Pic above: Dad's high school graduation portrait. He and the other boys in his graduating class each borrowed the photographer's jacket and tie for their portraits.
I spent a wonderful Friday afternoon at my Dad's house, just talking and being together (along with his wife), catching up on things, sharing memories, being present to one another. I count myself enormously blessed to still have him with us. He was born in 1929 and will be 80 this year. Mom crossed over in 1990, and we all miss her so much; I can't even think of Dad's crossing over without tearing up. I pray he lives many more years; he's had a couple of strokes, which have affected his memory, and as he says, he "can't hear worth a darn." He's been recently diagnosed with depression, probably because of his wife's own health challenges. He mourned so deeply when Mom crossed over and I'm sure he doesn't want to go through it again.
He's always been my hero, my champion, the most hard-working man I've ever known. He always worked two jobs throughout my childhood, rising very early, coming home very late, stopping home for a quick dinner between jobs. I had ballet lessons and piano lessons, one brother had trumpet lessons and a beautiful Besson trumpet, another brother played sports, paid for by Dad's long hours to ensure his family had what we needed to excel in life.
Pic above: Dad's ship, the USS Ernest G. Small. My youngest brother is named for the ship.
Dad's a quiet man with a wicked sense of humor and a multitude of catchphrases that always make me smile. My cousin Patsy's told me that when thinks of him, she always remembers his sayings, like "she looks like 40 miles of bad road."
His mom was half Apache and people can see the Native American in him. I asked him yesterday what his father was; "Good for nothing", he said, and left it at that. His father was an abusive man who did some pretty horrible things to all in the family. I think Dad's quiet strength comes as a result of a very hard childhood.
He loved being in the Navy, he's told me, and loved to be out at sea, away from everyone. I'm so much like him in that way, very comfortable in my own company, not one for big crowds and commotion, very calm and peaceful. I once painted an oil painting for him of a flowing river, because that's what he reminds me of: a smoothly flowing river, constant and calming.
Pic above: Some of Dad's medals and a letter from the Korean government commemorating his service in the Korean War.
As the only daughter, Dad may have spoiled me just a bit. For every ballet performance, he always brought me pink roses. When Mom would get frustrated with trying to teach me to cook or crochet or sew, she'd send me outside with a terse "Go outside and help your father!" My love of gardening developed because of him; I could spend hours digging in the dirt with him. Sweetpeas are my favorite flower because of the abundance of vines he grew against the chainlink fence in the backyard.