This is for everyone whose father wasn’t Robert Young—you know, the 1950s TV dad on “Father Knows Best,” the dad everyone wished they had. Instead, we got … well, I got an alcoholic mess of a smart, well-read, first-to-wear-Bermuda shorts (with black socks and shoes) in 1959 dad, who died young. I got lucky. He called me Lucky.

“Lucky, you’re doin’ good,” he’d say, and 36 years after his death at age 62, he still does—presumably while sitting on my right shoulder, up near my ear, which explains why I can hear him so clearly. He never explained why he called me Lucky. Nobody did. I never knew.

But it made me—the younger of his two girls—feel special. I loved my dad and hated him, as growing girls are wont to do. I know now that he was human, with way more frailties than most. He wasn’t like those men who went to work every day, maybe went to church every week, went to the school play, paid the bills and were there when the kids needed them.  But it doesn’t mean that my father wasn’t worthy of a “Best Dad” trophy. And I miss him like crazy on Father’s Day.

My dad quit high school in the 11th grade to help support his parents and six brothers and sisters. That’s what the oldest child in the family did in 1930, during the heart of the Great Depression. My dad sold shoes–then and for the rest of his life.  He supported his family but was never a success to himself.  He leaned on his younger daughter to bring home that trophy.

I always wanted to write and he encouraged it. Even in the eighth grade we collaborated on my first short story, “The Brass Door Knob Mob.”  It was never printed anywhere. God, how I wish I had a scrap of that piece to read about the gangsters we concocted, who were trapping people in their homes with no door knobs.  It was dreadful, no doubt, but it was me and my dad sitting on the steps of the garage together on a Sunday afternoon, reading our piece. Those were tricky days, trying to keep him sober and interested in things other than oblivion.

Later, after his death, his youngest brother told me, “Your dad was the smartest man I ever knew. And, he was the best big brother ever. He spent money he earned to buy me something to wear to high school. I had one of the first new styles ever–a jacket with a zipper in the front.” Later my dad sent this brother a necktie while he was fighting in the Pacific in WWII – because everyone was supposed to have a Christmas tie. The “after shave” lotion he sent didn’t hurt much either, if you know what I mean.

When we are young and angry we don’t realize how we’ll feel about those closest to us as years go by. How we wish we had one moment with them to tell them what they meant to our lives. It’s a lesson to those who still have that chance. Mend that fence. Send that card. Hug that man. Happy Father’s Day, man.

  1. LBCityGirl
    June 19, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Damn you, Redistricted, for making me cry. This was lovely.

  2. Joe Mack
    June 19, 2010 at 8:12 am

    The subject of my father is the most difficult for me to discuss.
    His main flaw was an inability to support me. A self-centered criticism to be sure, but, it was during my most impressionable years. I judge him less so now as I see myself as big as ass-hole as I considered him at the time.

  3. Joe Mack
    June 19, 2010 at 8:17 am

    LBCityGirl’s response inspired me to make an observation:

    Whenever I see women, they are smiling, looking at each other in the eyes, nodding, and appear to be on the verge of bursting into tears.

    I once read that when women approach each other, they glance first at the others bag and shoes. Is this true?

  4. June 19, 2010 at 9:08 am

    This is the tenth Father’s Day I will spend without my Dad. I wanted to share a couple words about my father because he was an amazing inspiration to me. On Christmas Eve, 1967 my father lost his arm in a car accident. He actually died that night, but was revived and spent the next three months in a coma. He loved to share his “death” experience, it was one of his oft repeated stories. He was the best story teller I ever knew.
    My father never let the fact that he had one arm stop him from doing anything. When we were teenagers and developed bad attitudes, my brothers and I would no longer sail with him. So he rigged his boat, the Poco Loco to sail alone. He was literally a one-armed sailor.

    I regret every time I said no to his invitations to sail with him. So Louise is a wise woman indeed when she advises, “How we wish we had one moment with them to tell them what they meant to our lives. It’s a lesson to those who still have that chance. Mend that fence. Send that card. Hug that man. Happy Father’s Day, man.”

  5. kb
    June 19, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Louise – love this – wonderful tribute. My dad, who died 3 months to the day after turning 60 and after 9 years of struggle with a non-malignant brain tumor, was one of my best friends (as was my mom). Both would be 93 today. Dad was great and my friends would always say “can we come live with you, you have great parents.” I know how fortunate and lucky I was – but you are so right – fences should be mended and hugs shared. I too would love to give my dad one more hug – however, even 33 years later I still talk to him and he influences me daily because of the wonderful things he shared and did with and for me. So HAPPY FATHERS DAY to all the dads and they too need to reach out to mend those fences.

    Louise keep writing – door knobs or not – love your words.

  6. Lisa Rinaldi
    June 19, 2010 at 11:57 am

    The paradox of our trek from birth to death is that we gain the wisdom of our parents’ indispensable place in our lives long after childhood ends and often after the deaths of those who reared us.

  7. No Fond Memory
    June 20, 2010 at 10:50 am

    My “dad” was a screw-up and an embarassment in every way. I keep no old photos still don’t miss him after a quarter century. No regrets here.

  8. Joe Mack
    June 20, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    My “dad” was a screw-up and an embarassment in every way. I keep no old photos still don’t miss him after a quarter century. No regrets here.

    I can relate to you.

    As surrogate “fathers,” I have substituted Oscar Wilde and Bertrand Russel.

    Odd, I know, but they have given me good life advice for many years.

    Too bad that I can’t throw a baseball nor go fishing with them, but, all in all I think it’s been a fair trade off.

    • DWR
      June 20, 2010 at 10:59 pm

      Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
      – Bertrand Russell

      June 20, 2010, “Quote Of The Day” courtesy of my Tobshiba/Google personalized start page

  9. June 20, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Hi Louise,

    Thanks for sharing your difficult, but somewhat precious story about your father. Very touching.

    My mother’s father also had a drinking problem and he died when she was nineteen of liver failure.
    My mother though always speaks fondly of her father.

    I just spoke to my father this evening. He has always calls me Tic Tic, I don’t know why either, and have never asked!

    Happy Fathers Day to all of the dads and you too Joe!

  10. Joe Mack
    June 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

    HI Nancy,

    I’m so happy to hear from Long Beach’s First (Society) Lady!
    Isn’t it nice of Dave Wielenga to allow us all to rant and rave uncensored.
    It was great fun chatting with you during Bob’s first Mayoral-run.

    My best to you, Bob and your cat.

    Joe Mack

    PS: Years ago I told you about my burning my bridges and then dynamiting them.
    You said I’d get over it. I (mostly) have as I prepar to belly-flop into the Abyss!

    PSS: Hey, why did Bob allow the Armada baseball team to leave Long Beach???
    I really enjoyed going. The Orange County Flyers invited me to start covering them, and I urge all disgruntled Long Beach fans to join me.

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