My daddy, Carl, was born in 1907, and grew up in the Jazz age and the Depression. Dad attended the University of Illinois, studying Mechanical Engineering, but didn’t graduate due to family difficulties. He was married before he met my mom, and had two sons during the 1930’s. For reasons unknown to me (or indeed anyone who is still living) he was completely estranged from his own family – his mother, father, and three brothers. I didn’t know about his previous marriage or my two older half brothers until I was in my teens, and even then it was just the bare fact told to me by mother. It was never discussed, especially not by him, and I didn’t meet any of his family other than one of his brothers until about ten years ago.
Dad and my mom met in the late 1930’s when both were working for the Hudson Motor Car Company in Detroit. Mom held various jobs in the factory (she was a widow with 2 children to support), and Dad worked in inspection. According to my mother:
Carl and I met at Hudson Motors, and we worked together for three years. We got acquainted and he asked around to see if I would go out with him. They said no, “She doesn’t go out with anyone.” But I lost a bet with some of the girls at work and I had to go out to lunch with him. After that we went out sometimes with a group and became friends.
In 1941 I was in the hospital after having my appendix out. It had been a very serious condition. Carl visited me in the hospital and asked me to marry him. We were married on Christmas Eve that year. Because of the war it was the only time we could get away from work. I was 35 when I married Carl, and that is a good age. He was a good husband, and we were very happy.
A few years later they were both surprised to learn that they were about to become parents, and a few months later yours truly was born into their world, a member of the post-war baby boom. Dad was 40 and mom was 41, and both had grown or nearly-grown children. I’m sure it was quite a shock. In a one-month period I was born, my sister graduated from high school, and my brother got married.
I’m telling you all of this because it’s important to know that our dads – my dad for sure – are imperfect human beings who have made mistakes in their lives, who have lived as perfectly ordinary men, sometimes muddling through life, but doing their best, and learning from their mistakes.
My dad loved me, and I loved him. He taught me to be independent, to love math and reading and learning of every kind. He taught me to change a tire, took me to work with him, let me “help” when he fixed stuff around the house, let me tag along to the Army surplus store. I learned from him how to mow the lawn, weed the garden, feed the chickens, and paint a wall. Dad loved to take car trips, so I saw a lot of the United States and Canada while growing up; we took car trips to California, Florida and Washington DC, Niagara Falls and northern Michigan.
Dad taught me the importance of self reliance and working for a living. He taught me to save my money (I learned eventually) and how to establish credit. He even took me to restaurants as a young girl so that I would know which fork to use, and how to behave when I grew up and began my own social life.
My daddy showed me that a real man loves and cares for his wife and family, both materially and emotionally. He was proud of me, and gave me self-confidence. Because of his belief in me, I knew that there was nothing that I couldn’t do if I put my mind to it. On the other hand, I also learned that no work was too menial or beneath me, especially if it was required in order to support myself.
I haven’t had my daddy for a long time. He died in October, 1976 after a long illness. I had made it to adulthood, and watched him love and teach my own daughter before he was gone. I’ll never forget him, and will always miss him and think of him on Father’s Day.