I haven’t written much about my dad except for a chapter in my book, “Runaway Horse”. I was thinking about him as I lay in bed last night, so I thought I’d give memory a poke today, and peek once more into who we was. This post is more for me than for anyone else.
Some people have had little or no real connection to their fathers, because of dysfunction, alcoholism, abuse or they were too young to remember them because of divorce or death. I get that, but my father did not fit in any of those categories.
My dad was a pure and simple farm boy who had no more than an eighth-grade education, because when his father died, he had to help his mother manage the family farm. He served in the Army during World War 2, eventually formed a construction business with his brother and later became Superintendent of Construction for the state of North Dakota.
My mother was literally his personal English teacher. He spoke so poorly when they first met, that she would privately correct his grammar to help him.
Dad had a beautiful tenor voice, and grew up singing along with his brothers and sister, as his mother played a pump organ on snowy-cold winter nights, at their farm in Baldwin, North Dakota. He had a winning way with people, and was president of the city park board and the singing group in which he sang, “The Plainsmen”. He overcame his lack of education and at his funeral, the church was overflowing, with the governor of the state in attendance.
The other side of him was that he was distant from me, although my sister had a different take on her relationship with him. Let’s just say he was not a “lovey-huggie”kind of person. Typical of the men of his day, he was more stoic and didn’t show a lot of affection. I can never remember a hug or “I love you“. Don’t get me wrong, he loved me deeply and I knew it. He just didn’t know how to show me. When a hug and telling someone you love them is your love language, like it is for me, it’s a little harder to take when you’re younger.
He died early at the age of 56. We never had a serious conversation, and for a long time I didn’t think about him that much. But later, even now, there’s so much I wish I could tell him. That’s why the David Gates song about his dad, “Everything I Own” holds a particular poignancy for me .
Somehow, my life always comes back to the music.