My Practical Father (Not Always) Repost for Memorial Day Memories

Since my father was a Korean War veteran, I thought I would repost an old blog post I wrote about him five years ago. When you get to the part about him being in the hospital, remember that this first went up in March 2013. He passed away in May 2015.

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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.

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

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

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It’s been three years and 14 days now since my father died. I can hardly believe it. He’s buried at a veterans’ cemetery in Michigan, so I can’t be there today. But I’m still thinking about him.

 

52 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, #amwriting, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

52 responses to “My Practical Father (Not Always) Repost for Memorial Day Memories

  1. Beautiful tribute. People who went through the depression have their own set of eccentricities.

    • I hear about depression childhoods less and less all the time. I guess it means the generation is dying out, which is sad in itself, although part of the cycle of life. But, yes, it did give them eccentricities :).

      • My brother was born in 1930 and he was a very young child, there are some things he remembers. However all of us carry some of the “eccentricities” from being raised by parents who went through the depression. I have a hard time throwing anything out that’s still “good.”

        • I would prefer to give away or repurpose something I don’t need any longer (if it doesn’t have sentimental value). I don’t like keeping, but my mom was born in 1934 and missed the really hard parts of the depression. She was more of a WWII girl. So that tempered my dad’s depression-era thinking.

  2. Val

    Idiosynchrasies are what help to make up a person’s individuality. Your father’s were fine. Time, experiences… all count. As Kate says, beautiful tribute.

  3. I, too, loved my Dad, flaws and all, and think of him often, after 30 years

  4. I imagine you were troubled and scared when wrote this and your father was sick. It’s a loving tribute.
    My dad’s been dead 20 years this month. I still miss him. Last night, daughter and I told her husband about the Dr. Lee chicken his favorite Chinese restaurant used to make for him.

  5. Your father would be so honoured if he could know that you did this post about him.

    • He would have definitely gotten a kick out of it although I don’t think he’d care for the violin and boat references ;). Those might hit a sensitive spot!

  6. Lovely tribute to your father, Luanne.

  7. Beautiful tribute to your father, Luanne. Our nearby park has an elaborate memorial for the Korean War veterans….it’s beautiful.

  8. I’m sure this day conjures extra memories of your father for the service he gave his country. May we always honor him and those like him who serve to ensure our freedom. Sounds like he was quite the shopper too! 😊

  9. Good look, via color, at your dad. I also can’t believe it’s been so long.

  10. Beautiful post, I could picture him as I read the words. My dad and uncles served in Korea, too.

  11. Great tribute to your Dad, Luanne. I agree with his color of choice; brown is my favorite color:)
    I love the list of his purchases.

  12. A lovely tribute, Luanne. My husband still says dop kit. The depression left a mark on most everyone. Practically!

  13. I think most of us carry contradictions, thus the characters in our stories should. You write a beautiful description of your dad, with his brindle brown view, and yet the love of picking up odd impractical pieces. I honor the memories of your father, Luanne. I have similar ones, as my dad grew up in the depression also. Nothing was ever wasted with him, and he held onto his money tightly so he could put my brother and me through college. And if a patriotic song played (of which he had several albums of all patriotic music), he cried like a baby. ❤

  14. Such a thoughtful and loving post, Luanne. Both my parents were born in 1930 so, like your mother, were WW2 people. My father died in 2010 but my mother still struggles on. My father was a most impractical man but insisted on running his own business which never paid its way. We were fortunate in that my mother worked hard (at work and at home) to keep us fed and clothed.

    • So your father was a dreamer? I think having a parent who was a dreamer affects a child a lot–both for the positive and the negative.

      • Yes, he was a dreamer, Luanne. I don’t think he lived in the real world much and never quite understood anyone who thought differently from him. He often suffered from depression which I found a little frightening when I was a young girl.

  15. Luanne, through your recollections, I miss him too. 🙂

  16. you are very lucky to have such a compassionate father, I’m sure he is still around you, the soul never dies, it passes on, blessings

  17. A lovely portrait of your dad and some of his quirks Luanne, I still miss my dad after 17 years – I can’t believe it’s so long.

  18. I loved this story about your father – it’s so strange because I remember when he died, too. I can’t believe we’ve been friends long enough now to have shared family losses in cyberspace.
    I hadn’t remembered he was raised by his mother. Another amazing story.
    He’s gone, but yet he lives.

  19. Such a nice tribute to your dad, Luanne. In a couple of months, it will be nine years since my dad passed away, and sometimes it does seem that long; other times it seems much shorter. Fascinated by how we experience time!

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