I never said, “Love you dad” I never heard him say, “Love you son”. I don’t know why, maybe it was the Patten way or maybe it was a generation thing or maybe it was . . . all I know is I loved the guy and he loved me.
Dad was honest, quiet and hardworking, most days he simply went to work in the morning and he came home in the evening; he didn’t stop at the local bar nor did he stop at the grocery store. He went to work and he came home. Mom kind of had to force the issue if he took part in any form of social activity. He did attend church, not every time the doors were open, but it was not uncommon to see him there and I am pretty sure I know where he is tonight.
His hobbies were limited and simple; he liked to hunt squirrels in the spring, rabbits when a fresh snow covered the ground and he liked to tinker with mechanical things. Occasionally he listened to a little Roy Acuff and the Grand Ole Opry.
Dad hunted with a 22-caliber rifle and believed squirrels should be shot in the eye and rabbits in the back of the head. He grew up hunting to put food on the table, so it was just kind of understood; if dad shot it we had it for dinner. He shot a crow one day and I thought, oh my god we’re gonna have that thing for dinner, but crows were the exception to his rule; he just didn’t like the things. Literally, I never had to eat crow; figuratively, if it is OK with you we wont go there tonight.
I mentioned, dad was quiet, that is an understatement, he was extremely quiet. He had the unique ability to give a one-word answer to almost any question. He set a good example as I grew up but he provided very little verbal guidance. I learned about the birds and bees from the proverbial boys down at the pool hall and through trial and error.
He gave me two pieces of advise on completely different things that have remained with me throughout the years. Tinkering with mechanical things was a little more than a hobby; dad was a pretty good old shade tree mechanic, I learned from watching and helping. Dad never fixed mine for me; he watched a lot and helped a little as I struggled to figure out what made a ’46 Ford tick or not tick. He used very few words to tell me “Son if it is getting fuel and it is getting fire and it is getting both of them at the right time it will run”. That advice is as good today as was when I received it all those years ago.
The other bit of advice helped me through a failed romance in fact it probably helped me through a few break ups. My girl friend and I had just decided to go our separate ways; I don’t even remember which old girl friend it was and it was probably her idea to take those separate paths (a roundabout way to say she dumped me); dad simply said “ Son you’ll find that women are like streetcars; if you miss this one there will be another on the next corner”. I don’t think mom heard him say that.
Dad has been gone almost 30 years, as I have continued to mature during that time I have questioned why dad talked so little and probably laughed even less. His dad was a heck of an old storyteller and usually had a smile on his face. His siblings were much more outgoing and jovial than dad.
I think I finally understand. A difficult childbirth in rural Oklahoma claimed the life of his wife. He was suddenly a widower with two precious little girls, the newborn and a two year-old. Dad was just a few months past his 24th birthday. A short 4 years later tragedy knocked again and took the newborn, now a four year-old, to be with her mother. At 28, dad had suffered the loss of his spouse and a child.
I am thankful he found my mom and recovered enough to talk a little, laugh a little and do his part in his own way to provide a loving home for my siblings and me.
The surviving “big sister” is now a spry 80 something that could pass for my little sister and has been the kind of sister every kid or old man yearns for.
Love you, dad; there I said it again.
Please keep me in your prayers.
Good Night and God Bless.