Saturday, June 10, 2017

Memories of My Dad - An Early Father's Day Memoir

Thinking of Father's Day next week brought a mountain of memories to my mind today which was wanting to be shared. Here is an early Father's Day post!
My own poetry about "Dad" illustrated in ink and watercolors. Prints available in my Etsy shop.

What are your cherished memories? Perhaps some people don't have happy family memories to hold on to - only grief. Perhaps some have not been blessed with a dad or even a mom. Knowing that orphans and other children who have had troubled pasts brings sorrow to my heart. There are no perfect families nor are there any perfect parents in the world. Each of us has their own story of happinesses and woes, to be sure. Perhaps you have a delightful memory or two to share?

Here are some memories of my dad - Leon (or Lee as my mom and many others called him)  - and where I got my middle name "Lee" from. I have to apologize, though, as I don't have a flood of photos to go along with all my memories.

My dad was a firefighter for most of his adult life. Before marrying my mom, he served in the Army in World War II in England. He met my mom while working at Lawrence General Hospital in Lawrence, MA. He was an x-ray technician at the time and my mom was a nurse. Christmas Day 1961 he started working for the Burlington Fire Department. He became part of the scuba team and their purpose was to search for drowning victims. A nasty and eery job it was swimming through dark waters waiting for the moment you'd reach out and feel the clammy skin of someone's loved one. That was how he described it.
His fire helmet hangs on my kitchen wall along with two photos of him at work
When he would drive home from work at 6 pm, us four kids (my youngest sister wasn't in the story then) would walk two streets over from our house waiting by the side of the road so he could pick us up!
Here he is at the old station standing next to an antique fire engine (on the left). One of his co-workers had a museum at his home in Burlington that contained many firefighting memorabilia.

Here he is having a little bit of fun as he and his co-workers were testing out the new foam extinguishing equipment. There's some foam on his raised hand.
When I was born, my parents were living in a trailer in North Reading, MA. This kind of a trailer didn't have a bathroom, okay? And it wasn't a large trailer. Apparently I would cry a lot and dad asked if they could take me back to the hospital! I don't think I would have liked to live in a camping trailer and take care of a fussy baby either! Would you? I don't blame him for saying that! 😃
When I was still a baby, dad's father passed away and we moved into the Burlington house to live with his mother. That was the same house my grandfather built and where my dad was born. Here is the front door from that house. It came with us when we moved to Canada. It reminds me of my dad and the memories of that little house on Wellesley Ave.
Here's a photo of the red door from the Burlington house gracing the wall of our dining room.

Even though his work schedule caused him to miss some Sunday and mid-week services, he was very active in our church - singing in the choir, helping out with ushering, with the sound system, and doing trustee duty. He would take time off during Missionary Conference week - he loved being there for hours ready to help out with the many sessions and services and talking with the missionaries (much to the dismay of my mother when she needed him to be at home more). When he had trustee duty, I enjoyed walking around with him after the church services while he checked all the doors and made sure everything was secure.

He loved to read books. Always read his Bible and was a witness for the LORD. In church, he was usually the second man who participated in Sentence Worship and always quoted Psalm 40:2. He knew the LORD had washed his sins away, pulled him out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

He was a pianist. Loved classical music - played very well. Always had Boston's classical radio station playing at home (WCRB). One of his favorite classical records he'd listen to was Victory at Sea. I love that one, too. And I'd listen to WCRB on my old radio (the kind with the tubes) while laying in bed at night. Dad, as we called him (Daddy if we siblings were referring to him), loved playing the piano at home. He had a favorite "ditty" he would always play. I have NO idea what it was called. My sister, Cindy, remembers it also and is trying to write it down so we can play it someday. She has more talent in that area than I do. So, I'm leaving it up to her to finish it soon! Hint! Hint!

For a time (don't know how long) he was involved in a particular men's ministry. He and several other men, including my sister-in-law Bonnie's dad, Wally, would go into Boston - maybe once a month? - to the Pine Street Inn - a place for homeless men to stay - and they'd have an evangelical meeting. Dad would accompany on the piano while Wally would lead the singing and someone else would preach. Perhaps Bonnie would remember more details as she's older than me. 😉 He brought us kids there once in the daytime so we could see the place when there weren't any men around.

Summer vacations involved swimming and climbing mountains. We all learned to swim. We stayed at a friend's cottage in New Ipswich, NH on Pratt Pond (MacLeod's camp) a couple times and brought along our masks and snorkels. Not sure if dad had his scuba gear at that place, but if so, it was needful of us to swim on top and follow him around the pond - for his safety. And for fun, too!

Two vacations were especially exciting at mom's Uncle Fred's camp in Moultonborough, NH on Lake Winnepesauke. Daddy would bring his scuba gear along and of course, we'd have our masks and snorkels, too. He showed us how to keep the masks from fogging up by first spitting on the glass and quickly swishing the spit out with lake water. Again, we would always follow him around while he swam underneath. Once I tried diving with the tank on my back. Being a youngster and a lot smaller than him, the tank moved around too much and hit the back of my head. But it was fun to breathe under water!

Late one Sunday evening after church, we kids were all dressed in our red pajamas and it was announced that we'd be going on our vacation that evening to Jefferson, NH instead of the next day. Driving during the night! We were so excited. We were running amok through the house! At that time, we had a dark red VW van. My brother, Alan, and I slept together in the way back - of the van. At one point in that journey up north, dad pulled to the side of the road because he had hit a porcupine - I think he only bumped it - because there were quills on the road and the porcupine was still alive. Concerned for the animal, he got out of the car and clapped his hands - cautiously - to get the animal to move off the road! Thankfully, nothing happened - no quills were shot through the air at daddy!

A few times he took me flying with his friend, Ralph, who had a four-seater Cessna plane at the Lawrence Airport. He loved flying and had taken flying lessons for a time at the small airport in Tewksbury, MA. A couple times we flew to Jaffrey, NH and stopped for an ice cream. Cindy came once or twice with me. One time we flew over Boston and landed on Martha's Vineyard. Alas, my only claim to fame of visiting Martha's Vineyard was that I only saw the airport! Never ever went there any other time to see the beauty of that island. We ate at the little airport restaurant and I can STILL REMEMBER I had a BLT! Can you believe it? There are some things in life I can remember vividly and others are just blank gaps!

And then there were the very important aspects of my life that he was a part of - walking me down the aisle on December 20, 1975. I remember him reminding me which foot to start with so we would be insync to the music.
Leaving early for church for a 4 o'clock wedding. It was already snowing!

Walking down the aisle to The Bridal March.

In 1979 I needed to have my wisdom teeth out. As Bill had already gone to work earlier in the morning, dad was available to bring me to the hospital for the extraction of four teeth - day surgery, it was. As I got out of the car, he said, "Have fun!" What a thing to say to your daughter about her impending surgery! 😒

Both dad and I were taking piano lessons from Tom Berdos (yes, more lessons - again - you can never learn too much or stop learning -  even as an adult!) and the day I was in labor was the day of my scheduled piano lesson. Dad was asked to call Tom to say I wasn't going to make it to my lesson! 😞

When I gave birth to our dear daughter, Melody, he came to visit me in the hospital the next day and told me he was glad I had a girl! 😀 Alas, he didn't live long enough to see all his grandchildren or to walk my youngest sister, Heidi, down the aisle. Tears flowed that day - his absence was truly missed.

Melody was six years old when dad passed away from cancer. At that time, he had three granddaughters - my Melody - and Cindy's girls, Holly and Audra. Audra was just two months old. He has missed knowing the four dear children my sister, Heidi, has now. And six great grandchildren. He was almost 67 when he went home to be with the LORD. If still alive, he would be 93 this August.
This photo was taken two years before his death in 1991. Melody (on the left) would have been four and Holly (my niece) several months old in this photo.

He loved kitties as much as I do and there was one little black kitty called Sweets who lived a long life in kitty years. Daddy loved her and she him, and the day before he died, Sweets disappeared. I think she knew he was leaving this earth soon just as she was about to. Some cats will disappear and go off to die by themselves when they know their time is up. 

This beautiful hymn by Virgil P. Brock graces this photo of dad.
 I miss him still - waiting for the day we are reunited.

Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning,
When with our Savior heav'n is begun.
Earth's toiling ended, O glorious dawning;
Beyond the sunset, when day is done.

Beyond the sunset no clouds will gather,
No storms will threaten, no fears annoy;
O day of gladness, O day unending,
Beyond the sunset, eternal joy!

Beyond the sunset, a hand will guide me
To God, the Father, whom I adore;
His glorious presence, His words of welcome,
Will be my portion on that fair shore.

Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion,
With our dear loved ones who've gone before;
In that fair homeland we'll know no parting,
Beyond the sunset for evermore!

I'm sure I'll think of other things I should have mentioned after posting this memoir of dad. But I leave you with this verse - most likely his favorite, which I mentioned earlier that he always quoted.

"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." Psalm 40:2

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