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Friday, March 16, 2007

My Dad Part 1 -- Impact of Childhood Lessons


My father always took care of our family and its needs. He was caring, kind, and worked very hard all of his life as a meat cutter. His education ended at the 8th grade. He took us camping nearly every weekend all summer long. We had nothing fancy like a trailer. But we had a huge old sheepherder’s tent. We spent many a summer night in that tent. I remember the last thing at night as he would make sure we were all tucked in our sleeping bags and then he would blow out the lantern. The flame would linger momentarily in the mantle and then, pop….it would be gone. Dark and just the sound of the water in the river. I also remember waking up in the cold mornings to the smell of coffee in the old beat-up coffee pot on the camp stove and my parents getting ready to fix us breakfast.

On some Saturdays, I would go to work with him at the grocery store and help out in the meat department (it’s no wonder I’m nearly a vegetarian today). I would stand on an upside-down milk crate so I was tall enough to wrap the packages of meat. I stocked the meat counter, put the price labels on each package, and took great care to make the coffee in the break room just right for the store employees. The more I think about it, not much has changed. He thought the world of me and was so proud when I was with him. I’ll never, ever, forget his smile….ear to ear….and consistent.

When I was close to 14, he said to me one day: “I’d like to take you to dinner. You pick the place and we’ll go.” He said later that he knew there was a problem when I got out the Idaho state road map and started looking….not in town, but for another city! I guess the travel bug had bitten me early in my life. I put my finger on a town I’d never been to: Twin Falls. And we went….just the two of us. A two-and-one-half hour drive from Boise. We had dinner at George K’s Chinese restaurant. I think it’s still there. On the way home, it was late and dark. He pulled the car over to the side of the freeway and said, “I think I’d like for you to drive us home tonight.” What? I don’t even have a license yet? But he knew that I’d already been sneaking in a drive or two when he and mom would leave the house. So, I drove 120 miles to Boise, in the dark, just he and I. You know, there are things that come and go in your life, or those that you’d just as soon forget. But this isn't one of them. I call those mile markers. Places to mark every long and happy mile of our lives.

I tell you, we had a ball growing up. I’ll never know for sure, but I think that my father wished, in some ways, that I was more “manly” and that I took a bigger interest in the things he was involved in. I remember helping him build a large shed behind our house -- roofing it, nailing what seemed like a thousand nails. It felt like a million bucks being with him and helping. He never gave me any indication that he questioned my sexual identity. But, that was the way he was with everyone. It just plain old didn't matter what you did or who you were. He was always your friend and would drop all he was doing to help you out. There were no limits or conditions attached. I can only hope that I’m half the man he was. Able to smile in any storm -- give of myself to help out anyone who needs it -- and have the energy and determination to make this life something special.

23 comments:

tornwordo said...

That was so nice. It reminded me of my dad letting me drive on the deserted desert roads in California.

Homer said...

That's a sweet story, I can't wait to read the next part.

Kevin said...

Amazing. Thank you for sharing.

And I can tell you from experience that you are definitely your father's son.

Greg said...

Very sweet. Your father sounds like a good man.

Kendall said...

Beautiful post, thanks for sharing it.

Anthony said...

did we all learn to drive on old back roads with our fathers waaaay before we ever got our driver's licence? Sounds like your father was a good man.

MiKell said...

The anniversary of my father's death is coming up in a few days...

I may not be able to read the next few posts.

Wayne said...

Wow! That sounds so much like my Dad! He's been gone 20+ years now. Your story brings back good memories.

dbv said...

Your father sounds like the complete opposite of mine!!! I should write about mine trying to beat the "gay" out of me, but I haven't had enough therapy yet!!!

Nathan said...

That was so sweet and I'm glad you shared that with us.

It sounds like you grew up to be just like him. You are one of the most loving and caring people I've come across, and that sounds like what you were describing about him. I think that's great.

(P.S. - Thanks for the meat porn this morning. I had the sausage and it was delicious.)

SlyD said...

Lewis, that's sweet. Thanks for sharing it with us! Looking forward to the next one!

Shaney said...

A remarkable man, a remarkable memory...although it saddens me a little.... knowing what could have been, yet was not with my own father...Yet I am sure pleased for you Lewis, that is one beautiful story about a wonderful friendship...Thankyou for sharing...xox

JoeBlogs said...

Nice story. Look forward to the next part.

altmike said...

Great post and tribute....can't wait for the next installment.

Al said...

I love the tone of your memories. The warmth that comes across is telling in regards to your relationship growing up. Some good writing, Lewis.

Lesley McDade said...

Hi from Scotland

My Dad used to take me and my brothers and sisters camping to Uig on the Isle of Skye via Glencoe. We had a 6 birth tent which was difficult to put up. One year there had been 10 weeks of sunshine so Dad said pack the car. We got there, pitched up - on a slope - and the heavens opened. My sister wailed. We got soaked through the night cos the rain needed an outlet and it was a torrent on hard dry soil. We packed up but before leaving Skye we went to Portree to get some food. Outide the Bakers at 7.00 in the morning with the waft of fresh baked bread whilst wet and cold is a memory I will cherish, as well as fish n' chips, and lollipops on the seashore at two pence each - the flavours. Now you need to get your map out to see where I am talking about.

Regards.

Lesley

one3y3 said...

Definitely a great story and memory. It's best to treasure the good times rather than dwell on the bad ones.

Not so Single Guy said...

Great story! Your dad sounds lovely

knottyboy said...

What words describe the volume of our lives? We're the very product of the laughing, loving and experiences of all that happens to us through those marvelous years of guidance. It seems so trivial on the surface but I felt my eyes welling up at the parallel I read from your life and mine.
Thank you.
kb

Michael Guy said...

Nice story/beautiful post.

While sorting through boxes and drawers of my life's clutter this past weekend (preparing for a move) I came across a half-dozen letters from my dad from when I first moved to Chicago ('77). Well, I didn't really 'move' as much as I ran away from home.

Your post has inspired me to go back and read those letters.

K-A said...

That was sweet. You're very fortunate to have such fond memories.

Jonette said...

I remember the summers so well at your house, feeling safe and always loved. He was a great man and I loved him. I remember riding around that school yard in his truck and being left at the church and walking all that way because nobody reliezed we were missing. Week-ends at grandmas, where we still managed to cause alittle trouble. Life was good. Hope life is well for you.

Geoff said...

Very sweet story Lewis. Those 'mile markers' are incredible special. George K's is no longer around, but it was a great place to eat. Sorry to hear about your back.