One hundred years ago today, my Daddy was born. By the time the depression hit in 1929, Daddy was 15 years old, so he was a real Depression-Era man, and we were raised that way. Here are some things that my hard but fair, stern but funny father taught me:
1. Don’t laugh like a hyena outside at night. It’s not fair to the neighbors. Story behind this: Gretchen Beck and I, both 12 years old, were coming home from the boardwalk one August night 1972 in Cape May. We were really cracking ourselves up so much that we stopped at the church across the street from my house to continue, hoping not to disturb my father. We ended up rolling around on the grass, holding our bellies and laughing like the aforementioned hyenas. My father appeared at our door and yelled across the street, “Stop that noise right now and get in here.” Which I took as, “Laughing is bad. Having fun is bad. I’m a big, mean old guy who wants to stop people from having fun.”, but he meant it as, “What is wrong with those kids? Don’t they care about anyone else except themselves? How rude to disturb the neighborhood that way!”
2. Have more discerning taste in men. Story behind this: Every boyfriend I brought home, Daddy would say, “He’s scum!”. Wow, he was right. Except one, and my Dad and he loved each other, but unfortunately, the man didn’t really love me. Oh well.
3. No matter what else happens in life, eat well. The Story: Daddy loved and raised more than Loretta’s eight kids from “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. There were ten of us children, plus the three granddaughter’s (my half-sister’s children) were always around. Lots of kids. We were never poor, but we were never rich, with that many children. I’m sure it was hard, even in the old days of the ’60s to raise that many kids. But, Daddy and Mommy still went out every Saturday and came back with a carload of good food. We had steak once a week, hamburger once a week, chicken once a week. The man liked to eat, and liked to eat well. And now, so do we. No matter what, eat well.
4. The Spirit of Christmas. Daddy loved Christmas and when asked what Christmas meant to him, he said, “Giving”. The spirit of Christmas is giving. I just love that.
5. You can have your beliefs, but love is more important. Story: Daddy was a staunch Catholic and believed what the church believed. So, I was so scared to call Daddy from Reno and tell him that I was pregnant out of wedlock. But, when I did, he sent me money to come home and live with him and have the baby in New Jersey. I had an emergency C-Section. He didn’t come to see me, because by then he was not that mobile. The baby and I were in the hospital for five days. Again I was scared, this time to bring Baby Zachary home, because I wasn’t sure whether my father would accept him. When I walked through the front door of Daddy’s house, he asked for the baby. I put Zachary on Daddy’s lap, and there was an instant and beautiful love, and Zachary was the most accepted and cherished child in the world. My father adored my son. I was blessed. It went against his beliefs, but it didn’t matter. He loved us.
6. It’s more important to show your love than say, “I love you”. Daddy wasn’t one for hugs and kisses, or saying, “I love you.” So, for a long time I didn’t think he loved me. Because as a child, you don’t notice that your father is working his tail off to make sure you have nice clothes, good food, a nice house, and nice vacations. It wasn’t until I was an adult, and it started to sink in that this man really cared that I started allowing myself to care, too. Once, when I was in my twenties, I said to him (as I was leaving for the bar), “I love you”, and he said, “You sure don’t show it!”. Ha! I thought, “That’s mean”, but he was right. And again, it took me some time to understand what he meant. Lots of time. But, I get it now.
7. Don’t waste! It’s so funny that my brother Tom’s eulogy of my father included stories of rotten tomatoes and moldy ham being repurposed (and when he read it in church, I admit I was a little mortified), but it does speak to how Daddy was raised, and we were raised in turn. I didn’t have to learn to repurpose when we started trying as a global community to lessen our waste. It is second nature to feel guilty if I have to throw something out before it is completely depleted or repurposed. And the coolest recipes sometimes spring from trying to use all the items in the fridge!
8. 9. 10. 11. Ad infinitum. How much do our Daddies teach us? And how much do we realize came from them?
This is short and these are just some of the things the Old Man taught me. I recently heard someone say all brothers and sisters have different parents, because they all have a different relationship with their mothers and fathers than their siblings, and I think that’s true. I think my siblings may have some more to add to this (and I am pretty sure they never had to learn the ‘laughing hyena’ lesson), as we each had quality time with Daddy, and that quality time was when he shined. When he showed us that he really was such a beautiful man.