(16 Jun 2019)
Today is Father’s Day, huh.
I have two fathers – one who provided his germination, one who raised me after that.
Two Father’s Days come to my mind.
This picture is Mincemeat and me at our co-apartment at Grambling, Louisiana – June 1969.
My father and I went through another one of my innumerable Feminine Protesting arguments. Parents always win these confrontations. As punishment, he ordered me to clean the camper for our coming Independence Day vacation to New Orleans.
While I was cleaning the camper, the wind gusted, slammed the back door, and broke the glass.
What followed never made sense. My father insisted that we bring Mincemeat with us to Catholic Mass. Why would an adult bring a dog to be locked in a hot, humid vehicle on a hot humid Sunday during June in Louisiana? Why? Our residence apartment was air conditioned.
In this Google Maps view: our apartment was that last one – in the back, to the right (we parked vehicles parallel with the building; our camper faced toward the street).
Mincemeat must have been in unbearable fits. He must have tried to get outside, to make it to fresh air. Instead, he cut his lip on the broken glass. Bleeding must have made him more frantic.
I remember as if today. I knelt at the pew after Mass, praying, waiting for my father to decide it was time to go home. I had no idea what had been happening just outside church, at the parking lot a few yards from the door.
My father’s casual time could very well have been the difference between Mincemeat’s life and his eventual death.
Mincemeat was suffering heat stress. We drove to the veterinarian at Ruston. It was too late. The vet told us that the best we could do was take him home, keep him comfortable, keep him cool, provide water or ice chips.
Mincemeat died that Sunday afternoon. We wrapt him in my beach towel and buried him under trees near a place where he and I played at an open field to the west of our apartment, where now there are new homes. Here is a current Google Maps ‘satellite view’ where we buried Mincemeat.
My father travelled cross-country to Sloane-Kettering for cancer treatment in April.
This was the Mahwah, New Jersey, home of my father’s sister where my father was staying. They isolated him from the rest of their family, they dumpt him in their basement – at those windows to the right of the garage door. Gawd! I have not seen this house since 1989.
That house was the scene of years of hate and derision that my father’s family directed toward me each time my father brought us cross-country to visit – 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1983, and finally 1989. I made two serious (unsuccessful) efforts at suicide during our 1967 visit because I just needed to get away, any place. Death seemed more logical than enduring any more of them.
I travelled to visit my father. I arrived on Father’s Day 1989. I stayed with my father downstairs in that basement for the next three weeks, what would be his last three weeks on Earth. I lived in a chair that I brought to his bed-side, my feet touching his feet, giving to him a sense of connection that he was not alone.
My father’s family – his brother, his sister, her husband – sat at their kitchen table just upstairs from the basement, they talked loudly, they schemed ways to steal from his estate as soon as he died. My father heard them. That trio saw my father as their Gravey Train, their Cash Cow, their Golden Goose, their Meal Ticket when he was dying. I asked my father what he thought about his family – who really cares for him, and who doesn’t. Their callous disregard pained him during his final days, having put years of effort into a family that saw nothing of his true value in life.
My father died of cancer at age 62 – in that basement. I was the only family with him; I hugged him as he let go of his final breath. His sister and her husband were upstairs watching TV – their daily soap opera on tape, recorded by their VCR timer from earlier that day. His brother could not be bothered driving the few miles from Hawthorne to visit him more than a few times between April and July.
I was there for my father when my father’s family was not there for him at his most crucial experience.
Now do you see more excuses why his family hates me!
My father committed many bad deeds during his life. I could take volumes to list the harm that he did.
I shall today remind myself and others of his good. We are all human – our bad and our good.
My father was a courageous sailor during the War in the Pacific of WW2. The military plucked him from high school as soon as he turned age 18, they sent him through the usual boot camp, they stationed him for duty supplying combat forces throughout both the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. After the War ended, the military assigned him to the Occupation Force at Japan. The military awarded a ceremonial sword to him.
The Army called him to duty for the Korean Conflict. He again served with exceptional distinction. The Army awarded the Bronze Star to him.
My father took advantage of the GI Bill upon his discharge following his service at Korea. He studied both Engineering and then Political Science (1950s).
My father had a brief career as a drafting engineer for an aerospace company (1960s). Among his work, he helpt design and draw space-craft. One of his products were prototype representations of what would become the Space Shuttle.
My father was a middle school and high school teacher beginning in the mid-1960s. He first taught high school History. He got his Master’s Degree in Mathematics and taught middle school and high school Mathematics for the remainder of his teaching career.
During his teaching career, the National Science Foundation awarded scholarships to him to attend post-graduate Summer education programs at both Grambling College (Grambling, Louisiana, 1969) and Southern Oregon University (Ashland, Oregon, 1970).
My father taught overseas: Pinewood International School (Pylaia, Greece) and The American International School (Sao Paulo, Brasil).
My father was also a school administrator. He was Principal at Ramah Elementary School (Ramah, New Mexico) and Naco Elementary School (Naco, Arizona).
Thank you to the students and members of the Buena Community of Sierra Vista, Arizona, where he spent most of his years as a Mathematics teacher. Thank you who expressed your kind words to his obituary that Doug posted this week.
Thank you who came to read this tribute to my father.
Allow me to say that this goes the other way. With a dose of Karma.
My father rejected me. He had little interest in being father to me, especially as the years passed and he had to have realised that there was no reversal for me.
I never gave up on him as he gave up on me. I was the only one with him when he died 30 years ago; his family rejected him.
I eventually learned that my father told his neighbours that I died. Actually his story to his neighours was not really meant to be malicious; I find it curiously ingenious and endearing. He did not know how to handle me visiting him at his home, me Sharon arriving in my Ford Fairmont driving the same car that me Nick drove. How will he respond when the neighbours ask him about that woman driving Nick’s car? Where is Nick? I learned what my father did when I went to his home after he travelled to New Jersey (April 1989). His next door neighbour approached me, introduced himself, asked me who I was. I introduced myself only as his daughter Sharon, I did not tell him that I was Nick. The neighbour then expressed his condolences – first about the death of my ‘brother’ Nick and now my father’s terminal condition. I thanked him and went about my tasks.
Our parents of we children of the 1950s and 1960s had little idea about Trans. Jorgensen was salacious information to them.
And, as I wrote, our parents were human – flawed at times, good at times.
Google Maps is cool! I located those old haunts there. Sometimes, places are the same, sometimes they are different.
Thank you for visiting today.
Thank you for bearing with my personal reminiscences.
Thank you to the resources.
Be nice to one another. Keep your words and actions kind and decent; no insults, we are better people.
Please return for another essay.
Post Script (18 Jun 2019):
I also posted this same essay to my social media page.
I noticed only one family member bothered to read and check that post. Where are my sister, my father’s cousins, nieces, nephews? I don’t need to imagine; I know the gossip that his niece will spread, that will travel among family during the coming days, then flitter away.
‘Thank you’ goes to you who came to my social media and to here. Some of you knew my father as their school teacher. You expressed to me kind regards about your experiences with my father. Ευχαριστώ πολύ.