In just a few weeks it will have been 27 years since my father died; he was my closest friend, my role model, my hero.
A while ago I realized why I started The Storytellers Channel. I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose his stories. My dad was a great storyteller. He wasn’t the only storyteller in our family. All of my relatives are raconteurs.
I just came from my weekly Toastmasters’ meeting. There were a couple of young men there from the local VA hospital. They are recovering from injuries and after 20+ years of military service are preparing to transition into the civilian world.
Speaking with them after the meeting I was reminded of one of my dad’s stories. There’s nothing heroic about the story, but I remember how shocked I was when I first heard it.
Remember: You Matter. Your Stories Matter. Tell Them Well!
The Storytellers Channel
Daddy was a gregarious gentleman. When he got out of the Navy he had no plans. His little brother, Larry, had become an apprentice bricklayer while Daddy was in the service. Daddy decided to follow him into the trade.
My dad was conservative in his appearance. He had worn his hair in a pompadour with a duck tail when he entered the service. But he had shorn it to a flat top and continued that hair style after his discharge. Sundays he wore a dark suit, white shirt and tie to church and his white socks set off his immaculately polished dress shoes. This was the fifties and sixties in Virginia.
Daddy was remarkably tolerant compared to his peers. I never heard him utter a racial slur or derogatory comment about women. He always said, “The working man has to vote Democrat.” When I was 15 he explained that some men liked other men the way he loved my mother. No judgement, just a statement of fact. His courtesy was extended to all. Business owner or laborer was treated with respect; a lesson I took time to learn.
I share these facets of his personality only to highlight that I perceived him as a Conservative. He was an authority figure. After he completed his apprenticeship, he became an accomplished bricklayer, then foreman, and eventually a masonry contractor. He inspired people to want to follow him. His suggestions were responded to as marching orders. Always one to laugh, folks smiled when he arrived. None the less, he was a commanding figure.
One day in the 70’s after he’d let his hair grow out, grown a mustache and goatee, and expanded his dress shirts beyond white; we were looking at a young man with an earring and he said, “I had a pierced earring once.”
Incredulously, I responded, “What?”
He said, “After you were born I had to go back to sea. The cruise took us to Edinburgh, where I bought you that teddy bear you never paid any attention to, and then Rotterdam before we crossed the Arctic Circle and returned to port.
It’s a Navy tradition that crossing the Arctic Circle entitles a man to wear a pierced earring.”
“How come you don’t still have it?”
“They used an ice cube to numb my ear and after using a match to sterilize a safety pin the Chief pierced my ear and stuck a straw through the hole. I was a 2nd Class Bo’sun by then and I was standing watch on the bridge. The O.D. saw the straw and asked me about it. He then ordered me to remove the straw, and to go to sickbay after my watch.”
“Report to me every day until it’s healed.”
“By the time I was discharged, and came home to you and your momma, it had healed. Here, you can feel the knot where the tissue scarred.”
Until the day he died he never ceased to surprise me. As much as I wanted to pidgeon-hole him, he was always growing. Or maybe, I was.
I’m going to stop now, because I’m tearing up thinking about how much I miss him and how much more I’m sure there was to learn about him, and from him.
I love you Daddy.
I Want to Hear from You
Drop me a line at [email protected] and let me know what storytelling topics you’d like me to explore.
Til next time,