I didn’t really know my dad. At least until it was almost too late. As a small child living within the family at my grandmother’s, he was a recurrent visitor full of fun, who came for short periods between trips to the sea. He was a young man who had chosen the United States Navy as his career. Unfortunately, this included being away from his family frequently. I looked forward to his “visits”, and was saddened by his absences. It was during the Great Depression, and his seemed a good choice as a profession, since most of the country was out of work. Occasionally we packed up our few belongings, and the three of us, my parents & I, lived for short periods in San Diego, Port Orchard, WA., Alameda, and always back to Grandma’s in Long Beach. These were the Naval bases along our western coast.
In 1938, when I was ten years old, we bought our fiirst car, an old Chevrolet sedan, packed up again, and moved for two years to New London, Connecticut, the United States submarine base. My father was to take his training as a diver for underwater repair work. I did not understand that he was being promoted rather rapidly, I simply enjoyed the experiene of having him at our dinner table every day. We fished, and hunted, and he taught me to swim in the Thames River by throwing me into the stream and ordering me to swim. We lived on a lake which froze in the winter, so we all learned to skate, except my father, who simply ran on his skates and hoped for the best, After 2 years, in 1940, we moved again to Long Beach, and he shipped out to sea, this time for 2 1/2 years. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor , Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, and unbeknownst to us, my father was there in port during the bombing.
He came into port again for a couple of weeks when I was a sophomore, and was bewildered to find that I was a young lady. He didn’t like it much! He was much changed after seeing so much war, and really never regained his former cheerful self. By this time, he was a Master Chief petty officer, and used to giving orders which he expected one to follow without question. I was much used to doing as I pleased, which in those days was really quite harmless! He was rather gruff, and I was intimidated by him. He was sent to sea again, and did not return until nearly my wedding day in 1946 when the war was over.
We lived in Alameda then, which was home to some of my father’s relatives, and had an apartment in his aunt’s large home, which had been built by my great-grandfather in the mid 1800’s. Shortly after I was married, my parents moved to Grants Pass, Oregon, where he had been born and raised. My mother and I had lived there for a number of months during the war, and had then moved back to Alameda. Naturally, during the ensuing years, we visited them and went fishing and camping together, but I never had a real conversation with him; he always deferred to my mother. He would answer the phone, and then pass it to her.
When my mother lay dying, I went to Brookings, Oregon where they were living then, and stayed with her for two long months. He had to be forced to leave her side to get some sleep, but still no conversations. Finally one night I told him we were on navy time now, and he would serve a 4 hour watch just like everyone else. He went meekly to bed and we carried on as before. He was particularly grumpy one evening, and suddenly I remembered grabbing him and tickling him when I was a child to get him happy again. The ice was broken and we started a friendship. It didn’t last long enough. He died 10 years later after having a massive stroke.
I’m glad I knew you Dad, and I still miss you.
A heart is the easiest thing to break.