It might be easier to write about my dad if he fit into a category. Some dads are playful, and fun and teach you to play ball; some are super intelligent and teach you everything about math and science and history; some are go-getters, taking on the world, professional, wealthy, and admired; some are quirky, artistic, moody but unique.So as I write today in memory of my father, I can’t find a category to fit him. Not really.
He was a man of few words, a hard-working man who, with a grade school education, gave us a home, food, clothing and a lot of love. He fixed everything himself; he built everything by hand; he pinched pennies and he knew nothing about raising two girls. Had we been boys we might have known a different man. I’ve wondered about that recently. I grew up in the 50’s and was a girly girl – baby dolls and buggies, play kitchens, paper dolls and dress up. I remember once serving him tea with my miniature china tea pot and cups. He’d have been happier I’m sure to have taught me to hit a baseball or throw a football around the yard.
But instead, he taught me to ride a two wheel bike, how to drive the car, and he put my roller skates on my shoes a hundred times a day when they fell off and I couldn’t use the key. He taught me to fish though he had to bait my hook. He put together a metal swing set with monkey bars and saved me more than once from falling to my death. He took me to the park and pushed me high on the larger swings. He drove us everywhere we could drive in two days and could find a cheap motel. He never complained when I slept through the entire trip on the pallet he made between the back and front seats or when I grumbled about being wakened to see the hot springs or monument or vista.
When I was fifteen he let me wash his car. This was no small thing. My dad’s cars were his pride and joy. Each Sunday after church and the fried chicken dinner he cooked each week, he would wash and wipe and wax every inch inside and out. I had to prove to him I could do it. He had taught met step by step when and how much to soap before rinsing, how to keep it wet until you wiped it down with the chamois, how often to ring it out to the right wetness to do the job with no streaks, how to use an old tooth brush on the rims of the tires, a q-tip along the vents and radio, a clean damp cloth on the dash, newspaper to clean each window. It was a minimum two hour process, but when it was waxed and buffed it looked like new.
Each year my dad put in a garden with endless tomato plants. And every 4th of July, he hand-cranked home-made ice cream in the old wooden bucket and tin freezer. Those became his legacy – tomatoes and vanilla ice cream.
They say I “got” the Poole temper, the Poole eyebrows, thick hair, dark skin, brown eyes, my dad’s quiet reserve. I’d like to think I also “got” his work ethic, his family values, his money management, and his faith. I’d like to hope that he was proud of me in my later years. The one thing I am certain of is that he loved us unconditionally.
(Oh, and dad, I forgive you the habit of driving an extra ten miles to save a penny a gallon for gas! He will understand.)