Still Miss Dad After 23 Years


by Kerry Dougherty

I wrote this column in June of 1998, simply weeks after my father’s sudden demise of a coronary heart assault. (He died driving his train bike at age 74.) In some ways, this submit is dated. But I hope it nonetheless is significant. I beloved the man.

To make sense of the piece it’s value noting that on Could 7, 1998 — the day Dad died — the Dow Jones Industrial Common was 8,976. Morrison’s Cafeteria in Virginia Seaside closed a few years in the past. The round-trip toll on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is now $36, not $20. Worse, they now not offer you a coupon for a free thimble filled with Coke. I assure you that may have ticked off my father.

That is the primary yr in my life that I’ve nobody to name or ship a card to on Father’s Day. My dad died six weeks in the past.

Then once more, the cardboard factor all the time posed an issue, as Hallmark by no means produced one which captured the spirit of my father. He was a baby of the Melancholy, a personality out of a Jimmy Stewart film. He was a cross between Bishop Fulton J. Sheen and Norman Vincent Peale. He was a person who had eaten in a number of the best eating places in America however most well-liked dinner together with his grandchildren at Morrison’s Cafeteria.

Wherever he ate, he all the time stated grace first.

Dad was beneficiant to a fault together with his household and buddies, however pinched pennies in unlikely locations. He cheerfully paid his taxes, lavished presents on all of us, donated closely to charity, however hated toll roads.

He favored enjoying the inventory market and was optimistic it was heading for 10,000. He dreamed of sometime proudly owning a horse. He was completely colour blind and his socks by no means matched. He was the pitching ace — a southpaw — on his highschool baseball workforce, however the World Struggle II ended his desires of enjoying within the Massive Leagues.

He as soon as stop his job and joined a carnival. He beloved New Jersey.

The place do you discover a card for a person like that?

I used to pore over the racks of Father’s Day playing cards looking for simply the precise one. Each every now and then, for enjoyable, I’d ship him a kind of preppy golf playing cards. My dad performed golf simply as soon as. I believe he misplaced a $1.25 ball within the woods and that was sufficient for him.

My dad’s thought of an awesome time off was working as a volunteer at an outdated people’ dwelling, writing letters, strolling his canine or composing poetry. He additionally favored to attend shareholder’s conferences of firms whose inventory he owned. There, he’d publicly — and relentlessly – -needle CEOs about their inferior merchandise or poor customer support.

He as soon as hounded the chairman of Sears so severely over a Craftsman mower that wouldn’t begin on the primary crack that the corporate despatched him a free one.

When my funding membership purchased Oxford Well being Care inventory my father disapproved. “Folks hate their medical health insurance firms. I by no means purchase inventory in issues folks hate. Spend money on issues folks like.”

Merrill Lynch had nothing on my father. The inventory crashed, by no means to recuperate. If solely I’d listened.

For years we tried to get my mother and father to maneuver to Virginia Seaside to be nearer to their grandchildren and to spare all of us frequent 12-hour automotive rides.

Mother was tempted, however not Dad. In the future, as we had been driving across the Seaside, he remarked on the development towards colourful banners hanging at every doorway.

”That is the form of place the place folks would quite fly a pineapple than the Stars and Stripes,” he noticed. I knew then he’d by no means depart the gritty confines of Trenton, N.J.

Simply hours after my father died my household and a bunch of buddies had been sitting across the outdated kitchen desk, ingesting, crying and laughing.

All of us had tales about his love of cut price gasoline and his disdain for tolls. He’d drive miles out of his option to save a few cents on fuel or to keep away from a toll sales space. When tolls had been inevitable, he was not above wanting round on the bottom for spare change.

It was a sport with him.

My brother remembered touring from Washington, D.C., to New Jersey with my father a number of years in the past. Dad immediately veered off an exit shortly after the Maryland Home Restaurant so as to miss the JFK Freeway toll.

For the following hour they bounced alongside rutted nation roads and thru downtown Elkton, Md., in Dad’s Oldsmobile earlier than triumphantly rejoining the free part of I-95 close to Wilmington. He was the Che Guevara of the interstates.

Think about, then, my father’s chagrin when long-awaited grandchildren had been born and the worth to see them was a $20 round-trip toll on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. His devotion to the youngsters was such that he by no means complained in regards to the lengthy drive or the steep tolls.

However he all the time redeemed his coupon for a free Coke on the Seagull Pier.

As soon as, when he was coming by himself, my dad detoured by Annapolis and down the Northern Neck. He arrived at our home, bedraggled, 9 hours after he’d left dwelling. “It was an attractive experience,” he declared, refusing to confess it was a part of a toll-avoidance rip-off. “Your mom would like it.”

As I stated, it was inconceivable to search out the precise card for that man.

Final weekend, on a return journey from New Jersey, I did one thing I’d by no means achieved earlier than. I ended on the Pier and had a free Coke.

Looking over the Bay, I silently toasted the man who had all the time been so onerous to purchase a card for. Toll collectors not often made a dime off him, however I used to be all the time wealthy when he was round.



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