Tag Archives: fathers’ day

spaces

I’ve been driving across a lot of vast, open spaces in the past few days….the beginning of plains country around Amarillo and the high desert and desert of New Mexico stretching all the way to mountain. Dad has been on my mind. He was about the same age I am now when he died. And I never really knew him. If he could have waited on me to grow up more, to be able to sit in the discomfort that was always between us, we might have been able to have some real conversation, or if not that, that sincere quiet that can reside between two people who love one another. My Dad was a child of the Great Depression, and that marked him all his life. He left home early; by 16 he was off to college and then to the Merchant Marine Academy. He was forthright and opinionated. He drank too much and said things I would imagine he regretted later. It was the saying of those things that put distance between us. They hurt, and by the time I was 8 I moved some place far back inside myself and never came close to him again. But some of my siblings managed better. My late sister Carmen said she always saw him as a hurt, little boy. My brother loved and admired him and has nothing but that to express when my Dad’s name comes up to this day. But me….I missed an opportunity to know him. I couldn’t get past the fear of hurt. So I’m thinking of him as I drive past vast, open spaces because there was a vast, open space between us, and now I’d like it closed.

hey, dad

My father was a peddler at heart. He made his living (and ours) as a captain in the merchant marines, but he would buy all kinds of things (clocks, beer mugs, straw hats, even a pontoon once) and bring them home with the idea of selling them. They always ended in our garage or on shelves in the kitchen. One time he bought a truckload of local watermelons and set himself up as a one-man roadside stand on the highway between our home and another town. My mother was embarrassed. My father was sunburned and didn’t sell any. He was always picking up excess lumber and building materials as he drove around town. Then he’d drop them off at whatever child lived nearest. He had grown up on a farm, and a spring garden was in our back yard every year, as well as as many fruit trees as he could plant. (Since he merchant marined for a living, our mother was the farm hand.) He’s been gone a long time out on that eternal sea. I wouldn’t mind him driving up, walking into my house in his long-legged, restless stride, and then showing me what was in the back of his truck just once more.