My Dad, Decisions, And A Dog Named Lady

This story will eventually spin around to a dog named Lady. So, you’ll definitely want to stick around for that.

But, this story is, more importantly, about my dad.

They say you won’t understand your parents until you are a parent yourself. This has always placed me at a disadvantage.

But, I’ve realized a few things since they’ve been gone.

My mom taught me “things.” The skilled how-to-do “things.” My dad, in a weird way he probably didn’t realize, taught me how to figure things out for myself.

I’m always interested to hear other people’s “father stories.”

“My dad taught me to bike … “

“… to fish …”

“ … to drive a car …”

“… to throw a baseball …”

And, to be honest, it always makes me a little jealous.

My dad didn’t teach me any of those things. But, I think my dad gave me space to figure things like that out for myself.

When I wanted a bike, like all the neighborhood kids already had, he said, “When you show me you know how to ride a bike, I will get you a bike.”

This took more than practice. This required me to cajole my friends and barter with them into loaning me their bikes, five minutes here, 10 minutes there, so I could practice. I’m sure I bent a few handlebars and dinged up a few frames when I wiped out. But, I figured it out, and one night after my dad got home from work, a friend – I’m pretty sure it was Pam, the girl down the block – loaned me her bike and I rode it to my house so my dad could see that I had learned to ride a bike.

That weekend, I had my bike.

And, it was purple with a flowered banana seat and it was exactly — exactly — the bike I dreamed of.

So, my dad didn’t teach me how to ride a bike. Not exactly. Or, did he?

My dad also gave me space to make decisions on my own, and here’s the story I want to tell. Continue reading

Everyone Knew Her As Babe

Dear Mom,

If you were still around, I wonder what you’d think about how things are today. I bet you’d be sitting at the kitchen table with that bemused look on your face that seemed to say, “How did I end up surrounded by so many idiots?” You wouldn’t roll your eyes. You wouldn’t say a word. You’d just have a look. That look. That look of bemused and deep, utter disappointment. You’d take another sip of coffee and not say a word.

You wouldn’t believe the mess we’re in these days, Mom. I’m rationing flour like it’s gold dust. I overbought eggs – just in case those are in short supply next. I rarely leave my house and when I do I have to wear a mask.

I know how you worry, Mom. But, really, don’t.  I promise you, the cats are ok.

I miss you. I love you.

My Mom was named Julie. Well, technically, Julie Ann. But, pretty much everyone called her Babe.

Babe

A lot of her friends probably didn’t even know what her real name was. To them, she was just Babe.

She was Babe because she was the youngest in her family, but that didn’t stop me from, on occasion, suggesting to her that she was named after Babe Ruth – which didn’t go over well. Or, Babe the Blue Ox – which went over even worse.

(My mom had just one sibling, an older sister who everyone called Sis. Editor/Husband wonders what Sis was called in the years before my mom was born – before “Sis” officially became someone’s sister. I am guessing her pre-“Sis” nickname was “Child.” Creativity in nicknaming was not my family’s strong suit.)

Public Domain

Other Babe

My mom was born in the summer of 1929 – a good, but not great, year for Babe Ruth who, at age 34 in a not-great year, was still able to lead baseball with 46 home runs. He swatted his 500th career homer on August 11, just 24 days after my mom was born. These incidents were, as far as I know, unrelated. Continue reading

Photos From Dad

There aren’t a lot of pictures of my dad.

He was the family photographer. He was the one who documented his life, our lives, and the passing of time.

He had the camera. He took the photos. There weren’t many times that someone took a photo of him.

I took this one.

My dad’s photos – and he took thousands of them – were neatly sorted, by topic, and filed, along with their negatives, in big plastic boxes. Most included handwritten notes – sometimes written over the front of the photo – explaining  who, or what, or when.

Tractors and wide fields of North Dakota wheat being harvested. And, pets. And, every house we ever lived in. And, flowers. And, squirrels. And, plenty of people I don’t know. And, cars.

(There are a few more photos of me, his daughter, than there are of the cars he has owned. But, it’s pretty close.)

Continue reading

Don’t Trust Children With Anything

A few years ago, when I was quite small, my mom got me this …

wooly willy

(And, by “a few years ago”, I mean, “some years ago” … maybe “a few of a few years past” … and, well … you know, math is stupid.)

Anyway, not quite 100 years ago, my mom got me this …

wooly willy

For those of you who are older than magnets (you know who you are), Wooly Willy’s bare head was surrounded by metal shavings. So, with the “magic” magnetic pencil you could move the shavings around and give Willy hair and a beard and a mustache.

(So, really, you were just creating your own version of the Red Sox.)

As a very precocious youngster, who didn’t quite understand the connection between metal and magnets, I decided it would be interesting if, before fixing Willy’s hair, I could first examine the metal shavings up close. So I broke into my Wooly Willy and poured the shavings on the ground.

(And, by “on the ground”, I mean, on the asphalt, because we were still in the parking lot of Long’s Drug, where we had gotten the thing just five minutes earlier.)

This didn’t improve my understanding of metallurgy. But, it did massively annoy my mother. And, having broken the plastic lid, I never did get to give Willy a metal beard or mohawk, because no way, no how, was my mom getting me another one.

The moral of this story is simple.

Don’t trust children with things.

Really, anything.

Most important, don’t trust children with things that are meaningful to you. Like the foul ball you just caught.

As in St. Louis yesterday …

kid

Watch here.

OK, you can’t really trust ’em, but that kid was awesome.