My father…remembered

See the young sailor on the left? That’s my dad. It was back when he was posted to the USS Sitkin somewhere between 1963-1965. I would have been about 4-6 years old then. Little wonder I have so few memories of him. Other than watching TV in the late afternoons. Or going bowling with my mom while I babysit the youngsters. He was usually gone on a ship somewhere. Or skippering a PCB delta boat in Vietnam.

He passed away last night after his last great fight. Lung cancer, emphysema, scars from radiation to his lungs, and who knows what from the war, all contributed to them finally giving out. He was at home, with hospice care for only 2 days before the fight was finally over and his last trouble breath was drawn. 

He was only 16 when he joined up in the Navy. Had to get his parents signiture, if I recall the stories right. He was from a tough neighborhood in Philly and wanted out. Didn’t want to end up in a gang or mob. He wanted to “see the world” and have a better life than what he saw at home.

When I was about 1st grade we lived in a home with lots of fruit trees, including myintroduction to  pomegranates. Dad was learning flag signals. He had navy buddies come over too, to practice all these flag signals they had to learn for work. Semaphores? I helped. Or annoyed, whichever. But I learned them all at his elbow.

worlds fair maybe? Me posing with dad and friends.

Somewhere I still have a small jewelry box he sent me from Japan. It played music and I listened to it endlessly. It has little red tassels on little shiny black doors you lifted open to put your rings in and it was lined with red silk.

I remember him taking me to the beach once, just him and me. He needed to get me out of the way  for some reason. Maybe mom needed some quiet.  Anyway, the reason I remembered it is this. He took me down to the waves and told me to just roll up my pant legs and go in. I was shocked! Go in? I don’t have a bathing suit on! It would get my pant legs wet! I had a scab on my knee! Don’t worry, he says, the salt water will be good on your knee. Don’t worry about the pants, they’ll dry.

It was exhilarating!

We lost touch after he divorced my mom, as many people do. I was 18, my brother only 12, my sister maybe 8. It was bad, as most divorces involving young children are.

But in his later years, after moving away and back and away and back, he started getting in touch more seriously. I need to note, that he almost always sent me a birthday card.  Once I was settled and having children, every year I would get a birthday card and it would say “call me, lets get in touch”.  Sometimes I would, and we would reminisce. I would update him on the kids. 

But for the last few years we were getting together more and more. When Angie, his wife, went to visit her family in the Philippines, we got to see him more  frequently. Maybe twice a month. Dad loved my spaghetti. My favorite day is when he came over for spaghetti and meatballs and we sat together and watched “Avatar”. He liked to come over just to hang out and watch the game on the tube. He loved Avatar and , like 99% of the rest of the males on earth, had a crush on the   girl whatsername, that rode pterodactyls.  Think she was even on  his screen saver. I would take him jars of sauce when I came to visit. After the radiation and chemo, he lost his tastebuds. But he claimed he could still taste my spaghetti, at least for a while.

He also reconnected with my brother and sister, going up to visit them at least once , not too long ago, in Oregon and Washington. My sister, so young when he left, has come down to see him several times and had a chance to bond with him before he was gone and it was too late. She made a point to come down before he passed, to say her goodbyes. So did her oldest daughter with her husband. 

I have one real regret. At least one so far. I have some video that I had  converted from 10 mm footage of our early years together. Dad wanted to see them, but he no longer had a dvd player. Neither did I, not one that worked anyway. I needed to transfer it to disk and he wanted a copy. They are still sitting here, the videos that is. I still haven’t had them transferred. Meant to. But didn’t.

He was a simple guy just trying to make his way in the world. Made some good choices. Made some bad. Kind of like the rest of us.

He is at peace now. I love you dad. Pray for us.


4 thoughts on “My father…remembered

  1. I love you Grampa. It doesn’t seem like we have been close that long but in just a short few years, he was so important and special to me.

  2. Hi Linda,

    I just sat down to read your page and ask how your dad was doing. I’m so sorry to see that he is gone. You wrote a nice memorial to him. I will be praying for you and your family as you process the loss in your heart and mind. Call if you want to chat.

    Your friend,

  3. Your father was a good guy and you have honored his memory with your writing. He was lucky to have such wonderful children. He told me that when we were at Sarah’s wedding. May God welcome him home and ease your families loss.

  4. Linda,
    What a beautiful tribute to you your father and my only brother. I remember a lot of good times with you and your siblings as I was born (unexpected) about the same time as you. He had a daughter and a little sister at the same time. He loved us both very much and we aren both Linda! Let’s stay in touch and keep his memory going! Love, Aunt Linda

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