It's a crisp, bright late
Fall afternoon. Grandpa and us kids have been raking leaves and cleaning up the yard and
flower beds and now it's time for the fun part to begin. Grandpa brings a few pieces of
wood, stacking them beside the ditch and, using small branches and twigs, gets the fire
going that will consume the red and brown leaf piles of our afternoon's labor. He shows us
how to carefully add armfuls of leaves to the blaze and when the fire is 'going good'
throws on a couple of logs. Grandpa uses his pocket knife to cut several slender branches
from a tree. Then he shows us how to peel away the bark to expose the green wood. We stand
in companionable silence, working on our roasting sticks, while Grandpa nurses the fire
for just the right amount of glowing coals, for it is then that we run to Grandma for the
marshmallows bag. These days we toast marshmallows very infrequently,
but their taste invariably brings this sweet memory to my mind.
My Grandpa was a Gardener. He
would put in six or eight tomato plants and we would have the fruit, big, firm, meaty, as
big as his palm or even bigger, all summer and fall. They put all store bought tomatoes to
shame and you realize just how big a waste it is to buy them at the market. Grandpa's
other gardening pride was the huge cutting garden of gladiolas and dahlias that he had. By
carefully timing his planting schedule and putting bulbs into the ground at intervals, he
was able to guarantee a practically unlimited supply of lovely glads in yellow, orange,
purple, red, white, pink and chartreuse for the whole of summer. Grandma would get out the
tall matching aqua ceramic vases and fill them to take to adorn the alter at Church.
Grandpa and she both loved to 'share the bounty' by dropping big bouquets at friends and
relative's houses on lazy summer mornings and would occasionally press my sister, brother
and me into service as delivery persons.
When I was quite young,
Grandpa helped me and my sister, Susan, to dig holes in the rose garden area, outside the
door from the service porch at the side of the house. We were each given charge and
responsibility for a rose bush. Mine was a lovely Peace Rose, which to this day, is still
one of my favorite roses. We cultivated the earth around our rose, kept errant grass and
weeds from getting too close and most importantly carried bucket, after bucket of well
water from the hand pump on the back door platform, across the grass to all the rose
bushes. Although we didn't, by any stretch of the imagination, do ALL the watering, we did
help with a great many trips to the well. Very necessary work, for it was many years later
that grandma and grandpa got an outside water hose connection. For all the years that the
rose garden existed, the Peace Rose was mine and I loved the ebb and flow of the seasons
and learned well from my Grandfather.
Something else that Grandpa
taught me was to drive. He was a calm, unruffled and patient teacher as we drove the back
country roads for many hours so I would get comfortable with the driving. We went to the
county seat of Maysville when it was time for me to take my driver's test---Which I
failed. But it wasn't the fault of the teacher, it was my nerves that got the better of
me. And Grandpa was so comforting as we drove home and told me I'd do everything right the
Whether it was planning a garden planting, patiently decorating the house for
Christmas or taking in a ballgame of his favorite Kansas City baseball team, Grandpa gave
it his all. He loved life and he loved his Family. We were very lucky to have
him for our Grandfather as he taught us so many good coping skills which we could use in
our life and did so by excellent example.
Daddy with Mama in Tijuana, 1942
Daddy's name for me was
"Little Buddy" or sometimes just "Bud". He taught me to bat a
softball, played catch with me and showed me how to throw a ball the right way and he gave
me a real baseball mitt, already "broken in", showing me how to care for it with
saddle soap and keep it in good shape.
My Dad loved to golf, so I
learned how to hit a ball, keep my head down and follow through. Daddy was a dedicated
fisherman who would go fishing as often as possible. He was a salesman of sporting goods,
during the days when 'salesman' meant much, much more than standing at a cash register and
checking out merchandise with a computer run register. Partly because of his job, he had
one of the largest collections of fishing equipment I have ever seen. Sales
representatives from all the companies, major and lesser known, formed long-standing
relationships with Dad, in his capacity as buyer for the sporting goods department, so
they would be sure that Daddy had all their latest, innovative and new items in the line
to try out. Sometimes Daddy would bring one of these fellows home for a home cooked meal
of my Mama's good food. Daddy was always a friendly, good listener and had great stories
to tell, which probably was one of the reasons he was such a good salesman. He was also a
loyal employee with the same company for many years. He seldom stayed home sick, being
blessed with good health. Most of his work weeks were six days. But on Sundays, he would
head out early for fishing. Most times, by himself, but he'd take one of us girls
occasionally, if we wanted to go. The very first time I went fishing I caught a blue gill.
Dad helped me get the hook out of it's mouth and release it back into the water. He also
taught me to fly cast, and he was very good at the sport.
Daddy was a big fan of the
Kansas City As (and later of the Royals) and the Chiefs but got really mad when they
didn't play well. Mama called him a "Fair Weather Fan", which was
only partially true, because he really cared about good gamesmanship. When he was a
young man, he had played with several ball teams and was considered a very good player.
Then the war came and he married so that pretty much got put aside. He could
cuss a blue streak (as good as Darin McGavin as the father in A Christmas Story), such as
when listening to an exasperating ball game, but was unfailingly tender and patient with
his daughters and my Mother and was liked and admired by nearly all who came into contact
When my brother was born, the
year I was 10 years old, Daddy finally got the ball player, golfer and fellow fisherman to
compliment all Dad's interests and skills that he had offered to my sister and me all our
growing-up years. Never, by any action or word, did Daddy ever
indicate to Susan or me that we couldn't hope to do the stuff he taught us in those early
years. I know he loved us very much and took every opportunity possible to teach us about
the world he knew best. I was lucky that he never thought of me as
"just a girl".
John, father of our two
daughters, has been a good Daddy who shared the duties of childcare from the beginning as
well as it's honors and privileges. Without being asked, he would help to get on little
snowsuits or coats, wash faces and hands, shovel in the applesauce and strained peas, and
yes, sometimes would change a diaper. This willingness to throw himself into fatherhood
really impressed my Mother and (I think) convinced her that I had chosen a
"keeper" after all.
Perhaps being in a household
of three females contributed to the fact that John was a Feminist in the mid-60s. In the
early years of our married life, John's conviction made it clear that he believed women
deserved equal pay for their work, that women should be allowed to do
"untraditional" jobs and be given all the same opportunities as men. He loved to
prick the social consciousness of the more conservative men that he worked with and
laughed about it later.
He has always been a good,
uncomplaining provider of our material needs. Never missing a day of work unless he was so
sick he couldn't stand and putting in overtime hours a lot of times so that I could have
the rare privilege of staying at home to care for our daughters.
No matter that money was
always tight, we budgeted at least one vacation almost every year. John's family had
always taken trips when he was a child and he loves the chance to see other parts of this
country. I have said many times that I was so smart to pick a "travelin' man" to
marry, as we have been nearly every possible direction and destination in our 35 years of
marriage. The trips we took when the kids were little, were, in some ways, the best. We
most often camped in a big, ungainly, 9' x 18' canvas tent, bought for $75 out of the
Sears catalog, that took up a big spot in the trunk of our little Ford Mustang. Everyone
had a part to play in pitching camp for the night. We'd refine the process each night
until, by about a week out, we looked like a well oiled machine. John was the
'time-management' expert, coming up with new and better ways to do stuff. Both Kim and
Debbie still cherish most of those camping memories (except the part to do with outdoor
plumbing---or lack thereof).
If we don't hear from our
busy kids for a few days, John is the first one to pick up the phone and give them a call,
just to say hi and find out if everything is okay with them. I consider myself to be a
very lucky woman to have chosen so wisely when picking this man to be the Father of my
children. HE IS DEFINITELY 'A KEEPER'.