While Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me, Father’s Day is different. My mom left us while I was in my early 30’s, but Dad lived a full life until the age of 94. I was still having children of my own when Mother died; I was a grandmother when Dad departed this earth. I miss him every day.
My dad was born on an island off the Texas coast. His hometown, Port Aransas, was tiny compared to what it is today. School was not his favorite pastime, but he found plenty to do each day. Scraping barnacles off the shrimp and fishing boats, running errands for anyone in town and heading shrimp (taking the heads off) was how he made spending money. Money was tight on the island and he gave half of his earnings to his mother and put the rest in the bank. He loved saving money and watching his bank account grow ever so slowly. It takes a long time to build up your fortune when you are paid in nickels and dimes.
Dad was a chief engineer in the merchant marines for fifty years and lived most of his life at sea. We knew him mostly through my mother’s eyes. She gave him credit for every gift we received. “Your dad wanted you to have this” was the phrase we heard the most. Due to his job, he missed my birth, my tonsillectomy and appendectomy. He did make it to my high school graduation (out of 4 kids, mine was the only one he was able to attend) and was only two weeks late to the birth of my first child.
The bulk of his life was spent at sea. Growing up we endured hours of what we called his ‘ship stories.’ He had a million of them and would recall each episode as if it had recently occurred even if the actual time frame was decades earlier. We would roll our eyes and sit listening as long as mother gave us her stern stare. Once she decided we had suffered long enough, she would give us a quick nod, which was her silent signal, and we could bolt. When we became adults, those stories were gold. We would happily sit and listen to him by the hour. He told funny tales along with fascinating accounts of seeing the world from a seaman’s perspective. He was always intrigued with people and the bulk of his stories were based on men aboard the ships.
A self-educated man, my dad was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He read every spare minute and never stopped learning as long as he lived. He had a memory like a steel trap and could recall tiny bits of information most of us would have discarded long ago. I’m convinced he knew exactly where and how he had spent every dollar he ever made.
He loved my mother with all his heart. The day she died a part of himself died along with her. They reunited August 2010. I bet they are laughing as they stroll down memory lane together. What are the odds he’s still telling her his ‘ship stories.’