My Dad, part 1

29 03 2008

I could easily  have led a charmed life –if my dad had known more about delayed gratification–but it was not to be. However,  I had a very good start in life. My Dad was an engineer for the Ford Motor company in Detroit.  He and my mother were both natives of Kentucky.  During World War II Dad was stationed at Camp Campbell which is now Fort Campbell.  He met my mother at a picnic.  She was a school teacher at one of the elementary schools.  It was a whirlwind romance.  Dad never had to go over seas because of an injury to his knee when he was a teenager.  When the war ended my parents first went to Dayton, Ohio.  Then Dad became a student at the Ford Motor Institute in Lansing, Michigan.  Although I’m sure my dad must have had some benefits from the GI bill which provided education to those who had been in the military– he also received the benefit of financial help from my mother teaching school.

By l949   my dad was established with a good job.  Phillip, my oldest brother was born that year.  I came along in April of 1952.  My mother kept a box of all the cards and ribbons she received from  my baby shower gifts.  I still have that box and in fact I  looked through it again–just last week.  Dad was a big executive and was a man who liked to spend his money.  Two more brothers arrived not far behind my birth.  By the time I was four years old–I had keyed into the fact that we had nice things and lived in a nice neighborhood.  In fact, we moved up to an even finer neighborhood by the time I was five years. old.  I have a clear memory of moving into a large home in an upscale neighborhood.  My father bought my mother a whole new set of dining room furniture.  The curtains were made by someone who specialized in that area.  They were very heavy and ornate.  I liked to hide behind them and eat jam.  In my child’s mind–I thought no one knew what I was doing but it is a family joke even to this day.

Mom didn’t have to teach school anymore.  She was the queen of her lovely home.  We had a rose garden and all the nice things that well to do people have.  I remember our new station wagon in l957.  The evening my Dad brought it home–we went to the drive- in theater.  I remember falling asleep in the back of the car.  I also remember the sensation of being wrapped up in some warm blankets. 

Dad wasn’t satisfied to just drive a practical station wagon.  I can recall his renting a fancy white convertible one Sunday afternoon.  We had a Sunday drive and ended up having dinner in a fancy restaurant.  Dad liked to be a part of the neighborhood theater group.  There was a playhouse in the suburb just for such occasions.  Dad was always the host like person.  We have many picture books of his days of helping with theater productions.  He always liked to be important.  He wanted others to see him as important. 

I think much of that has to do with his having grown up as a share croppers son.  Dad was the oldest of seven children.  His father was very strict and according to my dad–was almost brutal to him.  Dad had to work out in the tobacco fields each summer all day long.    Dad always resented his growing up years.  He was determined that he would not be stuck in a little Kentucky town.  It certainly seemed like he was living his dreams.

My parents entertained a great deal.  They had about four other couples whom they socialized with. They loved playing the card game, bridge.  When it was time for the group to meet at our home–we were all put to bed early.  That didn’t stop us children.  We would sit at the top of the stairs and peek in on the party.  I also have vivid memories of visiting the other homes.  If it was an evening event–all of the children of the various couples would be taken into one room.  We would eat our supper in that room and play until it was time to go home.

Life was  not always so filled with fun and exciting events.   I remember waking up one morning to find my mother’s face covered with bruises.  She told us that she had taken a fall.  I never got my mother to admit that my father hurt her.  But I have always believed that my mother was the victim of spouse abuse.  Other strange things began happening.  I was no longer allowed to get ice cream from the ice cream truck.  I was so jealous of my best girlfriend who lived across the street because  she always got ice cream each summer afternoon.  Moreover, I had to give up my pearl necklace that had been a gift from my parents.  My Dad made me give my pearls to my best girlfriend on her birthday.  I knew in my small heart that paradise had vanished.  I played with my dolls in my upstairs bedroom and shuddered with fear that my parents would get a divorce.  My nights were filled with fear. I would cry and beg my mother to come comfort me.  Life was not going to get any better –as I was soon to find out.

God Bless each of You!

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4 responses

30 03 2008
shadowlands1501

Nicole3
Bryan Jennings wrote of the WWII generation as the greatest generation…but, he didn’t see into the homes that post WWII people had. Somehow, children always know that things were not as they appeared to be. The inwards scars of our parents had a way of finding us. Then they wonder why our generation was a rebellous one. The seeds were sown in the homes and we all saw enough to let us know that something was missing…at least it was in my home. My father wasn’t in the military but her grew up poor. And somehow, they could not show their children affection. It seemed to be a part of them…maybe the depression took its toll, I don’t know….I am so sorry that you felt the pain of those years…Our(yours and mine) parents could not give what they did not have….and we were affected by it.

31 03 2008
nichole3

Shadowlands, I think the depression years plus World War II really took their toll on our parents generation. This series is sparked from your series on forgiveness. So stay with me as I journey towards the path of forgiveness.

Your friend,
Nichole

6 04 2008
David Web

Nichole:

The real negatives started to appear when Dad gambled on Renard Plastics and lost. They had great ideas but were ahead of their time. He told me that Don Regan, a member of Reagan’s cabinet, later in life, was the axe man that had to let all the promising engineers go at Renard.

In those days, it was pretty much impossible to get back in the auto business, and so the financial problems mushroomed.

He definitely had hard feelings for his Father, and having to labor for the good of the family. He resented very much having to turn over every dime. He told me that once when he received his pay, he and some co-workers bought vodka, and picnic supplies, and spent the day in a rented boat on The Kentucky River. For that he was severely admonished and probably beaten.

Little Brother

7 04 2008
nichole3

Little brother,
I know you know more about Dad than any of us. Any continued imput you give is wonderful. My story is about my perceptions but you know more of the hard, cold facts. Thanks!

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