Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day 2011

My father (on the right) singing with my Uncle Mooney.

This photo was taken in Chicago, Illinois about 1952

“Father’s Day 2011”

by D.A. Taylor

My father died in 1978. He was only 53 at the time of his death. He was far too young to die but he had been on the other side of cheating death for years like many of his generation. He smoked and he was overweight. He was a printer (Lithographer) by trade. By the time he died, I had been married for 12 years. He lived long enough to enjoy the birth of his two grandsons but he missed the birth of his granddaughter in 1980.

Dad was born the ninth of eleven siblings in Illinois. He was raised in a strong Catholic family. He was raised in the hardscrabble times of the depression. His father worked for the Burlington Railroad, as did many depression era men who lived in and around Chicago.

My father was a member of the “Greatest Generation” as Tom Brokaw would say. He was a U.S. Marine during World War II. I have some wonderful black and white photographs of him in uniform. He was honorably discharged in 1946, the year I was born.

He and my mother provided for me with a comfortable, happy life while living in La Grange, Illinois. I was raised with substantial middle class values and was taught to respect the laws, my teachers and other adults.

But that isn’t the reason that I am writing this to honor my father this Father’s Day. I write it for another reason. A reason that goes deeper than my father’s personal history. I write it because of the examples my father set for me. I learned from my father. I learned things that I still use to this very day.

I learned the love and sound of music from him. From the very beginning of my memory, my closest, most favorite uncle, and my father would sing in fantastic harmony during Friday or Saturday night card games at our house.

I remember those card games for the beauty of their harmonic sound. I learned about Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and of course, the great Ella. I learned about the Dorsey Brothers, and who was to become my favorite bandleader of my father’s era, Glenn Miller. I still love “Moonlight Serenade”.

My uncle Myron (Uncle Mooney as he was called) was like a second father to me. He helped to raise me. He was my father’s “look out” and would check on me when I was in my early teenage years and wanting to experiment with things that all teens experienced in those years.

The years 1957-59 was a different time for young teenagers then. For example, one time some eighth grade friends and I decided to bring neighborhood girls to my house after school one day because I knew that both of my parents would be at work. We didn’t know what to do with these girls but we knew we would be alone in the house with them.

So there we were, three eighth grade boys and two or three seventh grade girls getting ready to do something under the presumed protection of non-parental supervision. What we were going to do, we didn’t have a clue, but something was going to happen. Suddenly, we heard a car door slam from the driveway. Immediately there is pandemonium. Everyone yelling/whispering to everyone else (especially the girls) to “Hide!” or “quick get into the closet!” the front door to the house opened and in walked my Uncle Mooney. His face stern and grave.

Then, the proverbial question from him: “What’s going on here?” to us. There were no girls in sight. Uncle Mooney then proceeds to have me escort him to each and every closet where a girl was hiding. One by one he tells the girls to leave the house. With one of his stern looks I know what he is thinking.

As far as I know, he never told my parents of that episode with the girls. I never heard anymore about the incident. I will never know. But I do know that his actions spoke louder than words. He taught me that he understood the complexities of being a teenager at 13 or 14 and the mistakes that they make have to be faced only by reflection.

Our family was one of thousands who moved to California in the mid-fifties. We settled in Orange County. At the time, homebuilders couldn’t build homes fast enough and our town became known as a “bedroom community”. Our home was the center of my universe. There was music, card games, back yard Bar-b-ques and friends. Many friends. And, ‘ere I forget the endless amount of time spent at Disneyland. You see, my mother worked for the Disneyland Hotel and we got in to the park for free. I spent my summers on Tom Sawyers Island. It was as close to living the “Mark Twain” Mississippi life as I could get.

I remember many of my friends saying that they came to see my dad, not me. He was very funny. I learned humor from my father. He was one of the funniest, most clever men I knew. He could ad-lib with the best of the TV comedians of the day. His timing was precise and he could deliver punch lines effortlessly. He was truly gifted in that social grace.

One of the lasting gifts from my father was my learning to work with wood. We were always doing something with wood around the house. Building patio roofs or installing custom made cabinets in the garage to working with lathes on more intricate, precise, detailed projects. He taught me to not only use tools but also to take care of them. He always said, “Take care of your tools and they will take care of you”. I am sure he got that line from Sears Craftsman Tools because he swore by Craftsman.

As a result of my time learning from him (over a span of about five or six years), I had acquired enough working knowledge to work with wood in almost all stages of construction. I went on to use this knowledge in all of the homes that I have owned and I managed to build my own mountain cabin using my fathers old Craftsman Table saw. Who knew such a gift would be so useful and long lasting?

Through all of my short time with my father, the most important thing he taught me was how to be a father. He taught me by example, that a gentle soul can be strong and caring. He taught me that support of family was essential. He taught me love of family and confidence of self. Without his love and guidance, I would not be the man that I am today. I am proud of him and I wish he were still here to meet his great grandson and future great grandchildren yet to be born.

Although he died in 1978, he has been with me every day of my life.

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