Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

Pop with smoking his pipe which eventually caused his death (lung cancer) 1991 - master of all he surveys

Father's Day is almost over this year and I debated whether or not I wanted to even post about this day.

As regular readers of my blog know, I did not have a close relationship with my father.

I am the oldest of his three sons (Isaac, Jr, and John).  

Me (standing apart to the right as I do in most of my childhood pictures - a portend of things to come?) with Pop's Packard - 1947

"Pop", as we called him, was a charmer to the ladies but I don't believe he ever wanted children.

Oh sure, I think for a brief moment (or two) he like the novelty of having a child and a son, even though my Mother wanted a girl.

Me on Pop's shoulders 1942 - I was always envious of dads who carried their kids on their shoulders and wished I had the experience. Apparently I did but I was too young to remember this experience
He had ten brothers and no sisters.  He probably thought he was going to start his own football team just like his hillbilly parents did from North Carolina.

Pop (back row, far right, tallest) and his ten brothers - 1961

My father died in August of 2000 at eighty years of age of lung cancer.

Me with Pop a week before he died - 2000 
During his lifetime he was always seemed annoyed with me.  Maybe he was disappointed that I wasn't "manley."  I was semi-sissy growing up (played with paper dolls but I wasn't swishy and effeminate). 

Maybe he felt me and my brothers hindered him and his carefree ways.  

Until my Mother reined him in, he cheated on her constantly during their early years of marriage. 

I didn't know this until after he died and my Mother "spilled the beans."  I guess she just wanted to set the record straight.

She told me one time she was crossing the street in Coatesville, holding onto the hands of me and my younger brother Isaac.  As she was crossing the street she noticed my father in driver's seat in the car stopped at the red light.  He had a woman (his current girlfriend) in the passenger seat.  

My Mother said she opened the back door of the car and started to get in with me and my brother.  My father told her "Get out!"  She told him "No I'm not getting out.  You have three small children (my other brother was still a baby and at home) that you have to take care of.  You're going to drop your girlfriend off and come home and be a father to your children or I'll leave you."

Now the funny thing about my father was that he totally loved my Mother.  But he was also a charmer and loved the ladies.  He was a cross country truck driver (during the war) and would be gone for weeks, leaving my Mother to fend for herself in feeding "her boys" (the way she always referred to me and my brothers).  Also, the funny thing is that my Mother totally loved my father. But Pop had a wandering eye and the ladies did love that big man.  In fact, I have a letter my Mother saved from a woman who sent it to my Mother.  She wrote to my Mother that she would never be able to hold onto her husband because he was a "big man" (which he was by the way, in more ways than one). My Mother wanted me to destroy that letter after I read it but I didn't.  I still have it.

Ike Tipton - The Charmer - 1941
One thing about Pop, he didn't want to lose my Mother.  In all the years they were married before he died (sixty-one) I never once heard them argue.  In fact I never heard them raise their voice once to each other.  And he certainly did not beat my Mother (I couldn't even imagine that) but he did occasionally take the belt to us kids when we got out of hand (nothing serious though). 

Prior to discovering him with a girlfriend in his car, my Mother didn't realize he was spending the family money on his girlfriends. After that episode my Mother took over the finances of the family.

She ran the household from that date on.  She told me Pop still flirted with the ladies (he did until the day he died) but she didn't think he ever had intimate relations with them after that encounter.

Mom and Pop - Christmas 1980 in the kitchen - he knew he had a good thing with Mom

Mom kept the family together and that's why to this day I honor her on Mother's Day but I feel nothing for Father's Day.

My father wasn't a bad person but he wasn't what I consider a father to me either.  He constantly put me down.  Made fun of my appearance (called me "beak" because of my prominent nose).  Called me "stupid". He never had anything good to say to me.  In fact, and I am ashamed to admit this, I was afraid of him.  Of course I always sought his approval but never received it. I never got one compliment from him during my lifetime.  Not one word of encouragement.  

When I left home at 18 years of age to join the Army I was a mess.  I had zero self confidence (still have a degree) and was scared of my own shadow.  But I knew I had to leave home.

The three years I spent in the Army were the most beneficial of my life because I gained confidence in myself.  I wasn't this horrible, awful loser that my father brainwashed me into thinking about myself.

Many years after I left the Army and had a successful banking job in Philadelphia, I was having a casual conversation with my Mother.  She told me something that shocked me, even to this day.  She said "Pop didn't think you could ever make it."  I said "Make what?"  She said "Get through the Army."  I said "Why wouldn't I make it?"  She said "He just didn't think you had it in you."  

I was so shocked when I heard this, of just how low his opinion of me was.  I was hurt and shocked.  Sure, I had a difficult time in basic training but I was determined to "make it."  There were several times when I almost didn't make it but I was so determined that I remember thinking at the time "I'll have to die before I drop out of this forced march." 

Another time I almost blew myself up with a hand grenade (I didn't know how the pin worked).  Again, the thought of quitting was never an option for me, I was determined to "make it", and the only thing that would stop me would be death.  

I've often thought over the years "Where did I get this determination?"  Then I figured it out, that was my Mother's genes taking over.  She never gave up on life even though she had a very rough beginning.  She never gave up on my Father even though he cheated on her and spent all the family money on floozies.  She never gave up on keeping the family together and she never gave up on him.

And she never gave up on me which is why I am the person I am today.  

My father was childlike in many ways.  You might say my Mother raised FOUR boys.

Pop with a Christmas teddy bear that I bought for my Mother - he softened up somewhat in his twilight years - in this picture he is about the age (73) that I am now
Happy Father's Day Pop, wherever you are.


11 comments:

  1. Hey Ron - like the first photo of "pop" in your post - my dad also smoked a pipe. We both had similar, to some degree, relationships with our fathers. There seemed to be absolutely no bonding with me and mine. His weakness was alcohol and it was very difficult to be around him (which I remember being often) at home. But we were in this little cottage - what could you do. And that weakness cost him bleeding ulcers from which he died at 51. So, my mother, like yours kept this family going raising my brother and myself - and putting herself thru studies to become an RNA. I sometimes would think that I had better relationships with my furniture than with my father. And I'm not trying to be mean spirited or off the cuff. That's just the way it was. Love your history. Thanks again for your good blog.

    Pat

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    1. Pat,
      Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. Yes, our relationship with our fathers was very similar. My father wasn't a bad man, he just wasn't all that interested in having kids. We were more of a nuisance to him than anything and he often made us feel that way the way he treated us. However, he did like my youngest brother John, who was his pet. My Mother told me later that my father was proud of me but he never told me that. I think what hurt the most was that he never attended any school events I had, even though I was very active in school. Even when I graduated from basic training, most of my friends had their parents travel hundreds and, sometimes even thousands of miles to Ft. Dix to see their sons graduated from basic but my father, who only live less than a hundred miles away, couldn't be bothered. I was so embarrassed at graduation. I had to hide while most of my friends had a wonderful reunion with their family. I had many such times growing up that he caused me great embarrassment by not showing up. He never even took me on vacation or any of his trips with him. Not once. That perhaps is why I have always resented parents who break their schedules to attend their kids softball and soccer games. Not mine, I was on my own. But he did bring me into the world so I guess I have him to "thank" for that.
      Ron

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  2. Thank You for posting this entry... !!!

    As always... your blog is on target...always.

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  3. You and I had similar feelings about not wanting to write a blog post about Father's Day. I was going to completely skip it, but at the last minute I reluctantly decided to write. Neither of us were close to our fathers - - and both of our mothers are the ones who held everything together. Neither of our fathers were worthy of being called a true "father". I know that my Dad - like yours - never really wanted kids. I think the big difference is the fact that my dad was extremely violent and physically brutal and had SEVERE emotional problems.

    There's something you mentioned that I totally forgot to mention - - and that's the childlike mentality. Emotionally, my father never grew up. He never handled any situation like an adult. You also mentioned other similarities, which I won't go into now. Excellent post, Ron.

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    1. Jon,
      Yes, I was just going to let Father's Day roll by like I often did when my father was alive. My Mother always had to urge me to send him a Father's Day card, which I reluctantly did.
      Hearing about your father, I am now so thankful that my father wasn't physically abusive although he was pretty good on the emotional abuse, especially constantly tearing down whatever self-esteem I had.
      Looking back on those years now I realize that he did have a child-like mentality. My Mother took care of everything, including the family income after my father quit his job at 51 years old (he couldn't take the stress). Ironically, the same thing has happened with me and Bill. I urged Bill to quit his job when he turned 55 years old because I could see the toll emotional stress was taking on him. And of course you know my Bill is a lot like my father. You can draw the obvious conclusions (smile). Yes, I guess I was attracted to Bill and wanted to "fix" the problem that I never could with Bill.
      Life is complicated isn't it Jon? Bill and I have always had a contentious relationship. Now Pat and I, we couldn't be more compatible. He is my mirror image. But I will always stay with Bill as long as I'm alive or he is alive. Pat understands that and is accepting. Besides, Pat is a solo act anyway so there is no problem in that area. We don't have to live together to be soulmates. Getting deep here Jon. Time to quit.
      Ron

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  4. TEN bros and no sisters? The chances of that happening must be minuscule.
    The things your father called you (with, if you'll pardon the comparison, a slight echo of Michael Jackson being taunted by his family for his then 'big nose' , as they saw it- though obviously for you not with the same catastrophic results) they MUST have gone down deep and left permanent scars
    Sounds like your father might have harboured thoughts about you (e.g. army term) that he didn't want to bring to the surface - if so he was not entirely unperceptive but still hidebound by the conventionalities of the time. But even today would he have wanted to accept you as you are? Probably not, I'd guess.

    And through all this, despite occasional disagreements with your mother, it seems, in retrospect, that she was a veritable saint!

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    1. Ray,
      Actually there was another brother who died at birth. He was a twin of my Uncle Sam. Uncle Rich and Uncle John were also twins who survived. The reason my uncles moved to Pennsylvania during the Great Depression was that they were cheap farm labor to work on their Uncle Don Byrd's farm. The family lived in a tenant house on his farm.
      My father was classified 4-F at his draft physical during World War II. Plus he was exempt because he had three small children. Buy the country required him to take a job as a cross country truck driver. That was his contribution to the war. But apparently while he was driving truck across the country he was tomcatting around in just about every city. He was a charmer and good-looking. The ladies all liked him. But thankfully his one true love was my Mother and he knew it. When she laid down the law he obeyed. So he was pretty smart after all.
      Ron

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    2. If your father's father were part of, say, Indian society where sons are prized and daughters seen as a burden until they are married off (even then being a 'curse' if they don't take with them a financially crippling wedding dowry), he would have been treated like, and probably felt like, a king!
      But, beings as things turned out for you, though they were very far from ideal, I suppose they could have been worse.

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  5. Anonymous4:54 PM

    I was reading WCS blog and found yours. I don't know how you can say your father wasn't a bad man! I'm married to a husband whom did the same thing to me. Infidelists whom steal money from their wife and children to screw other women cause so much pain. There's some days that the sadness I experience is so profound, I feel like taking my life. This was a person I have built my life with and planned to spend the rest of my days with. Now, I'm looking at a divorce in my fifties. He doesn't want one but unlike your mother, I could never support that kind of despicable and abusive behavior! As for my father, he called me "stupid" every day that I was growing up. I'm sorry you had to go through the same thing. It caused me not to be afraid of him, but to hate him. He was a drunk that gambled his paychecks away. Luckily my mother made a six figure salary by the time she was 28. My mother is still married to him AND he beats her up. I am amazed you can honor your father. You are a much better person than me. Like my husband, my father is a piece of trash! Lee in CA

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    1. Anonymous,
      Every family is different. My Mother was several neglected as a child. Her Mother died before she was two years old and her father was a "tomcat" too. I understand your pain and feeling of betrayal but this is the way my Mother decided to handle her situation. And I am glad she did because she kept the family together. What was the alternative? A single mom? Eventually she was the sole support for our family but she never earned more than $22,000 a year working at Pepperridge Farms in the frozen foods division on the layer cake line. I am thankful my Mother thought of her children first and put our welfare before her hurt feelings. My Mother was unselfish that way. And she did eventually tame my father. The whole time I was growing up I don't ever remember him dallying with another woman although he was an awful flirter. He couldn't help it but he was a "tamed lion." This is what worked for us.
      Ron

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