My father died when I was not quite 21 years old. I had been married and away from home for a little over two years. I never knew him, really, not as an adult anyway. What I have are mostly childhood memories. My mother worked full time, shift work in the Owens Illinois Glass Plant, and was often gone nights, afternoons, weekends. Child care for me, and later my little brother, fell mostly to Daddy, along with my older sister, and aunt. He could make hot dogs for supper, baloney sandwiches for lunch, and canned biscuits and fried eggs for breakfast.
I would tag along with him when he drove around Atlanta, delivering parts to businesses, the Greyhound bus station downtown, or sometimes Lockheed. I firmly believe that is what ingrained my sense of direction, and to this day I can find my way anywhere around Atlanta. Anytime we drove along Peters Street, Forsyth Street, Mitchell or Walker, he would point over to a giant billboard standing in the railroad gulch beyond the old Terminal Station, and say, “That’s where I was born. Right under that billboard.” Of course when I was very young he had to clarify that he had been born at home, not in a hospital, and their house had stood on Elliot Street.
There was another thing he often said when we would drive along Lee Street paralleling the railroad tracks. “One day, there’s going to be a monorail along here, just like they have in Disneyland. And parts of it downtown will have tunnels, just like the subways in New York City. I probably won’t live to see it, but you will.” Lo and behold, since 1979, Marta trains run along there on elevated platforms before entering their tunnels to downtown.
It was Daddy who took my little brother and me to church on Sundays. Oh, he didn’t go to church, but he took us, dropped us off, and then picked us up. But it was Daddy who did come to church the evening I was baptized, because my Mama was working.
And of course it was Daddy who walked me down the aisle at that same church in 1972 when I was married. It was a little over two years later, in July of 1974 that Daddy died of lung cancer.
I could go on and on with little tidbits of memories. What I really wish is that I’d had the opportunity to know my Daddy as a person. What were his hopes, dreams, and feelings? What about his first wife and daughter, the half-sister I never knew? What did he know about my Granny, his mother’s, early life? What was it like during the war when he was gone from home for over two years? What did he really know about Dorothy, the child his mother “got” and raised as his sister? What did he remember about his own father, who died when he was only 11 years old? I get bits and pieces from my older sister and reading old letters of my mother’s. We have the complete collection of letters he wrote to her during the war, but they are fading fast.
Life goes on, and there are some things I will never know, and maybe that’s how it should be. I’m sure I have probably romanticized the memories of my Daddy, but that is all I have. One thing I do know is that in his own way, he loved my mother, and he loved his children. I know I was beloved.
The first was just a happenstance.
So inconsequential as to almost not exist at all.
He was young, so was she, times were tight.
The days, weeks, months marched on, relentless cadence.
That’s just the way it was, back then.
Until there was no more they. And for him, no more her.
The second was so far away she didn’t seem real.
Miles and oceans apart. Months and years.
In two years a pairing could form and love spring forth but
In absence, the heart cannot grow fonder of what it does not know.
Once again, love rebuffed. That’s just the way it was, back then.
And so, for her, there was no him.
The third offered a promise, a hope for redemption. Alas, it was not to be.
Life taken before breath. No whisper, smile, or image to grieve.
Distance and time again, no presence.
‘Twas an unknown essence took her away.
That’s just the way it was, back then.
The third time was no charm. She was gone before she existed.
The gods smiled down and brought another, or so he thought.
For this one, there was no distance of space or time.
She was not spirited away. She was present and precious.
Sugar and spice and everything nice this little girl was made of.
And love grew, as it should have before. She the beloved, he the besotted.
That’s just the way it was back then, that time.