As I contemplate my own fatherhood on Father’s Day, awaiting a luncheon with darlin’ daughter, son-in-law, and grandbabies, I can’t help but think about my father. I don’t have enough memories…I’ve now outlived him by ten years. He died when I was twenty-six as I was just beginning my own pathway to adulthood, a sometimes twisting, bumpy pathway that he might have been able to smooth and straighten out.
“Foss” was a small man who, at least in my own memories, cast a much larger shadow…a shadow that gets larger as I get older I’m sure. He was five feet six in his shoes but now seems much taller.
A member of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”, he left my mother to be and went off to fight fascism and militarism with MacArthur’s army in the Philippines. Like everything he did in his life, he did it the best way he could, with a wrench in his hand instead of a rifle, keeping landing craft afloat and moving troops and material to the beachheads. Not very heroic or as flashy as a Thompson sub-machine gun but just as necessary.
After the war, he made a living the same way, with a wrench, as a loom fixer for Spring Mills, toiling in grease, lint, and heat. I still have the thirty-year pen he proudly wore on his suit coat lapel. He and my mother provided a home and everything that was necessary for my good life…not everything I wanted, but everything I needed. A good life I find myself meandering back toward as I approach my own autumn years.
I’m most proud of the way he treated my mother…yes, they had their battles, she was a red-headed Scot-Irish lass and had the stereotypical temper to go with the hair. Her explosions were thunderclaps that abated quickly, and Ernest usually absorbed them stoically. I was always surprised when he didn’t…whether it was reacting to her or something stupid that I had done. While I never heard him say it, I’m sure he loved her.
Later, when she was diagnosed with ALS, he was there. Physically and emotionally, he supported her every way he could while attempting to keep body and soul intact. He didn’t do it alone, but he was there for us all and I’m proud of his efforts.
I shouldn’t make this sound like our relationship was idyllic…there were moments, especially after he remarried. I have a note he left me, a cherished bit of memorabilia. It stated simply, “The lawn mower has been in the front yard for a week. Either use it or put it up.” He was a man of few words and actions did speak louder than words…although when he sat me down for a “talking to” I would have rather he just hit me and get it over with.
It’s been forty-eight years since he died, literally in the cotton mill he worked in. I remember the phone call from my brother. Like most sons, there was much I wish I had told him when I had time…I just didn’t take the time. I did receive a bit of closure. In a codeine-fueled battle with pneumonia, he came to me in a dream. With him sitting at the foot of my bed we talked. I was able to tell him things I had not. I was able to tell him I loved him. The dream was too real to have just been a dream.
Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM