|Pop making his favorite vegetable soup from veggies grown from his own garden - 1978 two years before his death. My father never had a gray hair on his head. White beard, yes but not one gray hair nor did any of his ten brothers.|
My father ("Pop") died August 22, 2000. He was born April 18, 1920.
He died of lung cancer. He was a life long smoker. On my birthday (November 9th), 1999 he had quadruple bypass heart surgery. That's when the doctor's discovered his lung cancer. They sewed him back up and sent him home.
The cancer had spread so much that they gave him six months to a year to live. He lived another eight months.
My father loved my Mother, even though he did cheat on her early in their marriage. But he knew he had a good thing with her and he corrected his bad habits. It was hard for him because he was very attractive to the ladies. They liked him and he liked them. All his life he continued to flirt to receptive women but I don't think anything ever came of it (consummated) after my Mother had a showdown with him early on in their marriage.
He had three children by my Mother. I am the oldest. My two younger brothers were born in 1943 and 1944 respectively. I was born in 1941.
During the World War II my father failed his draft physical because he had brain damage from an accidental hatchet wound to his head when he was only ten years old. At that time his and his family of eight brothers (no sisters) lived in Hillbilly Heaven in Pigeon Roost, North Carolina. Someone was chopping wood and the hatchet handle came off and landed in my father's head. They rushed him by a horse pulled cart to nearby Johnson City, Tennessee hospital to try and save his life, which they did. Coincidentally some years later, when I was one year old I crawled out of a second floor window of the rental house we lived in and rolled down the front porch roof and landed on my head on the concrete sidewalk below. My Mother rushed my unconscious little baby body to the hospital, fearing the worst. Initially the doctor's were not hopeful but eventually I regained consciousness and here I am today to tell that tale. That was the first of my Nine Lives. Another coincidence, my good friend Pat also has a very noticeable scar on his head where he was also hit with an ax when he worked on a relative's farm in Canada when he was a teenager. And just one more coincidence, Bill (Kelly), my partner/husband of fifty-seven years has a dent in his skull where he was hit with rife butt during Army maneuvers when He was stationed in Germany in 1947. He said that's why he wore a toupee all his adult years, to hide that big dent. He doesn't wear a toupee now but the dent is very noticeable as is Pat's circular scar. So we all got a second chance at life. But I have veered off again from the main subject haven't I? I tend to do that.
Back to "Pop." My father didn't want children. He made that very clear during my lifetime. He especially didn't like me. Perhaps because I was closer to my Mother or perhaps because I was too "sissy" for him. But then he didn't like my brothers either. Although he did seem to favor the youngest ("the baby"). He showed more love to his dogs during his lifetime that he did to me and my brothers. I'll never forget that one Thanksgiving dinner, he put down is turkey laden fork, looked around the family dinner table and said "I have the dumbest bunch of kids." Gee, thanks Pop. No surprise for us though, that was Pop. Nothing we did would please him. We all gave up a long time before that Thanksgiving dinner proclamation.
Thus it comes at no surprise that Father's Day was no big deal around our house. He was our father. Up until he was fifty-two years old he helped to support our family. Initially in the marriage, (they were married in 1940), because he was rejected at his physical, he was required to be a cross country truck driver. He would be gone for weeks at a time. My Mother was left to fend for us kids (feed us). She lived in a small, no electricity, no running water, out door toilet, shack in the country.
My parents first home, a shack (no running water or electricity) in the country. Mineral Springs, PA. That's my Mother pregnant with me.
She often told me the story that one day she was walking down the country road cradling my youngest brother (who was just a baby at that time), and hold me and my other brother's hand while she walked and walked as we were crying because we were hungry. She didn't know what to do. Of course welfare was out of the questions, "Nice people didn't do that" she said. he was too embarrassed to apply for welfare. Her Quaker family influence (grandparents on her Mother's side) no doubt. While she was walking that dirt road her father happened to drive by (he was a tomcat (married three times and like the ladies) and stopped. He saw she was distraught and gave her five dollars to buy some milk. That five dollars lasted her a while, five dollars back in 1944 was a lot of money.
|Pop with his guitar in front of his early marriage hillbilly home in the Pennsylvania countryside. He LOVED his Packard!|
When my father returned from his latest cross country trip delivered war vitals to their destinations, again was short on the money. My Mother found out later he was spending most of his money on other women during his travels. She gave him an ultimatum, she would take over the finances or she would leave him. My father wasn't the sharpest knife int he drawer but he did know he had a good thing with my Mother. He loved her and would never find anyone else who cared for him the way she did but she was willing to leave him. Thus he reformed his wastrel, irresponsible ways. But I've often thought, do I have any half sisters or brothers across the continental United States. Might have, several of his brothers had children out of wedlock during their wander lust days.
My Mother took over the full family financial when Pop "retired" at fifty-two (too "stressful" he said, his welding job). She was the sole breadwinner in our family working at Pepperridge Farms frozen foods division for over twenty-five years. Pop just hung around with his friend Harry down the road from where we lived in our 1,100 square foot rancher (moved there in 1959, the year I graduated from high school). He occasionally did some house finishing work along with his buddy Harry (hanging doors and windows). He mainly liked to hunt, garden, smoke and eat fried, greasy foods while Mom ran the household.
|My father LOVED gardening. A trait I Inherited from him, I too love to garden.|
Early on in the marriage he used to beat me and my brothers but no more than the usual beatings that kids got in the late Forties and early Fifties from their father with a belt for misbehaving. At least he never beat us with the buckle and no serious damage was ever done. Me and my brothers learned early on that if he hollered a lot when he was flaying his belt at us (I'll always remember him pulling his belt off in preparation for a beating) around at the three of us. Yes, we usually got beat together but I'm sure we got individual beatings too, I just don't remember that. When I would complain about the beatings, my Mother would refer us to the scars on my father's back from beatings he got as a kid from his father. And I guess she was right, it could have been a lot worse. It wasn't. And the beatings stopped as we entered our teenage years. The only incidence of his violence towards me was when I asked to borrow the family car for my Senior Prom and he refused. I said something insulting to him (I don't remember but I was being disrespectful) and he punched me across the jaw, knocking me off balance and into the bathtub I was cleaning at the time. Yes, I was the house cleaner of our family, which I thought in my naive way would qualify me at least to borrow the family car for my prom date, which by the way I stood up for which I am to this day ashamed of. She (Vivian) took it was well as would could expect but I DIDN'T show up and she was waiting for me. What was I THINKING? Dumb kid.
When my father punched me a good one across the jaw, it was in front of his brother. He was incensed because I disrespected him in front of his brother. I can understand that. But at the same time I made a vow to myself never to ask him for anything again and to leave home as soon as I could, which I did when I joined the Army after I graduated from high school. There was a six month delay there because I too failed my first Army physical (I was born with a hernia). I had to have an operation to remove the hernia before the Army would accept me. During my operation I developed a deadly case of staph infection which kept me in and out of the hospital for the next six months. But eventually the infection was cleared up after several surgeries and I joined the Army and broke the parental bind that I was under for the fist eighteen years of my life.
Except for one day when I returned home from Pittsburgh, where I had moved after I got out of the Army, I never lived at home again. That one day was a Friday through a Saturday. When I returned home by bus (he picked me up), I had no money and no job. I had a job in Pittsburgh but I was very lonely in Pittsburgh and was discouraged about the gay scene, which wasn't what I thought it was. I was looking for Prince Charming and all I was meeting was guys who wanted to get in my pants. I may be a lot of things but I'm no slut. Frankly, I didn't even know what the gay scene was about. This was the early Sixties after all. I wasn't a drag queen or a "queer" who hung around men's bathrooms. I knew I was different and I knew I liked men but I didn't know where to go from there. But this is just another branch of my sordid early life that I might get into in a future blog post should I live that long. Regular readers of my blog for all these years (since 2005) already know something to my Fantasy Ride Early Years Of Gayness For Ron.
Back to returning "home" from my doomed foray into Pittsburgh, that Friday night I went out with an old school chum, strictly straight and platonic. The next morning over his greasy fried eggs, bacon, scrapple and biscuits he asked "Where were you last night? I told him it was none of his business. He replied "As long as you live here it's my business." I immediately though "He's right! It is his business." That's when I decided then and there to move. As I said before I had no money so I called one of my brothers and borrowed money (I think $250) from him. Then I looked at the classified ads for a small efficiency furnished apartment. I found one ($65 a month) which I rented that day and the next day I was out of his house. I never lived there again in that small, stuccoed wall, eight foot high ceilings, one bathroom, ranch house of his again. I lived in that shabby, one bedroom furnished apartment for two and a half years (until I met Bill and moved in with him). He never visited me once. NOT.ONE.TIME.
Wherever you are Pop, happy Father's Day. I am who I am because of you, f-cked up and all, because of you. I even look like you now. And this year I will be the age (80) that you died.
My father was twenty-one years old when I was born. My father has been dead twenty-one years.
I saw him last time one day before he died on a Saturday night. He was in the hospital hooked up on morphine pain killers. No one else was in his room. They had left earlier in the late afternoon. The time I saw him was about eight o'clock in the evening.
When he saw me come around the curtain (he was sharing his room with another patient, he was near the window, I could see the cars in the parking lot and the parking lot lights from his window). He asked me help him up so he could pee in his jug. Like me he can't pee lying down in a hospital bed. As I helped him back in his bed I said to his back "I love you Pop." I don't know if I loved him but it seemed the appropriate thing to say. He said nothing to me. At least he wasn't angry at me. I think he was too preoccupied with is weakness and out of it from the morphine.
|My Mother hand feeding my father during his last days in the hospital suffering from terminal lung cancer|
Monday morning as I unlocked the door to the small town bank where I worked at that time, I heard the phone ringing. I knew what it was. I knew it. I quickly unlocked the door and rushed over to pick up the phone. It was Barbara, my sister-in-law (my youngest brother's wife). She said "Ronnie, Pop died last night. Can you come home to be with Mom?"
I had the strangest reaction to this news. News that wasn't unexpected but still it was a shock to hear, that his man who had been so much a part of my life was no longer alive. I felt like someone gut punched me in the stomach. I didn't feel sadness, for which I was ashamed. Nor a sense of loss, just relief. I felt bad for my Mother though. All the years I knew them I never once heard him raise his voice to her or even argue with her. He loved her.
|Yep, he loved her and she him|
At his funeral, still no sense of loss. Not happy either, perhaps relieved, just different.
One thing my father did like about me, I attended as many of the funerals for his ten brothers as I could with him. That was one of the few times I saw him smile at me, when I would accompany him in my best dark suit. I remember one funeral for his brother Bruce, one of his cousins (Fred Byrd), who I had never met before in my life, came across the room and said "You must be Ike Tipton's son, you look just like him." I have to admit I was taken aback (I "look just like him?" What? I've turned into my father? I'm afraid I did.) Then I felt a tinge of pride, to be recognized by a cousin he grew up with (back in his hillbilly North Carolina mountain days) who would recognize me across a crowded room of family relatives and friends who had come to mourn another Tipton brother, who coincidentally was babysitting me when I fell off that roof and almost died. Bruce was just a teenager at that time.
Well, that's enough of my Father's Day tribute to Isaac Walter Tipton, Sr. (we have the same middle name by the way). Hope you enjoyed reading this cathartic tome of mine. I tend to do that you know.
|One of the few pictures I have of my with my father (my youngest brother John to my right). Photo taken about 1960 when I was home on leave from my three year Army stone. Pop was holding's stomach in and I think I detect a faint smile. See it?|