband, son-in-law or brother-in-law.

I didn’t know him as a house painter, screen door fixer, lawn mower, or light-bulb replacer. Or as a banjo player / barbershop quartet singer, neighbor, friend, or as a ballroom dancer. Yet he was all those things, to other people.

Bette'sFamily1947ReducedTo two-year-old me he was just a marvelous big creature who loved me. He was a smiler. A carrier-on-the-shoulder. A hugger and tickler who got down on the floor and played baby dolls with me, or wound up the wobbly spinning top for me, over, and over, and over.

He let me climb up in his lap when he was trying to read the newspaper, and read the funnies out loud to me.

He was a food taster who offered me little bites of his grown-up meals. He was a goofy “mareseatoats” song singer and a “once upon a time” story reader.

Sometimes he pointed a square box at me and called, “Smile,” which I probably did most of the time. I still have the black and white prints to prove it. I didn’t really understand the definition of father yet but I knew the word daddy.

And I knew my daddy, in all the facets of my two-year-old personal relationship with him, limited though they were.

A few years later I knew my daddy as mama’s best friend, who would dress up in a fancy suit and necktie and go somewhere with her, who herself was dressed up in a frilly dress and high heels. Off they’d go to some place I couldn’t go. Baby sitter time.

He was the chauffeur to any places we went as a family, the bill-payer when we went to the movies or out to eat, the final declarer of the absolutely perfectly decorated Christmas tree, the slow present opener who (like so many other gentleman of his era) used his pocket knife to carefully unstick the scotch tape and avoid tearing or wrinkling up the wrapping paper.

I also knew daddy as occasional nay-sayer and occasional deep thinker. “Can I, daddy, can I have that?” might result in long moments of deep thought before daddy’s well-meditated “no” answer was forthcoming, complete with reasonable, logical explanation. Only in cases of youngster temper-tantrum threats did he resort to “because I said so,” but if daddy said so, it was so.

In my pre-teen years I got to know daddy as a good tic-tac-toe player, Chinese checker player, and monopoly player. I got to hear him play his banjo and sing four-part harmony.

I also discovered that mama and daddy weren’t always in perfect agreement – sometimes they had slightly loud discussions, at least that’s what they called them. Not yelling, not arguing, not fighting, but discussing points of view that sometimes clashed. I never listened and therefore I have no clear idea what those differences were all about. It’s probably just as well.

In my early teens, I began to know daddy as the family bread-winner who sometimes couldn’t work, who was suffering from heart disease caused by rheumatic fever contracted during WWII. For several years he and mama corresponded with various veteran offices, attempting to meet the many paperwork requirements for daddy to get veterans / disability benefits for this service-related heart condition. Many thanks to Congressman Johnny McMillan, he finally began receiving the benefits.

In September 1959, daddy and mama took me out to dinner for my birthday at the P & M Steakhouse in downtown Florence. It was quite an event, to have such a nice steak dinner in such a nice place. And they gave me such a nice birthday present – a birthstone ring, gold filigree with a large blue sapphire stone. I loved it. Here I was, having a very special grown-up occasion with my parents!

1960 daddy and mama traveled back and forth to the Medical College Hospital in Charleston, where plans were made for surgery to repair daddy’s heart valve, damaged by the rheumatic fever. But a week before the date for that surgery, daddy died of a massive heart attack. I was 16 years old.

I never got the chance to know daddy in all the many-faceted adult roles that other people knew. A few people have shared with me over the years about daddy as their friend. He was a valued friend to many. My mother never really recovered from losing her best friend, lover and husband, and I never really recovered from losing my daddy.

Over the years I have come to realize that daddy was a multi-faceted person, including a multi-faceted father to my brother and me. I knew him, but not as well as I would have liked, and the opportunity to know him better ended for me in 1960.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I still miss you.

Singing in the Shower

blue-parakeet-jai-johnsonThe year after Hurricane Hazel, our family moved from Cole’s Crossroads back into town.

The roomy house boasted of two full bathrooms, a real luxury to my way of thinking in the mid-1950’s.

No more waiting in line when you were running late on school days, no more annoying “hurry up in there” when you were soaking in a bubble-filled tub, reading your latest library book.

One member of our family preferred the shower to the bathtub — Petey. We’d had our share of family pets for years, all of them outdoor types. Assorted dogs and cats romped and ran, clawed and scratched and begged to come indoors, but none of them were allowed to live inside, until Petey.

He really didn’t belong to Harold or me, though, he was daddy’s bird. He owned a cage but mainly used it to swing in, or catch a snack of bird seed, or grab a bit of shut-eye at night.

Petey the blue parakeet had the run of the house.

He would come when daddy called his name or whistled for him, usually. If he was super interested in whatever he was doing at the time, however, he might not — and then daddy would stealthily drape an old blue shirt over his head and gather him up for a trip back to “beddie bye,” nap time in his cage.

When not flitting hither and yon through the bedrooms, living room and kitchen, Petey had a couple of favorite perches. The top edge of the dining-room window where the room air-conditioner hummed away on hot days was one of them. Petey just loved the dining room wallpaper. The color of it. The texture of it. The taste of it!

After a few sojourns atop the window there wasn’t much wallpaper left within beak’s reach, but nobody had the heart to shut him away from this taste treat.

When zooming from living room to dining room when daddy was reading the morning paper, Petey’s favorite landing spot was daddy’s eyeglasses. He’d swoop to a graceful landing on daddy’s head, then hop to his eyeglass frames, clamp his little claws on and lean over with tail feathers at a forty-five degree angle, as if he was reading the headlines too.

Daddy would fuss and Petey would chirp, and after a few moments he’d glide down to the table top to enjoy his after-breakfast toast left-overs.

Daddy’s normal morning routine called for a shower followed by shaving and brushing his teeth. Petey seemed to think this ritual was designed just for him. He joined daddy in the shower, his cheery chirps heard loudly above the running water.

He’d sit on the shower head for a few minutes, then flutter through the water to land on daddy’s shoulder, then flutter back up to the shower head and flap his little wings like crazy.

While daddy lathered up, shaved and then tended to his teeth, Petey observed from the vantage point of the shower rod, merrily singing away the whole time.

After Petey had been in the family for a time, daddy thought he might be lonely all alone in the house during the work day. Daddy made a trip to the pet store to purchase a playmate, a lady parakeet. I have no idea what Petey thought when he saw this lovely green and white apparition, but he immediately fell out of love with the humans in the family.

Tweet-tweet and chirp-chirp duets were heard from atop the window sill from that time forward. Petey wasn’t lonely any more! I think daddy grew a bit lonely, though, as Petey abandoned his morning shower, newspaper and left-over toast ritual.

Petey and his pal had never seen the outside world of course, and we were very careful to keep all the doors closed. The back-porch screen door was unfortunately ajar one day, the heavy door into the kitchen standing open. There was a blur of blue feathers as Petey zoomed by to explore this new “room” in his house — the great outdoors.

No amount of cajoling, calling, whistling, or trying to tempt with birdseed could get him out of the dogwood in the back yard. Eventually he flew into the swampy woods behind the house. Every few hours we’d go out and call and whistle, call and whistle, but we never saw Petey again.

We all missed his merry chirp, but his feathery lady friend missed Petey more. Never a human-lover, she didn’t perch on daddy’s eyeglasses, or zoom around the living room, or take refreshing showers in the morning. She sat on her little wooden perch, nibbled on her birdseed and swung on her trapeze, but without Petey she seldom ventured out of her cage.

Petey had been the personality in that little family, and one-of-a-kind — the parakeet who sang in the shower.