I saw something this morning that took me back to the early 1950's and could recall how my dad smelled. It was the smell he had as a young father, not the aftershave of the professional he became in his late 30's. My dad had odd jobs when I was very young, pumping gas at a local service station and worked for the City water treatment plant. It was those early days that my love for my father's devotion to us kids was established and never waivered until the day he died. I knew without a doubt that dad would love each and every one of us kids until the day he died. When he worked at these jobs, he would smell of gasoline and chemicals from the treatment plant. Not unpleasant, burned into my brain and helped me picture when he walked up to the house after work and us younger kids would run out to greet him, each racing to get the lint out of his belly button.
Dad was not affectionant in a traditional way, not a lot of holding, hugging, any of that kind of coddling but he coddled in other ways, had his own brand of nurturning.
I think he learned by the time his forth child was born how to do this a little better. He was older and it was about 14 years after the first one showed up. There is a picture of my dad rocking my brother, David, when David was a young toddler and dad was singing to him. I remember the singing because I was there, I took the picture. It was such a tender moment in such a turbulent home that I knew if I didn't capture it, I might not recall those sweet times.
Dad was never rough, he just seemed a little lost as to what to do with us kids. I am sure that is why he deferred almost all of the discipline to my mother and seemed to magically vanish during times of high conflict or violence by my mom. As far as I know, dad never laid a hand on any of us kids, certainly not me. He would take off his belt when he was angry, place it in a circle in front of his chest, face stern then snap it to where it made a loud "POP" that echoed in the house or he would say, "Don't make me take my belt off," then would promptly begin to rattle the buckle but it wouldn't come off most of the time for the "popping" exhibition.
Dad seemed to smile all the time which was odd because his dad rarely smiled. My Uncle Bill and Uncle Tex also told me Papaw was harsh with his punishment to all the kids, 5 boys. He would make them hold onto a hitching post and whip them until they bled. Papaw never laid a hand on any of the grandkids either. Maybe as adults, the sons all warned him?
Dad nurtured by singing, smiling and growing things. We had a tiny house in the 1950's but as he furthered his education, our homes grew in size as did the lots until he bought the 35 acres in the Ozarks. He worked a garden with a tractor. This is not what made me think of him this morning. On the nurturning side, yes, gardens need a lot of time, love, and attention to grow. He did his best to do the same for his children. The thing I recall being out of bounds for dad was he grew the delicate flower, African Violet. They were all over the house when I was an adult and went home, I was amazed at their delicate beauty. These tempermental flowers take a lot of attention and just right care to flower. They all flowered.
About 2 months ago, I bought one on a whim. Knew it would die from my brown thumb. This morning, it was all leaves to heaven and blooms were peeking at me. Daddy. It was all I could think of, daddy stopped by to say hello. Dad died in May 2004, much too young from a much too harsh cancer. I miss you daddy and thanks for stopping by to check in on me.