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.
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.
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.
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.