Dad and stories never told.

My dad, Alvin, grew up on “the river bottom” in a small town in western Missouri. His father was a very tall farmer and his mom was very short. There were seven boys and three girls. Some of them grew tall like the farmer, but not my dad.
Old photographs reveal ruggedly handsome young men and three comely young women.

I know little about his childhood. His father called him the little ‘pepper pot’ or the “squib.’ He was nicknamed for those firecrackers because of his hot temper and short fuse. It was apparent to me from the few things dad did say that he and my grandfather did not see eye to eye on much. Dad wanted to go to school but his dad wanted him to work the farm. Grandfather was a stern disciplinarian and very demanding. Dad was not one to shirk his duties, so when his father said “no,” he set aside his desire for education and worked on the farm. However, resentment grew in him, especially after his mother moved his sisters to a house in town so that they could attend high school.

In 1918, Dad’s brother, Tecumseh, a soldier away serving his country in World War I, died from influenza. He was five years older, and I sensed that he might have been dad’s favorite sibling. Dad was never consoled.

Angry and grieving, Dad packed up a few necessities and walked away. He kept moving on. In 1927, at the request of his mother, he returned to Missouri and farmed cabbages and other vegetables long enough to put his beautiful sister Lillian through College. Then the wanderlust called him away once more.

In 1934, he met my mama, a 19-year old itinerant worker, in a Hop Field near Independence, Oregon. Because she was engaged to another fellow dad asked, “Can I throw my hat in the ring?” That was the day he stopped traveling. They got married by a justice of the peace then spent their wedding night at the home of their employer. When they entered their ‘honeymoon’ room, a log lie neatly under the sheets in the middle of the bed. In the morning, they replaced the log just as they had found it.

Fortunately, for me they weren’t successful at birth control – I was their eighth.

Dad was 5 foot 7 inches. His size belied his strength, however, as he was all wiry sinew and muscle. He could do the work of two men, and did. Our small farm was his second full time profession. His first job, and the one that paid, was as a construction laborer. He was never afraid of any man or of any situation. He was tough.

Although he only had an 8th grade education, dad was scholarly and intelligent. I remember him sitting in his rocking chair late in the evening with his reading glasses perched near the end of his nose. Newspaper, magazines, and whatever books he could acquire would be scattered around him under an old lamp light. He would have nodded off to sleep from exhaustion by the time mom scooted me into bed.

As a small child I followed my dad around the farm wearing an old cap. He called me Pamaloogee, and other times he called me Shorty. As I grew older Dad and I did not see eye to eye on much. Perhaps I was a lot like him and the nickname “shorty” referred to my temper and the length of my fuse.

I was 25 years old when dad passed away. He was gone before I realized that I needed a relationship with him.

Now that so many years have passed, I find myself grieving again. I’m missing all the father daughter talks we never had. I am curious about all those places that he went and all the people that he met there. I wonder why he wandered, what events he witnessed, what thoughts they spawned, and what motivated him to keep moving on.

I lament for those stories, gone forever, never told.

Comments

Karmyn R said…
sniff sniff....you were Amanda's age when he passed! That is sad.

I remember pumpkins, tomato worms, promised trips to get candy, standing on the chicken shed, a trip to Missouri, and being his favorite grandchild!
willowtree said…
Hey, a new blog to read! Thanks for stopping by mine. It's late Thursday night and I'm about to go to bed so I'll come back and read some tomorrow. The pictures are great.
Walker said…
That Lillian surely does have a fetching face! So pretty. (That IS Lillian with the ringlet curls?)

Loved your family story. So young when you dad died. So sad.
willowtree said…
Some amazing similarities here, my dad was 5'7" and was forced into a career he didn't want by his father. I was forty when he died and even though we had a good relationship, he was always silent on the places and things he had seen during the war. I'd like to have known more.

Its pretty unusual that the girls were given an education but the boys weren't.
Mike said…
Well done--i feel some of the same--i rode to work with him for two summers--three months each time--we were both alike and different--i am partly mom!! he was a hard man in many ways!! but he had to be--but he was loyal and the family was first--he had periods of depression--followed by anger-he knew he could have done more with his life--He was extremelry proud of his children's sucess. I know my divorce was hard on him-- I am not as hard but i am a 'nose to the grindstone' man BRo-Mike
Brandi said…
Thank you for sharing this. These reflections on your Dad really touched me. I have really enjoyed reading your blog.
Bonnie B said…
I absolutely love your blog! You can tell a good story. What an interesting family you have.
Ron said…
Pam, Dad would be eating dinner and somthing would trigger a memory. He would proceed to tell a story or incident that he had experienced in his wanderings. I wish that I could remember more of them for some details do come to mind. Perhaps I should write what comes to mind down but who knows when that will be. RAW
Malissa said…
aww! your post made me teary eyed!

Why is it that we don't realize until it's too late how much we needed people or wanted to know about them!
rose said…
Pam I just read Dad and Stories never told I wish I could do more pics like you do. I loved your story Rosemary
Robin said…
Pamela....How did I miss this before? I'm looking for something else...finally getting around to Fun Monday, and I came across this and thought.....HOW DID I MISS IT? It is so lovely!

I understand your sentiment towards the end...I'm glad you've recorded this for your children. It matters. And I understand how you can grieve again after all these years.

Oh, and a smile here...looks like Peter had just found you and his comments are so NICE, lol.

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