|The Beginning - 1942 - the First Born with Pop and Mom|
As regular readers of this blog may or may not know, I never had a good relationship with my father. That may sound harsh but it is the truth.
|My Pop at 18 years old - a Hank Williams wannabe|
My father died August 22, 2000. He was 80 years old. He died of lung cancer. His doctor warned him many times to stop smoking but he was a stubborn man. He died in a hospital bed, hooked up to an oxygen machine, gasping for breath.
Even though we all knew he was dying, when I got the phone call from my sister-in-law Barbara telling me he died overnight, it was still a shock to my system because he had been so much a part of my life. But I can honestly say I felt no sadness. I didn't feel happiness either. Maybe a sense of relief because no matter what I did I could never please this man. All my life I sought approval, he never showed it to me.
|Father and son 1-976 - again check out the body language|
by this time his dog 'Pepper' was the light of his life
I was his first born son. I have two brothers. My second brother didn't fare too well either, even though he was my father's namesake. However, my third brother, and youngest, was my father's favorite. Growing up I resented that my youngest brother was his favorite. I hated my brother. Ironically now my brother and I are best friends. It's funny how things turn out in life.
Me, Mom and Pop 1982 - again check out the body language
I'm leaning in towards him but my Mom touches my leg lest I get too close to him
Occasionally I think about my father. I think about how much my life perhaps would have been different if he had shown me some love. But then maybe nothing would be different. I do a lot of thinking about my past at this time of my life, I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had a 'normal' childhood. But then who does have a 'normal' childhood?
|My Pop at 18 years old - yes, I do look like him|
My father used to enjoy humiliating me. I grew up thinking I had the biggest nose in the world. He would call me "beak" as in a bird's beak. Of course this did nothing for my self-esteem which was very fragile because not only did I know I was 'different' from the time I was four years old (a 'sissy') but I had the usual teenager anxieties about not being accepted by my friends. I remember how terribly embarrassed because my father was a hillbilly. For real, he really was a 'hillbilly.' His parents brought him and eight of his brothers form the hills of western North Carolina (some God forsaken place called "Pigeon Roost") to the Unionville area of south eastern Pennsylvania in the late 1920's. Two more brothers were born in Pennsylvania thus making eleven hillbilly sons of the brood of Fieldon and Hester Tipton, my paternal grandparents. Of course now I am proud of my "hillbilly" heritage, recognizing it as true Americana but when I was growing up? I was mortified.
|The "new car" - a GMC pickup truck|
Of the many time he used to belittle and humiliate me one episode is especially etched into my mind. I was 12 years old and my Mom told me the news that "Pop" was getting a new car! I was so excited. Finally, our family would be like my friend's families and have a cool family car. So what did he get? A GMC pickup truck! I was again mortified. A pickup truck! I asked "Where would me and my brothers sit when we went on one of our Sunday Rides?" "Pop", with an self-satisfied smile on his face said "In the back where you belong!"
Me not wanting my brother to take my picture of me in the back of the pickup truck. Pop made sure to drive through Downingtown so my friends could see me in the back of the truck. He got a big kick out of this.
The day of the Sunday Ride came up. Pop was going to take a trip down to Maryland and the Conowingo Dam. The whole family was going. I refused to go because I was too embarrassed to be seen riding in the back of a pickup truck! I didn't have choice. He told me I would have to go and sit in the back of the pickup truck. So here are the pictures of me, 12 years old, full of insecurities, still in my "sissy" stage, trying to make like of my humiliation.
Me trying to make light of my humiliation. Sorry about the sissyness. I hadn't outgrown it at this point in my life.
This was just one of many incidences of my father's cruel humor. I wasn't the only recipient of his cruelty, but I got most of it. I think he was trying to 'break me.' He didn't succeed.
I guess some would rebel under such treatment or become defeated. My reaction was to 'get through it'. I didn't see where I had any other choice. I did know that as soon as I could I wanted to get away from home. That is one of the reasons I joined the Army right of high school.
|Me and my friend Jim Harris on the rifle range at Ft. Meade, Maryland 1962|
After my father died, my Mother cleaned out all his personal items including pictures in his wallet. Much to my surprise she found this picture in his wallet. I had forgotten about this picture. I didn't have a print of it. He had the only print. I don't know how he got it but there it was. He carried it in his wallet all those years.
My Mother then told me that he didn't expect me to even make it through basic training. He had that little confidence in me that he thought I would fail. I was shocked when I heard this revelation. Not make it through basic training? I never had a doubt. Did I have problems in basic? Yes, I had some big problems but never for a moment did I even entertain the idea of dropping out, never. I remember one especially rough patch. I was so determined to not fail that I thought to myself "I'm going to do this even if I die in the attempt (which I almost did)" but never, NEVER did I consider failure.
So who knows, perhaps beneath all that cruelty he really did have some love for his oldest son. I wish I knew that when he was alive. Maybe things would have been different.
I know one thing, he used to love my homemade German Chocolate Cake which I made from scratch. When I bought that cake over to him I saw one of his rare smiles towards me. I haven't made that cake since he died. I was thinking about making it again.
My Pop at his most handsome - a real "Ladies' Man"
Tall (6'5") blonde, blue eyes, muscular, 'big', and could charm the pants off any woman
My Pop in his 70's - still not a gray hair in his head
Still smoking which would eventually kill him
|Pop and me when he liked me - 1942|