I haven't yet told you much about my dad. I was thinking I'd do so on his birthday this year, but I guess Father's Day works just as well.
Dad and I were very close. In fact my mother used to call me Ray, Jr. He could be a fantastic person and father, but he had a few serious flaws. Of course, we all do, but his showed, and were not well-tolerated in a small town. And they created problems at home, too. Dad was an alcoholic, refused to attend church, and was an absolute perfectionist. People who think I am a perfectionist don't realize that I'm a careless slob compared to the standard.
Here is one of the few pictures I have from his childhood. It was taken on his sixth birthday. I'm told that the sailor suit was white (with pinstripes), and that soon after the picture was taken he sat in a blueberry pie! We are not Irish. He was adopted by the Learys when he was four. It would have been interesting to hear his perspective on that, but we never talked about those kinds of topics. I suspect he had a hard childhood, as the only child on a first generation immigrant farm.
I don't know a lot about his young adulthood, either. He went to Cornell University, but I don't think he graduated. He played minor league baseball in Rochester, New York. He held a number of jobs, selling cars for one thing. He married young, and had one son, John. My brother and I are both only children! But that marriage didn't last, and in 1943 he married my mom. I came along in 1948.
My parents would probably be described as being "forward-thinking" in one respect. I was not forced into gender roles by them. I was allowed to play with any kinds of toys that interested me, and encouraged to help with all kinds of tasks, not just "girl" ones. Here I am helping Dad dig potatoes. I actually remember this day, carrying the little enamel pail full of potatoes to dump it into a larger basket. Dad called me his "Potato Queen."
Here he is in 1965 on the day I graduated from high school. Although he always worked at blue collar jobs, he cleaned up well, don't you think? He just didn't do it very often! One great frustration for him was that the family farm wasn't really big enough to make a living from. It was just 52 acres. So he bounced from job to job, and kept a huge vegetable garden, from which he sold produce. Only the best went out on the roadside stand!
He lived only another eleven years. A lifetime of smoking led to cancer of the larynx and then the lungs. He died the day before his 72nd birthday. I still miss him.
Although I look remarkably like my mother's brother, I am internally a strange mix of my father and my mother's mother. I believe I have Dad's body chemistry, which is mainly why I don't drink alcohol. I like it a lot. A LOT. I'll have an inch of wine on occasion, but otherwise, I just don't want to find out if I'd find it too appealing when I'm "down."
I treasure his tools that came to me (John got some of them), and the life lessons he taught me. As it turns out, learning many secrets after one grows up, my dad was a better dad to me than the dads of several of my friends were to them. Going to church does not necessarily make a good father.
Love you, Dad.
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