I only have distant memories of celebrating Father’s Day since my dad passed away twenty-nine years ago. He was a good man. Not good in the sense of being religious–heck no. I actually believe at first he went to church because my mom made him, but even more importantly to get a gander of the wondrous hats that the women wore. I’ll admit it–my dad had a hat fetish. For some unknown reason he was fascinated with looking at them. One of the biggest disappointments of his life was when women stopped wearing hats to church.
He was your typical country boy growing up in the Reeds Ferry section of Merrimack, New Hampshire. He hunted, fished, and got into minor trouble. He loved animals, except for his pony that had kicked him a few times. In the late 1920s he bought an Indian motorcycle, that he called “Old Reliable”–it was the beginning of his first love affair.
He was a bit of a daredevil, riding that motorcycle through burning wooden walls. As an avid photographer he captured some of the hill climbs and Gypsy motorcycle tours. He loved flying, and took several aerial scenes of his home town, and up-close photos when Merrimack was devastated by floods in the 1930s.
He enlisted in the Navy when World War II broke out, serving on a mine sweeper. His second and final love affair was with my mother, who he married during the war, and to whose arms he returned safely.
He worked hard. As a matter of fact it seemed like he was always working. Of course those were the days when vacations were beginning to be adopted by the middle class. My father’s idea of a vacation was any day he was able to putter around quietly with his tools in the garage. But my mom always had other plans for him. New Hampshire’s seashore, the mountains, and the lakes were our usual haunts. All the places that my father first explored alone on his motorcycle, he shared with his children.
Dad was famous for his “short cuts,” that weren’t short at all. He was a bit of a practical jokester, and it was not uncommon for him to unexpectedly turn off the main road and start driving through the woods. On these lesser-known hunting trails, the brush and tree limbs would whip across the car windows while Mom complained that we were “heading into the puckerbrush.”
If we kids became too pesky, Dad would send us to the garage to find a left-handed hammer, or some strangely-named tool. We’d spent hours looking for it, and of course never find one.
New Hampshire itself was one thing that awed my father: its beautiful places and the story of the land and its people. He read everything he could find about it, and this was one subject he really liked to talk about. Realize he was that typical Yankee who characteristically spoke in monosyllables, and it is like pulling teeth to have a conversation with them. If a passerby might ask him, “Do you know how to get to ——?” he’d reply “Ayuh” and continue on with his business.
After he retired, my dad’s favorite pastime was canoing. Almost every passably nice summer day he and my mother would pack a small lunch, and bring along their beloved dog. They would delightedly paddle the smooth, cool water of Massabesic Lake in their blue canoe. Returning home, he would relate amazing tales of a new loon nest, a small treasure (aka washed-up debris), or the discovery of a new island where they had lunch.
My father was not a rich man, but he left a rich legacy. Honesty. Humor. Curiosity. Kindness. Love. These are the gifts he left those of his children and grandchildren who accepted them with open hands and hearts. Thank you, Dad.
Now, back to celebrating Father’s Day…. If your dad is still alive, I highly recommend that you give him a big hug and tell him how much you care about him. Think about, and thank him, for the legacy he has given you. Those loving moments are the ones you will both remember–and the ones that will comfort you, when he is gone.
P.S.: Also see Carnival of Genealogy, 26th Edition: “Dads!”
Note: This article was first published on “Cow Hampshire” on Sat 16 Jun 2007.