Saturday, June 15, 2013


"Ike" Tipton, 1940
"Pop".  That's what we called him, "Pop."  My two younger brothers and even my mom called him "Pop."  We never called him Father, dad and, God forbid "Daddy."  No, he was always "Pop." A force larger than us.

My father was born near Pigeon Roost, North Carolina in April of 1920.  Pigeon Roost is a "holler" up in those mountains of western North Carolina that border the Tennessee border.  Yes, it was and is hillbilly county.  

Pigeon Roost Road, Green Mountain, North Carolina - 2012

My father was the fifth son of nine sons born to Fieldon and Hester Lewis Tipton.  When he was nine or ten years old (don't know the exact date) his family moved from their cabin in the mountains to southeastern Pennsylvania to a tenant house on his uncle Don Byrd's farm.  My grandfather had nine boys thus cheap labor.  This was during the Depression and times were hard for the sawmill business in the mountains, which was my grandfather's occupation.  Two more sons were born in Pennsylvania.  My father had no sisters.  

My father tall in the back on the left with the hat) with nine of his brothers (one was taking the picture) and his Mother after the funeral of his father - 1939
My father met my Mother when he was driving his friend Charlie Hancks to a date Charlie had with my Mother.  My Mother's girlfriend Edie Lemon had a date with my father. However, when my father drove up in his rumble seat car and my Mother took one look at this tall, lanky, charming hillbilly, she told her girlfriend "You sit in the back, I'm sitting up front with him!" She was 15 years old and he was 18 years old.

Mom with the car (with a rumble seat) that she met my father - 1940 - my father carried this picture in his wallet until the day he died August 2000

Love at first sight?  Absolutely.  Shortly before she died my Mother told me "Your father was the only man I was ever with.  He was the only man I wanted to be with."

My father, Isaac "Ike" Tipton at his charming best - the man my Mother fell for - 1940

They began dating.  My Mother had a difficult home life.  Her mother had died before she was two years old and my Mother grew up with a succession of step-mothers.  Her father often beat her for silly things like not coming home from the store on time when it was raining.  Or for not peeling the potatoes right.  My father told her "I'm going to get you out of this mess" and he did.  They eloped and got married in November of 1940.  My Mother was still going to high school.  She returned to her classes that Monday.  However, her father soon found out that she got married and she left home with my father.

My grandfather, George Lincoln Hadfield, Sr. at the family home in Downingtown, PA -1940

They had nothing.  My father was a truck driver.  He rented a house in the country that didn't have running water or an inside bathroom. Soon my Mother was pregnant with her first  

Mom and Pop's first home - that's my Mom pregnant with me - 1941

Mom and Pop - 1941

Life was not easy but my Mother said she was happy.  She was out of "that mess" and with the man she loved.  

She became pregnant with two more children, both boys born in 1943 and 1944.  This was during the war years.  My father was exempt from serving in the armed forces because of a head injury. Instead he was part of the war effort in cross country truck driving.  He was gone for long periods of time which my Mother was left to fend for herself to feed three young boys who always seemed hungry.  

"Pop" and his three sons - 1947 - that's me to the right with my hand on his back
My father wasn't an easy man with his sons.  I sometimes think he didn't want us but I won't go into those reasons now.  My brothers and I joke about it now but one incident illustrates his attitude towards us most of the time.  We were all sitting around the dinner table eating corn on the cob (that he grew in his own garden, he loved to garden).  He put his ear of corn down and looked around the table at his sons and with a look of disgust said "I must have the dumbest bunch of kids in the world." I don't remember what prompted that remark but it doesn't matter because it seemed nothing we did could ever please him.  However, he did love my Mother and never once did I ever hear him raise his voice to her.  Never.  

Pop with his three sons - 1980 - that's me to the right dominating the conversation (of course) 
However, he did raise his voice to his sons, often.  We learned to stay out of his way.  He never abused us.  Oh, there were the occasional "whippings" with his belt but they were mostly harmless, more noise than anything else.  

Tipton Family Christmas photo 1971 - this was after I came out to everyone.  I think Pop still didn't know quite what to make of his oldest son

We were lucky, my father wasn't an alcoholic.  He was just hard to please.  However, he did treat his youngest son as his "pet." And of course my brother John is the most well adjusted of all of this three sons.  Isaac, Jr. (the middle son) and me are continuing to adjust to our "I got the dumbest kids on earth" upbringing to this day.  I don't think I'll ever completely rid myself of my inferiority complex nor will my brother Isaac.  That, unfortunately was one of my father's legacy to us.

My parent's 50th wedding anniversary photo - we took them to dinner at the Black Angus in Eagle, PA - My Mother thought it was too expensive and never stopped talking about "All that money wasted."  That was Mom. - 1980 (this picture was taken before the dinner - that's why she's still smiling)
My father smoked his whole life.  He was told to stop smoking many times.  Being the bullhead he was he ignored the doctor's advice.  On my birthday November 9th, 1979 he had quadruple heart bypass surgery.  

Pop with Mom after his heart bypass surgery 1979
After his surgery he was never right.  He complained about the pain in his chest.  He would get so tired and out of breath that he had to stop halfway up to his garden (which he loved) to get his breath.  Six months later we found out that source of his pain was inoperable lung cancer.

Pop in his garden - his favorite place on this earth

My father died August 22, 2000 from lung cancer. He suffered a lot during the last two weeks before he died.  He had to have oxygen fed to him.  He also was on morphine to help control the pain.  

The Saturday night before he died I visited him in at Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville, PA.  A lot of people had visited him but that night we were alone.  I just sat with him while he struggled to breath.  He opened his eyes and looked at me.  We never did say much to each other but I think he understood why I was there.  He was my father.  He is who I am.  Many people say I resemble him not only in physical appearance but in mannerisms.  I've seen myself on video and I have to agree, much to my chagrin.  

My Father motioned to me to help him get out of his bed.  He said "Help me."  He wanted to take a pee and didn't want to go in the bedpan.  Yep, we're alike.  I wouldn't go in a bed pan either.  

Me with Pop a few days before he died - 1980
I helped him up out of his bed.  He put his bare feet on the cold hospital floor and leaned on his bed while I braced the bed so it wouldn't roll in its wheels.  He reached for the portable urinal and turned his back to me and peed in the urinal.  

He put the urinal back and looked to me to help him back in bed.  As I was helping him back in his hospital bed I said to his ear (he head was turned away from me) "I love you Pop." He paused for about two seconds, like he was thinking of something to say....but he didn't say anything.  I finished helping him back in his bed.  I think he understood.  He did understand.  His first born just buried our life long acrimony by telling him that he loved him.  

I sat with him for another half hour until he feel asleep. Then I left him in that hospital on that dark, hot, humid, August Saturday night.  That was the last time I saw him alive.

The following Monday, as I was opening the door to the bank office where I worked in Downingtown, I heard the phone ringing.  I knew why it was ringing.  I just knew.  I unlocked the door and rushed to the phone.  My sister-in-law Barbara (John's wife) was on the other end of the line.  She said "Ronnie, Pop died last night."  Even though I knew why she was calling, I felt like I just took a tremendous punch in the stomach.  I couldn't breath.  This man, this force in my life was.....gone.  

Barbara then told me "Ronnie, no one told Mom.  Could you tell her?" Thus, I as the eldest son, had the responsibility of telling my Mother that the man she had been married to for sixty years was gone.  

I left the bank and somehow drove home.  I felt like I was out of body.  I still had trouble breathing.  When I got to my parent's home my other brother Isaac, Jr. was there with our Mom.  They knew why I was there.  They knew.  

Pop at his home with his dog Pepper, June 28, 1976

Thirteen years later as I type this scene, I still get choked up.  I've played this scene so many times in my life since my father died thirteen years ago.  

As I've said before, I was never close to my father.  Neither were my brothers, although John may have been a little closer to him that Isaac and me.  But the one thing we always knew, he loved our Mother.  Theirs was a love story that ended that day in August. One of my father's favorite songs was by George Jones.  It was called "He Stopped Loving Her Today."  I made sure that song was played at his funeral.  

Pop, July 1967 showing off his crop of tomatoes


Ur-spo said...

In my professional life I continually try to help those who have integrated negative parental figures into their psyches. Getting the old man (or at least his shadow side) out of one's pumpkin is a bitch to do.

Jon said...

What a beautiful and touching tribute to your father. I really enjoyed reading this and seeing the photos. The photo with the crop of tomatoes is priceless.
It's amazing that your father never raised his voice at your Mom. My father shouted and screamed at my Mom his entire life.....

Jenny Woolf said...

His life sounds like a life from another world, so different from today. Maybe there's something about having 8 brothers and a hard life, and then 3 more boys. I wonder what he would have been like with a daughter. It's strange how peoples minds work, and the way they figure out the world. thanks for this portrait of your dad, he comes to life.

Ron said...

Dr. Spo,

My brother Isaac and I continue to struggle with the psyche legacy our father left to us. My brother John, not so much, probably because he was the youngest and my father's pet. Growing up I resented him a great deal. Ironically, now we're best friends. Although he is a southern fundamentalist Baptist pastor, he has taught me much on how to meet the challenges of life as well as dealing with my past (father). Much as you have my friend. I will be forever indebted to both of you for helping me to realize there is much good in life and to be more tolerant and accepting of what is not perfect. Someday I hope you can meet my brother John. I am certain both of you would bond immediately. My brother Isaac? He's a sweetheart but oh is he unpredictable. He is like a volcano, quiet one moment then all of a sudden he erupts. I attribute much of his personality to the legacy our father left to him also. However, he was appropriately named, Isaac (Ike) Jr. Like my father he is blonde, and even had the same jobs (welder) that my father had most of his life. It is also appropriate that he is the one son who is now living in the family home in Downingtown. All families have these "Gothic" histories don't they?


Ron said...

Thank you Jon. No, I can honestly say I never once heard my father raise his voice to my Mother. Oh sure, they had their occasional differences. My father wasn't henpecked nor a timid man but he always but always gave way to my Mother. She never yelled at him either but when she was mad (not often) she would give him "that look" and the Silent Treatment. That always devastated him. He always made amends and got back to the straight and narrow.

I'm sorry to hear that your experience with your father was much different. I don't know how I would have managed had there been loud arguments between my parents. I thought all families were like mine. It wasn't until the TV age that I realized how dysfunctional families could really be. So even though my father didn't particularly care for his sons, I guess we were lucky that he wasn't a lot worse.


Ron said...

"I wonder what he would have been like with a daughter." Jenny, he would have SPOILED HER! Women loved my father. And he knew it. He was a charmer. He spoiled all his granddaughters and they adored him. Even to this day all I have to do is post one of these old pictures of him on my Facebook account and I immediately get loving comments from his granddaughters how much they miss him. Same thing with his nieces.

Thanks for your generous comments.


Bob said...

I think your father may have had a lot of demons, but all I can think is that he 'got her out of that mess' and loved her to the day he died.
That, to me, is priceless.
As is you saying 'I love you Pop.'
Thanks for sharing.

Larry Meredith said...


Funny the parallels sometimes, my great grandfather had a lumber business, my mother and father loved each other until they died, I never heard him ever raise his voice to my mother and my parents met on a similar double date. Our relationship was strained as well. I probably spoke more with him last year as he was nearing the end than any other time in our lives. The thing that chokes me up were a couple days before he died he told me, "I've loved you a long time" and on the day of his death his last legible words to me were, "Thank you." There were so many similarities in our lives that I've felt like your fourth brother.


Anonymous said...

Ron, What a wonderful love story about your parents! Enjoyed everything you told us and the pictures are priceless. Susan

Ron said...

Thank you Susan.


Ron said...


Yes, our lives were/are very similar. One thing though that give lie to the often stated "fact" that being gay is a result of environment and upbringing, we both had very similar environments and upbringings and yet you are straight and I am not.

My father never did say he loved me. My Mother often told me he did but he never told me. I don't think he was capable of forming those words. But I think in his own way he did.

I'm glad that your relationship with your father came to a good resolution before he died.


Ron said...


You are a very insightful man. Yes, my father did have a lot of demons. I think we all do. I am glad you picked up on the fact that he did get me Mother "out of that mess." That was the word she used, "mess." She had an awful childhood. Beatings, neglect, hunger, and loneliness. My father did give her a lifetime of love. After he died in 2000 she lived another ten years. She was never the same. Never.

Thank you for your kind comments Bob. Always appreciated.