Sunday, June 19, 2011
Robert Leo Oliver
Well, its Father's day again. Every year it comes, every year it goes. Usually it just slips by unnoticed by me, unless of course I go for brunch and can't get a seat, suddenly realizing that it is in fact Father's day and that's why there are so many people about celebrating. Today I decided not to let that happen. I would not let this day go by without thinking about my father.
It has been so long since the word "dad" had been part of my vocab that it feels weird even typing it.
My father died when I was young, eleven to be exact. My aunt arrived in her most serious form and as she leaned against our kitchen stove she told my brother and I, "Your dad is gone my Loves." Well, I didn't exactly know what she meant. Really I just wondered where he went and when he would be back. But somehow, I knew, what with all the tears and my aunt's serious face. I knew he was sick, but I had no idea how serious it was. I learned very quick meaning of words like "cancer" and "stroke" and so on.
Back then I was considered too young to go to a funeral. Its just as well. I can remember him alive and a comforting force. And so he went away...
Every day he would get up, wash with Ivory soap, & shave leaving tiny dark whiskers in the white sink. He would go off to work delivering other's fine furnishings for Osmonds Furniture. Sometimes he might bring home aspecial treat like my brand new pure white dresser. This was my pride and joy until my budding artist sister, whom I have since forgiven for this, saw only a fresh white canvas as she did her best work with her red crayon.
Every night he would come home, sit down for supper, bless himself, eat, have some tea and then sit in his big green lazy boy, sport his thick reading glasses and examine with great interest the Evening Telegram. Then we might watch Bonanza which I pretended to like cause it meant spending more time with my dad.
Every Sunday he would sport his best hounds tooth polyester pants and white dress shirt and I my white turtle neck and jumper and off we would go to mass. It was he who fostered in me the fear of God without once raising his voice to me. Always letting me sing loud at folk mass, always letting me place the envelope in the velvet lined collection plate. I was full of joy when we set out for the House of the Lord, but only cause I was with my dad.
With my dad I picked my first pair of fashionable road runners, a hefty $17.00 purchase. Now, I realize that was a lot of money! With him I chose my first pair of stop signed shaped eye glasses from the cheap section at Mitchell's and felt great about it.
Every Tue. night, we would drive to my grandmother's house and I would go to Brownies with my aunt, feeling safe knowing he was waiting just down the street. On the way home we'd stop at Sunrise Confectionery and I would be allowed to fill a small paper bag with penny candy as he chose his
Rothman's from behind the counter. Swedish berries, and Fun Dips, Orange Pineapple for him and Rainbow ice cream for me, Dixie cups eaten with a wooden spoon. A bag of hostess chips for John, and "something for the little one".
And who could forget the old Dodge Dart he and a neighbor attempted to hand paint and were so proud of. think they wanted beige and red. It was more like peach and red.
I went everywhere with my dad. Visits with his step mother "Mrs. Oliver" on her farm with free roaming wild and crazy turkeys with scary bulbous masses hanging from their chins, gathering caplin at St. Phillips, walks to the Janeway apartments playground, camping in the back of the furniture truck, fishing in the water supply area, rescuing my brother from quick sand, getting the Christmas tree from the woods, falling asleep in his arms.
And of course, trips to clean up the family plot. He trimmed the grass, picked up the mess, layed flowers while I played with the rocks. The best part though, of family plot day was sitting on the cement frame (which defined our dead family's space) and eating bologna sandwiches and drinking Pepsi in the sunshine with my dad. Ah...the family plot... He lives there himself now.
Yes today I will honor and remember my/our father who instilled in me a healthy dose of self esteem. His spirit with me always...He was a great dad, and he would have been a wonderful grandfather too.
Happy Father's day to all dads...and to me too...as I remember.