Sunday, June 19, 2022

Happy Father's Day Dad...

My dad passed away almost thirty years ago...he was just sixty-five, but the damage done to his lungs from the smoking habit he picked up as a boy in WWII had him tethered to an oxygen generating machine and he was unable to leave his house for the last year of his life, even though he kicked the habit cold-turkey years before. 

He was divorced and lived alone, so his five children took turns in that final year spending the night with him, preparing his middle of the night breathing treatment, trying to make him comfortable, and getting to know him better than we had during all those years he worked so hard to raise us and teach us. 

He wasn't a perfect man, or a perfect father, and he would spend some of his talks with us as we took our nightly turns, apologizing for what he thought were his failings...i'm glad I was able to tell him this: there was never a day in my life -and believe me when i say i was an imperfect son- that I had any inkling of doubt of his love and devotion to me, or that he would give up his life for me in an instant. That to me is the very definition of success as a father, and I told him that if I could just leave my own three children with that knowledge, and the love and peace and security that it imbues, then I will consider myself a success.

It was my turn to take care of him the night that he died, and I was on the way from my Sebring home to his in Belle Glade by Lake Okeechobee, about a two hour drive, when a spell of difficult breathing caused his heart to overwork and give out...That was before everyone had cell phones, so my brothers and sisters waited for me at his house to give me the news, and even though we knew it would happen eventually, when it did it felt like being slammed in the chest by a truck. My sister and brother in law lived close and made it there in time so he didn't die alone, and I know it would have been hard, but I wish I could have been there when he left us. 

I love you, Dad...I think of you, feel you in my heart, and hear you in my mind all of the time when I need your help and am asking myself, WWDD (What Would Dad Do?); I can't believe you've been gone nearly 30 years...but i know I will see you again someday. God bless you and keep you until then.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Up in Smoke...

The little rural two-story stucco Canal Point, Fl elementary school where i attended 3rd-6th grades in the early '60s is burning to the ground at this moment. I had recently written about my Dad and mentioned the old school and its library; here's part of that... ..."so we kids were Dad's hobby, and my interest in shooting, was sparked by a gem of a Canal Point Elementary school library book. I started there toward the end of third grade when we moved from West Palm; there was just one classroom for each of grades one through eight in that old schoolhouse, and coming from a city school i was shocked and delighted that half the kids went barefoot, and the other half was barefoot too after recess. The book was "A Boy And His Gun"; reading it, feeling it, loving it resulted in my badgering dad unmercifully as  I progressed through the BB gun phase until on Christmas morning when i was ten, the most beautiful little Marlin single shot .22 appeared beneath the tree..." 

Abandoned for years, the school caught fire this morning about 2 a.m. and firefighters are letting it burn out while containing it and protecting power lines...what's left of the tiny Lake Ckeechobee farming community of Canal Point is only about two hours from my home in Sebring; I drove through there alone recently and stopped at the old school; at the time I didn't know I guess I do. My Mom left a voicemail for me this morning to let me know about the fire; she had such a sad sound as she told me i didn't need to call her back...and I didn't because i don't really want to talk about it right now. 

Maybe the old school deserves a post of it's own later on...I'll think about it, but right now there is just a dull hurt and sadness as I remember some things about that old school and the people I knew there.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

biff burger...

Came across a story on the old Biff Burger chain today, and it brought memories flooding back...Friday night was date night in our little town of Pahokee, Fl, on the shore of Lake girl and I were 16 and would go to the local drive-in theater in nearby Belle Glade (think Burt Reynolds as Gator McCluskey, though i'm afraid we didn't see much of the movies ;) .Then it was back to Pahokee to hit the Biff Burger for a shake and a sack of fries to munch on as we joined the cruise circuit through downtown, up to the dike (levee) overlooking the lake, and back again in a continuous meandering circle in my Mom's nearly-new 1969 Plymouth Fury III...  That was 1970, and with a baby on the way we were married the following year at age 17 (like i said we didn't see much of the movies), had two girls by age 20 and a boy ten years week on December 18th we will celebrate our 37th anniversary, have four grandkids and a good life in Sebring, Fl, only about sixty miles but a whole world away from Pahokee, and a mountain place in north Georgia. Pahokee is (was) an agricultural town in western Palm Beach County; the sugar cane business is in decline now, and along with it Pahokee and Belle Glade; the Biff Burger closed along with most other businesses in Pahokee long ago, and though the Belle Glade location lasted longer, it too is now history... And what a history it is to us...the Glades Drive-In Theater and the Biff Burger are some of our fondest memories; we will never forget them. Little did we know that we on those Friday date nights in 1970 were some of the last teenagers that would enjoy the pleasures and freedoms of two of this nation's most melancholy memories and cherished in movies and burger joints. I'm sorry they're not around for our kids and grandkids to enjoy...and remember.