My Father Passed Away This Year

My father passed away January 4 of this year. He was 93. I hadn’t seen him often for the past 25 years. Short phone calls and emails. Increasingly it would be his wife on the phone because he didn’t hear well after awhile. And often he really wanted to talk with my husband, not me. But I have been thinking about him more often this summer, I knew I would, as I fished and foraged as that was something he shared with me as a kid. (When I am a teacher we always refer to them as children or students but here I can say “kid”) The photo above is a lovely tableau of a few red huckleberries I found while searching for the dewberries shown in the previous posts pie. Huckleberry picking is a big memory for me. My folks would pack my sister and me into the old “56 Buick and we would head up into the Cascades (mountain range) to their favorite sub-alpine lakes where blue and red huckleberries abound. This was back in the ’50s.

I remember him as really big, which is only natural when I was pre-adolescent, and small. He was big in stature, and big in personality, loud, extravagant, boisterous. And he was fun. It was only later I understood the kind of pressure this created in a marriage, and for soft, vulnerable children. I never knew that it wasn’t my fault when he would storm out of the house. Later, I would believe that it was all my mom’s fault. That took some major amends with my mother much later as an adult. And arguments? That was one of his favorite pass times: tricking us into an argument as we grew older, as if shouting was a major merit in his debate. Often this took place during dinner time. We all have distorted eating habits to this day. I didn’t own an official dining table until about 3 years ago.

Yet, the best fish I have ever eaten was a steelhead caught on February 16, 1966 by my dad, cooked over an alder fire in the back yard. This is February, we all had on coats and there was snow on the ground. And those huckleberry jams were the best. You wonder where I got my well seasoned taste buds? All I had to do as a child was ask my father what a certain food was, or what it tasted like and, poof! the next day or next week after payday we would be cooking and eating it. Once I asked him what the difference between pork chops and lamb chops was. We ate them off and on for a week, seven different ways.

He got mad at my mom once because he thought her cooking was bland. She had grown up thinking that herbs and spices were extravagant and kind of like cheating. He had been in the army overseas, many of his mates were from east coast cities, Italians, Eastern European, and Australian. He learned to make noodles, smoke fish and game, for instance. So my mom told him to cook! I will never forget the roasted chicken with half a cup of dried marjoram rubbed all over and throughout. We had to eat it.

During winter months at low tides, which usually happens at or around midnight, he knew the best clam beaches in our area so we would trek out with lanterns, shovels and pails, this was when you could keep a bucket full. My dad loved to whistle and we could hear him going down to the water in the darkness, us kids trying to keep up because on the way to the beach in the car he had told us scary stories about people lost in the waves. We loved the little steamers…..arriving home at 6am, putting the pot of water on, my mother throwing a loaf of garlic bread in the oven, dad making cocoa for everyone. Have you ever dunked garlic bread in your cocoa? for breakfast? One of the best tastes EVER.

My dad had unusual rules for foraging. As we camped out at the Stillaguamish river in the summers there was usually a dairy farm near by where the farmer also grew field corn for cow food. My dad was not opposed to sneaking through the woods to the fields to pick some, which roasted over the campfire was tolerable….even tasty if tough. But he never poached as the fish and game laws became more restrictive in when and where you could find your food. He complained, argued, but always abided. He understood the need to protect nature and how our behaviors should change as the environment changed. He didn’t think we needed laws for that, just common sense. I don’t think he ever made peace with how humans can be so ignorant about what they have.

He was a Republican of course, and profoundly disappointed in three independent, left leaning daughters. Although this scenario was perfect for the aforementioned arguments. When I was 13 we had been in the Viet Nam war for 2 years. My best friend Lane from across the street came over with newspaper articles we should read to know what was really going on and that we could go to a protest meeting in town. Instead of talking with Lane about his fears, my dad told him to go home and told me I wasn’t to hang out with Lane any more. If the saying “we’re going to hell in a hand basket” was ever true, it was for my father. When I think of his pain over our country, some pain I feel as well but for different reasons, I am glad he is at rest in a place where I believe he could have a big boisterous chuckle and perhaps know and understand his kids in a way he never did living.

I am sure there is more to say but I think I will leave you with this photo of my dining room table, the first one I ever bought, three years ago….I am 59.

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8 Responses to “My Father Passed Away This Year”

  1. tomy Says:

    Your dad is/was one of those memorable men in my life, and I mean that in the most positive way. The “Nixon years” and that stupid war was very hard on men like our fathers. It pointedly brought the insane dishonesty that our government is/was capable to the fore-front, in an in your face kinda way for those old “pats”. Not sure if your dad liked me very much, but most caring parents of young ladies didn’t. (I was kind of a monkey) Anywho, very nice tribute to a grand old man.

    • sweetcomice Says:

      Hi
      I can’t tell who you are by your name or address.
      I hope my story is equally positive to the negative. I tried to show that.
      He was so much fun….but then there was the mean guy.
      I learned to figure him out and love what was good.
      That generation had it hard…..but don’t we all?
      Let me know who you are, please? I am glad to know
      someone who respected him. I could learn from that.

  2. kathie krausz Says:

    Georgia, I just re-read your blog, outloud to Pete this time…ya know Pete too had a father he didn’t understand or like until these past 15 yrs…I think all of our parents did the best they could…they had all the same dreams, and disappointments that we have now as adults. Did your Dad ever talk about his time overseas? Maybe he never had “closure” on those horrors he must have seen…anyway, I remember you Dad as funny, and full of life…remember him showing me tricks he taught you dog.But I cried reading the end of your blog…and your kitchen table…Gosh I miss you…
    Hint—the blog tomy…you know him…good friends in HS…TP

  3. Lane Says:

    Georgia, you’ve become an even better writer than the one I so appreciated during our college years. Your dad was a big, loud, somewhat mean guy as I remember him through the eyes of my childhood. Your testimony gave me new insight on the part of him I never new. Of course, I should have known he had a softer side: he produced a wonderful, sensitive, and caring daughter such as you. Very nicely done.

  4. Maggie Wilder Says:

    Georgia, that’s so interesting about the dining room table. A great personal insight.

    It was your father’s golden opportunity to show himself as the loving provider of all that great food, hunted and foraged and bought with hard earned dollars at the Safeway. But he somehow couldn’t let it be swallowed without the taster knowing some of his grief.

    I’m so impressed Lane responded! It just about makes me a believer in social networking. But not quite.

  5. mildred shandra johnson Says:

    oh he had nightmares in latter life he fought his war over asnd over again .now i wonder if his sacrfice was worth what it cost him in health and mind .millie

    • sweetcomice Says:

      Hi Millie
      Thanks for reading and sharing. I know the war had a profound effect on him. Marguerite and Mary both saw the huge change in him when he came home and talked about it with Maggie and me much later. Hope you are doing well. Hoped to see you this last summer. Did you ever make it up to Washington as you had planned? Let me know how you are. Georgia

  6. mildred shandra johnson Says:

    i had hoped to be well enough to make the trip the mind was willing the body was not.i have two flags .one covered him at funeral home and the other at the grave side cermonies.i would like to give you one and maggie the other .there is more .i have been shredding.he saved a lot of his mothers funeral papers dont ask me why i do miss him so much .we were friends who did things together .millie

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