Dad. At the end of WWII while he was a pilot instructor with the RAF.
This week lots of people are writing about their fathers so I thought I’d do the same. As far as the world knew Dad was never anything extraordinary. As far as he was concerned the world was right. He was however for all of us absolutely dedicated to providing what his family needed before he ever thought of getting anything for himself.
In the picture you see him in uniform when he was back in Scotland at the end of the war working as a pilot instructor. He never actually got into combat and unlike a lot of others he always said he was happy about that. He also loved flying but at the end of the war he went back to plumbing when he could have gotten work as a pilot, because at that time he could earn more that way. Much, much, later I got my pilots licence and we went flying together a few times. At that point he had been out of the cockpit for over 40 years but the fact is he could still handle the plane better than I could.
Dad didn’t finish high school but dropped out at 15 and took his apprenticeship. That of course wasn’t anything very unusual at that time. He did teach me though that even though a man might not have a great deal of formal education he could still open up the world if he only maintained his curiosity. Besides his flying and plumbing he, over the years learned so many different things it’s hard to remember them all. Auto mechanics, watchmaking, birding, boating, scuba diving, management. After his retirement he started traveling and developed a liking for Cuba so he set about learning Spanish in his seventies. One of our common family outings every week was a trip to the local library where we all loaded up on books and he helped turn the whole family into lifelong readers, perhaps the greatest gift he ever gave us.
Dad wasn’t a particularly large man. About 5’10” and weighed about 180 for most of his adult life. He was however a particularly strong man. When I was 14 years old one of our neighbours locked himself out of his house. Charlie came over to our place and asked if I could help him get in. The plan was for him to boost me up through the kitchen window which was open but about six feet off the ground and then I’d go and unlock the door for him. Away we went and everything was going pretty well till I lost my balance on the ledge of the window. Charlie trying to catch me managed to sort of keep me from falling but in the slide down the wall I stuck my bare foot through his cellar window getting several deep gashes in it. We were at the side of the house lying on the ground while friends tried to stop the bleeding and I have no idea who went and got dad. He looked at the foot and determined that it required stitches meaning a trip to the hospital. I recall telling him I’d wait there till he went and got the car as we had to drive right past Charlie’s house to get out of our street anyway. That however wasn’t the way it was going to be. Dad picked me up like a child and carried me the 100 yards down the road to home. We know it was 100 yards because several of us jocks had measured out our entire street so we could time ourselves at different length runs. I know I weighed 120 lbs that year cause that was the weight I had been wrestling at. When we got to the hospital he again picked me up and carried me in and only when our family doctor showed up did he leave me to go park the car properly. Later, again much later I thought about that little tote he had performed and asked him about it. He replied as usual. It seemed at the time that that was what you needed.
By the way if anyone wants to try that go ahead and carry 100 lbs for 100 yards. Let me know how you make out.
In this day and age when so many fathers are absent from their children’s lives. In a society that seems to never value anyone beyond the size of their bank account, and when so many parents care more for their own desires than for their children’s needs I realize how extraordinary my dad was.
Dad has been gone for a few years now but never forgotten as long as any of us are left around here.