My Practical Father (Not Always)

My father was born in 1928, and the memory of the Depression is imprinted on his decision-making.

When he has a color choice, he goes with “brindle brown” because it’s practical and doesn’t call attention to itself.  Until I actually looked up this color, I thought it was a term unique to Dad.  And I figured it meant something like “shit brown.”  Now I see that it really means spotted or streaked like an animal’s coat or like the word piebald.  I suspect that my father’s meaning is closer to what I had originally thought, rather than a dog’s sleek brown fur.

I’ll go a step further and assume Dad probably picked up that term in the Army.  Since he was raised by a single mother, Dad’s true “finishing” came from his fellow soldiers in the Korean War.

Dad’s always hated the color black.  It’s impractical–shows dust and lint.  He doesn’t like lavender either.  His mother wore the widow’s weeds of black and lavender, so maybe there is an emotional terrain underneath the practicality.

When I was younger, men owned small leather grooming kits for travel.  They were sometimes called Dopp kits, although Dopp was a name like Kleenex, an actual brand name.  My father’s was brown, and if somebody gave him a black one as a gift, he wouldn’t use it.

His brief case was brown, not black.  So was his squeeze-type coin purse, back in the days when men carried those.

For the past thirty years he’s carried a brown leather magnetic money clip.

images (2)His belts are brown and not black.  And certainly not khaki canvas or burgundy leather and they don’t have a big turquoise-studded buckle.

My father looks practical and shops with a practicality born out of that Depression upbringing.

But don’t be fooled by how he looks.  When a friend or an acquaintance would show up with something to sell, Dad would buy it, no matter how impractical.  He bought things like:

  • An old non-working violin he was told was a Stradivarius (it was not)
  • A silk Oriental rug (beautiful, but impractical)
  • An old motorboat much too heavy for the motor that fit the boat (it never worked right, but I was still light enough that I could water-ski slowly off the back of the boat)
  • An abacus when I started 4th grade (so I could do division on it)

You get the idea.

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My dad is sick in the hospital right now, and the doctor isn’t quite sure what’s wrong.

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Do any of your characters (or real life relatives) contain contradictions?

18 Comments

Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Research and prep for writing

18 responses to “My Practical Father (Not Always)

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your father. This must be a tough time. I thought this post was lovely – that foray into colour and contradiction. I think the best characters are the ones that have opposing characteristics. I posted about my games mistress this week, who I’ve been writing about in my novel. I found that when I finally saw her sensitive side beneath the fury that she finally came alive on the page.

    • lucewriter

      I’m happy that after four days in the hospital my father was well enough to go home today! Great point you make about your character. It’s so true with all characters, I think. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I’m sorry about your father! I hope they’re able to find out what’s wrong soon!

  3. Brindle, the colour of Boxers (dogs, not underwear) that have been part of my life. Brindles are a gentler, more caring nature than the Fawn coloured Boxers. So, am thinking, your Dad is gentle and caring and holding him in the light of that during this time.

  4. I love the colour brown and its many shades. I am sorry your dad is in the hospital (((hugs))) for you and him

  5. Sorry about your father. Hoping all will be well. Enjoyed your character analysis.

  6. I hope your dad feels much better soon….
    I think a lot of us try to be practical, but impracticality and imagination sometimes break through that barrier of plain brown bricks. As for your dad, I think he was always on the lookout for surprises in the least likely places, such as brand-new ice skates in the Michigan basement of a tumbledown house. Maybe he was looking for prizes amid squalor. I guess a lot of people do something like that–going to yard sales, secondhand stores, etc. What they are seeking varies. For a lot of people, the prize has an emotional link to the past, while for others, the prize has historic or monetary value.

  7. I was glad to read that your Dad is doing better. It’s hard trying to know how much or how little to help aging parents.

    As for brown, it’s a great color. But there are way too many browns as I realize every time I try to find a pair of brown shoes that don’t clash with whatever I’m wearing. I’m no fashion maven, but browns are just tough. Your dad is smart to stick with one!

    • lucewriter

      Elyse, thanks for your concern–my father is doing much better!
      I agree about brown and found this comment pretty humorous because it IS so true!

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