He would read to us at night - Kim, Treasure Island, some simplified versions of Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson. Along with the Winnie the Pooh books and the other Milne books of light verse, we enjoyed his fatherly attention, as he was often gone for weeks at time on Air Force TDY. Only later did we learn the "why" of those tours to Thule and other places - he was out there helping to keep the country safe. At the time, though, when he was home he made the most of it.
We'd go family camping or drive up to Denver or Seattle or Salt Lake to visit family, with visits to San Francisco to visit one of his cousins thrown in. It was good to be one of his kids.
|Dad holding me shortly after my birth|
At some point, my mother told us that her father loved the poems and stories of Robert W. Service - "The Cremation of Sam Mcgee" being one that he could recite quite dramatically. And that he loved to sing "Abdul Abulbul Amir." Her memories of her father were thus incorporated into our lives. Of course, both my dad's father and hers were men very much influenced by the Victorian era.
One piece of poetry that both my dad and her dad agreed on was Kipling's "If"
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
From these choices of literature, from his quiet manner of going "out to do the job," and those casual remarks that were the real lessons in life - he shaped his kids.
Happy Father's Day! And thanks, Dad.