Friday, November 23, 2007

In Memory

This handsome naval officer is my dad. I was born when he was forty, and the war was long over. But I was raised seeing this picture on top of the piano, and knew his uniform and hat were hanging in the closet--seeing them always made this little girl’s heart ache with pride for her father.

My dad would tease that the good died young, and therefore he expected my mom to live to be a very old woman. He bothered to end the joke by dying at the fairly young age of sixty-four. I’m sure he walked through the Pearly Gates chuckling to Gabriel, “I told them the good die young”.

A few years after my father’s death, I was in Mom’s basement helping clean out some things, and ran into my dad’s old Navy trunk. In it I found some of his personal items, but much of what was stored there were records from my family’s grocery store. Dad had closed the store and re-opened it as a pet store back when I was three years old. So how and why the records from the store got put in this trunk I do not know.

Among the bookkeeping ledgers I found a stack of white slips of paper. On unfolding them and reading, I found the names of dozens of people I did not know--and a number of names of prominent families from our community. On the top of each paper was written : IOU. I went upstairs to ask Mom what this was all about.

Seems before Dad left for the war, and during the time he was over-seas, many people came to the store, women left without their husbands, children to feed, elderly to care for--but no or little money. Dad, and then Mom, allowed them to write IOU slips so they could get the supplies they desperately needed.

After the war, Dad returned to run the business again--and most of those men returned as well. Of course, there were many men who never returned. Dad just let the slips sit. He didn’t seek the people out to repay their debts, saying they’d get to it when they could. He was just glad God had seen to it the store had been able to stay open and survive--and that he’d been able to return home safe and sound to his loved ones.

Needless-to-say, as I looked through the names, some of the richest families in our community were represented there--and evidently had never gotten around to repaying their debts.

My dad died with a modest amount in the bank. Enough to take care of Mom into her old age. Enough so Mom wasn’t in jeopardy of losing her home, nor going without. But no luxuries particularly--no trips to Europe or Hawaii--no extravagances. Her house was in the same “working class” neighborhood we’d always lived in. And her friends were as mixed and varied as Mom and Dad’s had always been. My father assisted anyone who came to him for help. In a class-oriented, and racially-oriented community, my dad took no concern for race, creed or color--he was a friend and mentor to everyone who sought him out.

And at his funeral, there was standing room only. There were people there in mink coats, and there were people there in tired and worn coats. It, at the time, was one of the few funerals in town that was NOT segregated (the segregation wasn’t because of laws, but because people didn’t “associate” with one another). But all were there, and each one came by to shake our hands, tell us some brief account of how they knew Dad, and what he had done that made a difference in their lives.

Today it has been thirty-five years since my dad passed on.

Dad you are loved and live in my thoughts and in my heart always.


Jan said...

What a handsome man your dad was, and what a loving tribute to his life.


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

He sounds like a remarkable man! And I hope he wasn't right about your mom... who seems to be living, yes, to a RIPE old age!

Jenn in Holland said...

So beautiful. What a wonderful legacy to follow...

Rose said...

We should all aspire to be so lovingly remembered, by family and community alike. He sounds like a very special man.