I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before but today, reading all the "Happy Father's Day" wishes on Facebook got me thinking about the way my life has been -with respect to my Dad.
I never knew him and he only saw me once before he died. I was ten days old when he saw me and a week later he died of stomach cancer. So I had no father to be there for me, beside me, to wish Happy Father's Day to, to celebrate birthdays or Christmas with and many other things that kids in a normal family setting can usually enjoy.
But at least my Dad's absence was not something he was able to step in and do anything about and that -compared to how a whole lot of kids today grow up -makes a lot of difference in the perceptions one may grow up with concerning a parent that is absent.
I did though have a whole lot of surrogate fathers in my life and in that respect, I consider myself to have been extremely lucky.
First and foremost, there was my maternal grandfather and my Mom and I lived with him and my maternal grandmother until he died when I was a little over 12 years old. I adored him!
He was, unlike me, a quiet man -very soft-spoken. His voice, when he sang, was a beautiful bass and all my life, I have always been drawn to men who have deep but low and rather quiet voices. Way back, when I was in high school and was one of the worst organists our church has ever had, I was also the "choir director" then too and I used to make sure the men in our choir who sang bass sat right next to the organist's bench so I got the full impact of their beautiful tones and music!
My Grandpa was also quite a gardener too. Every spring, he planted as large a vegetable garden as our open lots here would/could hold! Potatoes, corn, cabbage, tomatoes, leaf lettuce, peas, carrots, green beans, beets, cucumbers and acorn squash were the items I remember he always had in his garden. He also had a separate patch set aside for strawberries and a nice row too of raspberry bushes along side a couple of currant bushes and a rhubarb patch! And whatever he planted, always did well and grew easily -or so it seemed -for him! Me? I now plant a little bit of a garden in my plot that is maybe 9x10 foot in size or so but in which things sometimes grow -more often than not, they don't do all that well sometimes. But, I keep trying. This year, so far, I have only planted some yellow summer squash, a small row of cucumbers, two short rows of green beans and lettuce, of the leaf variety just like he always grew, of course. I also got 4 zucchini plants this year and got them planted last week so maybe I'll have a little luck with them as they generally seem to grow almost like wildfire for everyone else around here and who knows, maybe they will do okay then for me.
Grandpa also had a lot of flower beds around this place -in front of the house, along the east side of the house, over in the side yard -where he planted all kinds of flowers and they too, like the vegetables he planted year after year, also thrived under his skilled hands. His prize flowers though were a row of rose bushes he had growing in the front of the lot adjacent to our house along with a rose bush that grew along a trellis in front of the sunporch -right by the window there where Grandpa always sat, with the window wide open in the summer and the aroma of roses would waft through the sun porch over the time that plant would bloom. The rose bushes are long gone now -don't really know exactly when -or how -they disappeared, but they did. One of the rose bushes was a yellow rose that he planted and it was supposed to be my rose bush because he knew I loved yellow roses. Doubtful that I will ever try my hand at growing any roses anytime though as my reputation around here concerning flowers is to "Take 'em home, nurse 'em and kill 'em" as my one neighbor likes to say about my lack of a green thumb!
There are two things my Grandfather taught me though and that I do love. He loved to read and passed that love on to me and he also loved history and somehow, he shared that passion with me too!
When I was a kid -about 9-10 years old -one of my Dad's brothers, who was very talented musically -loaned me a fiddle he had that was stored in the attic of my Dad's family homestead so I could take violin lessons from the music teacher we had at our school. Thankfully for Grandpa, his hearing had begun to deteriorate or I'm afraid he might have not been very happy to witness my practice session on the violin! Anyone who has ever had to listen to someone just trying to learn to play that instrument can understand what I mean when I say how terrible the sound and musical quality was that I got out of that fiddle! But Grandpa would sit and listen to me struggling to get even just one note out correctly and not his head then, telling me, "You're doing good, Kid!" My Mom meanwhile was probably searching for something to make her self a set of ear plugs to prevent her from hearing the racket!
In addition though to my Grandpa, I also had some of the very best uncles ever put on the planet who were from time to time, surrogate Dad's to me. My Mom had three brothers -Bert, Ralph and Clarence (aka Cookie) plus both her sisters were married so from them I acquired two more uncles -Albin and Ed. On my Dad's side I had more uncles - Eck (Scottish for Alex), George, Rab (Scottish for Robert), Bill and Arch plus the uncles I acquired via my three aunts marriages -"Hungry," Jonesy and Bob! I never knew my Uncle Bill as he died back in 1930 from a kidney ailment and complications from losing his leg in a mine accident his first day in the mines and my Uncle George, I never knew him either as he lived about 90 miles from here, had a family of 10 children and died when I was five. Of the other uncles though, Uncle Arch was the one who really looked after me the most along with my Dad's sisters -who spoiled me a good bit too whenever they got a chance. Uncle Arch had the sweetest smile of anyone I can think of and came up to about my chin I think! I generally felt a bit like a giant around my Dad's family as they were all very short and also, usually a good bit on the slim and trim side too whereas I apparently inherited my Mom's Swedish genes as I was taller than all my relatives on my Dad's side of the family at a whooping 5'6"! Didn't really take much to be taller than people who ranged in height from 4'9 to 5'4" ya know!
I also gathered others who I pretty much was around enough growing up to consider them to be like father-figures to me too. There was our neighbor 2 doors over -Howard -and our next door neighbor, Cyril, both who had children my age and around my age and I camped at their houses frequently enough that maybe either one of them could or should have been able to claim me as a dependent on their income taxes each year! Cyril and his wife had 13 children -11 girls and 2 boys -and Howard's family consisted of three girls and two boys. Those two families always treated me as much like a member of their family as they possibly could without my completely moving in with them, lock, stock and barrel. They, along with the other families along this road, pretty much treated every one of the kids who grew up on this street though in that same manner. Thus, as an adult much later in life, when Hilary Clinton wrote the book about It Takes a Family - and got so much flack for it too -that I wished I could talk to her and tell her about the neighborhood and the people who lived here, around me then (and now too) to show her how right she was in her assertion about raising kids!
All of those people I mentioned above here are now long gone. My kids only got to know a couple of my uncles but the did get to know Howard and Cyril -my neighbors and they had their own special names for those two men and their wives. Howard and his wife, they called "Little Grandpa and Little Grandma" because one of their granddaughters -who was friends with my older daughter, called them that and for Cyril and his wife, they called them "Pap and Grammie Little!" Pap and Grammie's one granddaughter was married to my ex-husband's brother so, of course my nieces and nephew called their great-grandparents that and as a result then, my kids called them that too! And the neat thing was that in both cases, these people who had treated me like a daughter, also treated my kids like they were also their grandchildren too! So my kids ended up growing up and loving pretty much the same family, the same friends, as I had done too!
So today, on Father's Day, to my Grandpa, my uncles, my surrogate fathers and yes, to my Dad too, wherever you are now, I hope you all are having a grand celebration for Father's Day and that maybe you can somehow touch others on the shoulder to pass along the love and consideration you alway gave to me so that someone else whose Dad is missing can know that caring feeling too, some way!