Sunday, June 19, 2016

Remembering Dad Today

Growing up there were a number of influential men in my life. My mother was from a alrge French/Italian family. My father had one older brother and no other family except his cousin Charlie who wasn't a big part of his life until after Mom passed away.

My father was a Polish farmer when he was young, his parents having come to this country in the late 1800's. My paternal grandparents met on a farm as field hands in Suffield CT, married and moved to Hatfield, MA where they helped onion and potato farmers harvest their crops. My grandfather died in 1942 of a bowel obstruction. My grandmother passed away when I was very young, but I have some vague memories of her in the old homestead. The picture of my grandfather that hung on the good parlor wall behind the French doors now hangs on my dining room wall with her picture and my Uncle Pete's Army picture. He served in WWII. In my Grandma's bottom dresser drawer she kept some toys and interesting objects for us kids to play with when we visited. I absolutely loved the kaleidoscope that was in that drawer. I could sit on the floor in the informal parlor and look at the ever changing patterns all day. I think I was four when she died.

My maternal Grandfather was pure Italian (he married a French Canadian woman). He was one of eleven surviving siblings. Growing up, my sister, brother and I spent a lot of time at Grandpa's house when Mom was frequently in the hospital. He had remarried (my grandmother, Betty, died when my Mom was 13-years old, so Gramp remarried to give her and my Uncle Bob a new mother, and to start a second family.) He was a truck driver for Kendall Mills, driving trucks up and down the road between the two huge mill complexes. He was an amazing oral story teller. He always had stories to tell us when we visited. I think it was from him that I inherited my ability to write. I'm quiet by nature so my way of telling a story has always been to write it down. He was riotously funny, knew everyone in town and the surrounding villages and towns and knew everybody's business to boot! He lived on a mountainside (which is probably why I live on a mountainside) and took us berry picking when he'd get home from work (the factory let out at 2PM. He'd get up at 4:30AM, make Gram a cup of coffee, have his breakfast, and walk to work. At noon Gram would load us into their station wagon and deliver his lunch and thermos of Postum to the loading dock. Sometimes he was sitting on the lowered tailgate of his truck. Sometimes we had to wait for him to come out through the screen door. He always had a huge smile for us, and a story about something that had happened that morning. This was the 1960's. Everything at the factory was regulated by the whistle- starting time, lunchtime, quitting time. The village post office was in a building at the front of the mill, so we'd run over there to get the mail out of the little box with the window and the brass faceplate. I was fortunate enough to introduce our daughter to Grampa (she called him Big Grampa and my Dad Grampa). He loved kids and adored his little blonde-haired great-granddaughter, taking her for a walk to the mailbox (now at the top of the steep hill up to his house but down a long driveway, teaching her to chant, "All checks, no bills!" as she carried the mail back to the house. He really got a kick out of that! She still has the bright yellow "moon" ball they played with- I asked for it after he'd passed away and my Aunt Anita gave it to her (she was Kelly's godmother) to remember him by.

My father always worked long hours. He held a number of jobs but was hired at Hamilton Standard the year I was born and worked there for over 35 years in various departments. he retired as an FAA inspector when Kelly was around three years old. My Dad was a friendly, happy-go-lucky guy with a big heart. He was always willing to lend a hand. He worked second shift so would pick us up from school and then "mosey along" to work, about an hour drive from home, getting there for 4PM. He got out of work at midnight, but often worked four hours overtime. When my family was down to one car Dad carpooled with other guys from town to work, and Mom roused us from our beds at 3AM to go pick up Dad in Windsor Locks, CT. It was always exciting to get woken up and take a drive at the witching hour in our pajamas through backroads. Hamilton is located across from Bradley Field, now Bradley International Airport, so we always got to watch planes coming and going  while waiting for Dad to come out of the factory. On the way home Mom would stop at Dunkin Donuts, Dad would go in and buy a dozen donuts and we'd eat them when we got home at five o'clock. Often, Mom would tell us to go back to bed on those mornings and then call us out sick. We'd all sleep in.

When he had his car back on the road he'd get home at 5AM, sleep a couple hours, get up, have breakfast with us, drive us to school (this was after Mom went back to work), then come home, grab some more sleep, have his lunch, pick us up at school and go back to work. Reflecting back he must have never gotten adequate sleep but he was never grouchy or irritable. He was always smiling and doing goofy stuff, like putting on a hat, running a yardstick up the back of his shirt into the back of the hat and then "flipping his lid" with a big grin on his face! When we were kids and he was painting he always gave us a soup can of water and a paint brush so we could "help him paint."

He was a wonderful grandfather. He and Kelly had so much fun together. My Mom passed away when Kelly was 9. Dad survived 11 more years and often came to our house for dinner and holidays.

I wish he was still with us. He would have gotten such a kick out of the fact that his granddaughter is now working at the same place (Hamilton Standard is now United Technologies) he worked for so long. He would be so proud of her! He was alive for her high school graduation when she graduated third in her class, but did not make it to see her graduate with both her Bachelors and Masters in four years from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

I miss him on Father's Day, holidays, his birthday and when there is something new and exciting to tell him. He knew I wrote stories, and he read them in manuscript form on copy paper, but he did not live long enough to see my books in print. I think he would have cried about that knowing how long I've been writing and how often I put off trying to get published because raising Kelly was top priority in my life because her Dad was working 65-70 hour weeks.

I'm fortunate to have had some wonderful male figures in my life- and grateful for the qualities and traits I inherited from these amazing men.

Happy Father's Day Grandpa and Dad! Miss you both so much!

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