Promises Made, Promises Kept

Babies don’t make promises. They live and thrive on the willingness of others to make promises to them – promises that they will be fed, clothed and sheltered, kept warm, given comfort, played with and loved.

 My extraordinary good fortune was to be born into a family more than willing to make and keep promises.  My father took promises especially seriously. The eldest of six children, he was one of those increasingly rare creatures – a man of his word. Whether it was a work colleague, a neighbor, a family member or his tiny daughter coming to him with a request, if he said he would do it, he did.

“Daddy!” I’d ask as he came in from work and settled down to look at the mail. “Will  you color with me?”  “I’ll color with you after dinner,” he’d say. “I’m going to a meeting tonight, but we’ll have time to do a couple of pictures.” “Promise?” I’d ask. “I promise,” he’d say. And the promise always held.

When I’d beg for a story, I always was welcome to snuggle into his lap while we “read” together. Sometimes the story involved puppies, princesses or trains. Other times he’d read a “story” to me from a philatelic magazine or an industry journal. Still, reading was reading, and if I’d been promised the pleasure of sharing the discovery of words, I never was denied.

Even on our yearly vacation – those precious two weeks that he must have cherished beyond words – there was time for more than fishing. When I begged him to come with me on my hunt for smooth lake pebbles or fresh-water snail shells, he’d grin at his friends, lift his can of Pabst or Hamm’s as if estimating its contents and say, “You go down and look for a while. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” “Promise, Daddy?”  “I promise.” And when the beer was gone, he’d walk down to the water and we’d talk while exploring the world.

Eventually, the time came for me to begin making promises of my own. One of the first I remember involved my tricycle. “You can go to the end of the block,” Dad said, “but then you have to turn around and come back. Don’t cross the street, and don’t go around the corner.”  “I won’t,” I said. “Promise?” he asked. 

Of course I promised, and on the second day of tricycle-freedom, I broke my promise. Tempted beyond all reason by the sight of a friend across the street with her new kitten, I stopped, pondered and then chugged across, forgetting that the corner was fully visible from our back yard. It was my mother who brought me home, but my father who talked to me.

“Didn’t I tell you not to cross the street?” Dad asked. Tearfully, I agreed I’d been told. “Didn’t you promise not to cross the street?” Yes, I had promised. Thinking things over, Dad finally said, “Do you remember when I promised to take you to the carnival last month?”  I did remember. I’d brought home a bisque kewpie doll and a splendid green glass-bead necklace.  “Would you have been happy if I’d forgotten to take you?  If I broke my promise?”  My stomach twisting in grief and guilt, I stared at the sidewalk and said, “I don’t know…”

“I think you would have been sad,” he said. “I think you’d have been really disappointed that I broke my promise.”  Looking at him, I simply shook my head. “OK,” he said. “Will you promise me you’ll try to do better about keeping your promises to your mother and I?”  Sensing a reprieve, I promised. Within minutes my beloved tricycle was freed from Dad’s improvised impound lot, and not another word was said.

As the years passed by, the promises began to add up.  “OK,” said my dad. “If I build you a sandbox, will you keep your toys in the sandbox and not carry sand all over the yard?”  I promised. 

When it was time to do yard work, he’d ask, “If I let you help, will you promise to do exactly what I tell you, and stay where I can see you?”  I promised.

As I grew older and began to take on more responsibility, the promises became larger, more demanding. “I have to go to New York for a week,” he said. “You’ll have to help your mother. Promise me you’ll be a good girl and help out around the house.” Of course I promised. I knew I’d be rewarded with a new book or chocolates when he returned, but I also knew I’d be rewarded with his pride in my growing willingness to be a “big girl”.

Even when I’d become a truly “big girl”, he extracted a full share of promises – to come home on time, to stay away from “wild kids”, to tell him if I wanted to go to Des Moines or Grinnell with my friends. Sometimes, the promises he sought were purely good-natured, like my promise the night of my senior prom that I’d  take off my high heels to dance so I didn’t break my neck.

Recently I’ve tried to remember the last promise made between us before his death thirty years ago. It may have happened in Liberia, when the chief of a remote bush village presented my visiting father with the gift of a fish. It was a toothy thing, with large scales and a distinct odor of mud. Just after this photo was taken Dad grinned at me and said, “Promise me I’m not going to have to eat this thing.”  I promised, and he didn’t, and we laughed at the photo for years.

After I returned to the States, the time for making promises to Dad seemed over.  We remained close, but I have no memory of him ever again saying, “Promise me this“, or “Promise me that“.  I’d not thought about it for years, until my mother raised the subject this past week. Finally succumbing to illness and hospitalizations after 93 years, she was pondering aloud the slightly amazing fact that I’m now two years older than she was when Dad died.

“Tell me something,” she said. “Did your dad ever make you promise to take care of me after he died?” “No,” I said. “We never talked about it.” She closed her eyes and I went back to my book until I felt her sideways glance, and she spoke again. “Maybe he didn’t think he had to ask,” she said. “He’d done a pretty good job, teaching you about promises.”

Yes, I thought. He certainly had.

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89 thoughts on “Promises Made, Promises Kept

    1. beell,

      Thanks! Methinks I know someone else who shares some of my dad’s characteristics. He showed up at school events and kept track of who was driving when I went here or there, too. ;-)

      Happy Father’s Day to you!

      Linda

  1. I read some graffitti once:
    There are three things that should never be broken; toys, hearts and promises.

    It’s the promises we remember and can gauge our lives by. Your father sounds like a wonderful and successful human being.

    1. Nanette,

      He was wonderful, and a truly successful human being. He was successful in other ways, too – probably moreso than he could have been today. A coal miner’s son with a high school education, he still rose to supervisor in Maytag’s Industrial Engineering department. Near the end of his career he was denied advancement because he lacked a college degree – silly people.

      Still, he enjoyed his work and had time to enjoy life after retirement. The most famous line of his whole life may have come post-retirement, when he walked into the kitchen and said to my mom, “You know, as long as we’re planning a trip to Arizona, why not just go over to Africa and see Linda?”

      He was a great traveling companion.

      Linda

  2. Beautiful story and a heartwarming telling of it. You’ve captured one of the essences of parenting and how well your father knew to teach you about an important virtue.

    1. Snoring Dog Studio,

      It’s funny how, in the years since his death, my dad has become more and more alive to me. I understand him more fully now than I ever did while he was alive. We were lucky that what a friend wryly calls “the normal complexities of growing up” never broke our bond.

      I do regret that he missed the internet. He would have loved Google!

      Linda

  3. This is a beautiful tribute to your dad. A tribute that he earned. Not everyone is lucky enough to have such a wonderful father who is a teacher and a friend, a father who has earned praise from an adoring daughter.

    Your tribute has brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your wonderful dad with us.

    Happy Fathers’ Day
    to your dad.

    1. Maria,

      Originally, I was going to share a little book Dad’s department made for him when he retired – a completely amusing spiral-bound “journal” with original artwork and text that told the story of his life. When I went to pull it out, I discovered many of the photos you see here, and in the context of Mom’s comment, it seemed clear that the little “book” could wait. This was the year for a more personal entry.

      It’s a fact that when I compare many of our so-called leaders and celebrities to my dad, they fall short, to varying degrees. Honesty, trustworthiness and a willingness to work aren’t much in vogue in certain circles today, but they remain touchstones for me, thanks to him.

      Linda

    1. Wild_Bill,

      I did enjoy him. He was curious, intelligent, and a wonderful traveling companion. There was nothing I loved more than “going exploring” with him. He’d make up some rationale for getting in the car and then, once we were out of sight of the house he’d say, “Which direction?” I’d choose, and off we’d go, to see what we could see.

      I realized a few years ago that approach pretty much had become the paradigm for my life. Whether it’s good or bad I can’t say, but I’ve surely seen some interesting things along the way!

      Linda

  4. Beautifully written, Linda. A poignant memory.

    It is amazing how similar our fathers were. He made and kept promises to myself and my sister, and expected us to do the same. My mother, on the other hand, never agreed to anything. Her reply to our questions would always be “we’ll see”.

    Wishing a Very Happy Fathers’ day to both our beloved fathers.

    1. Sandi,

      Oh, am I laughing. “We’ll see” made an occasional appearance in our home, too, and it never came from my Dad. Poor Mom nearly fell apart when he proposed heading off to Africa. From what I’m told she nearly “we’ll see’d” him to death for a week or two until he finally said, “If we don’t stop dithering and just go, she won’t be there any more.” An eminently reasonable approach!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the memories. Happy Fathers’ Day, indeed!

      Linda

  5. Now I am bawling like a baby. Oh, you are such a lucky girl to have such a wonderful relationship with your father. I had one too and he’s only been gone from this life for 3½ years. I miss him a lot.

    I’m off to find more tissue.
    Take good care friend,
    CheyAnne

    1. CheyAnne,

      It makes me so sad when I read news stories today about kids who are left adrift without loving parents. And what passes for love isn’t always what it seems – I have a friend who swears “designer dogs” and “designer kids” showed up on the scene at the same time!

      In any event, we were among the lucky ones. No one ever will convince me that dad, mom and kids isn’t the best family structure, but I suppose everyone has to sort that one out for themselves. In the meantime, I’ll cherish my memories and celebrate the way my own dad shaped me. I suspect you’ll be doing the same.

      Linda

  6. Lovely story. After reading it, I find that I’m questioning the tally of promises made, promises broken in my life. When you grow up with a father who rarely ever kept his, you can figure out the final score without really applying much math at all.

    I still have hope for me and the present I’ve miraculously eeked out of a slew of dysfunction. And even though he’s chosen not to be in my life and hasn’t been for years, I can be magnanimous enough to still have an inkling of hope for my father. But people make decisions and we must make decisions based on those made. It’s sad, but it’s reality.

    I cry for other things now.

    Happy Father’s Day..in spite of it all.

    LK
    Houston

    1. Laurie,

      There’s no question – part of what makes the story of my relationship to my dad so special to me is that, like everyone in the world, I’ve also experienced broken promises. Some were painful initially but led to better things. Others were unutterably painful and remained so for some time.

      Living through those times helps cultivate the wisdom you mention – an acceptance that other people cannot be controlled, that sometimes we have no option but to acknowledge the decisions others make and then move on.

      One of the best bits of advice I ever received was “do what you can, and not what you can’t”. Learning to distinguish between the two could take most of a lifetime.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your thoughtful comments. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  7. Dear Linda,
    First, the pictures brought me to tears, the good kind, because the pictures exist – there are all those snapshots of you with your Dad and your narration fit but the pictures – oh, the pictures! Then you added the fish story in Africa and there’s your Dad and it was just wonderful to see that.

    You know, you can go to flea markets and antique places and see all kinds of photographs that people have “let go of” and you look at the photos and you wonder about the people and you know the stories are rich (I’ve NEVER believed anyone’s life is anything less than fascinating) and sometimes maybe you purchase one of those photos and take it home.

    Anyway, your photos prove the life and lives and just knowing you, even the little bit that I do, make the photos so instantly special, so remarkable. OK, can you tell I enjoyed seeing them, seeing you? There’s that certain universality about them, too (I had a coat similar to the one you’re wearing in one of the pictures….and, the same sort of sand box!!!!)

    Hugs to you and your Mom. (Of course I cried a bit at the denouement of your entry; but again, not sad tears, just the good kind, the sharing…)
    And a special happy day to you today. And please say hello to your mom for me, as well. I’m going to go call my mom right now.

    1. Oh,

      We did share so many experiences growing up, didn’t we? It was a different time, for sure – but we survived and thrived despite it all – or because of it all. Those sandboxes and trikes and toys were so simple – but we were free to enjoy them as we pleased. They didn’t come with instruction manuals, warning labels or lists of good personal injury attorneys attached!

      And the photos… It doesn’t take many to tell a story, does it? I have perhaps two dozen more of my dad, but that’s enough. I suppose that’s why I’ve never been one who returns from vacation with a thousand photos. One good photo can resonate in way a thousand mediocre photos never will.

      I smiled at your little line – “I’m going to go call my mom right away”. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read something a blogger has written, and gone down to visit my own mom. As a matter of fact, there have been times I’ve read about the “bloggie-doggies” and cats and suddenly pushed back from the desk to go brush Dixie or give her a treat. All of the quiet, hidden ones of the world – they ask so little, and it’s good they have their days. I was happy to suddenly find a way to give my dad his day, too.

      Linda

  8. Linda

    You made me cry. Good tears. The best kind. How grateful I am that you shared this string of pearls from your life with your father.

    But for now, and this stage of your life, I offer hugs — to you — and your mother — which I cover with prayer.

    Janell

    1. Janell,

      I knew you’d enjoy it – not the least of it seeing the photos. Mom will enjoy it, too, although I think I’ll save it for a time when she’s not so fragile.

      I loved your quoted line about life being relationships, but sometimes the “furniture” – the strollers and sandboxes, the high heels and fish – belong in the picture, too.They help to make the relationship stay.

      Linda

  9. Heard a sermon today about the Trinity. The guy related it to a parent who becomes a parental authority, a friend and shares the spirit. He said something about a woman who is told “you sound just like your mother.” The idea being that, while her mother was not there, her spirit remained in the woman’s soul. While your dad may be gone for 30 years, it sounds to me as if he remains.

    Love the photo of the high wasted pants while vacuuming. My guess is cleaning was more fun then than it is now.

    1. symonsez,

      I think you’re exactly right. As a matter of fact, Dad not only remains, it seems as though he’s become more of a presence in my life as time’s gone on. Who knows how that happens? But it’s a wonderful thing, a dynamic that deserves to be celebrated when it appears.

      Isn’t that a great photo? Gosh, I could be a diligent child – sometimes! I do still enjoy that sense of putting things back in order, tidy and clean, but of course the reality of getting it done as an adult is that we’re always trying to sandwich it in among other chores and responsibilities. That’s not fun!

      Linda

    1. Hocam,

      Thank you so much for your kind words – I appreciate them very much.

      I visited your blog and must say your post on Tintern Abbey was splendid. I’d move in tomorrow if they’d let me! A dear, dear friend lived in Staffs for years, though she’s now on the coast of Wales. She introduced me to the area, and misses it a great deal herself, so she’ll enjoy your photos as well.

      Again, thanks for stopping by. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  10. Wonderful tribute written with your heart ! Thank you so much for sharing personal memories of your dear father. He would love you reading these lines to him. Moments spent with one’s Dad are so precious, I see mine once a week and at every opportunity that comes. Time seems to fly…each day spent together is a gift.

    1. Isa,

      Life being what it is, there are times when the simplest day-to-day obligations and necessities make it difficult to see what gifts we’ve been given, how precious our limited time is.

      And certainly no one’s perfect. I’m sure there must have been a broken promise or two on Dad’s part, but I can’t remember one. I suppose that’s the greatest wonder of relationships – that we can allow the mistakes and missteps to disappear, and remember the loving heart.

      Linda

  11. I love this post. I have such a terrible memory for the details of my childhood. I remember that my dad worked really long hours (a UPS man back before they frowned on overtime), but that he would sometimes read a bedtime story to my brother & me: This is the story of the Pee Little Thriglets – Flopsy, Mopsy, Peter & Cottontail. To which I would ALWAYS reply: Daddeee that’s not right & besides that’s FOUR.

    Fun memories. Now he does performance pieces for the Senior Games in my hometown – lord help us all!

    1. Bug,

      Before I even was through your sentence I was thinking about the three Sisty Uglers – did they arrive on the scene after my childhood? Maybe. Anyway – those silly stories combined with every child’s love of repetition leads to some pretty good memories. I can just hear you – “Dadddeeeeee…!”

      Performance pieces for the Senior Games? I can’t quite imagine what that’s about, but I’d be willing to put money down that he and everyone else has a good time with it!

      Linda

      1. Well, for example, this year he & his wife did a comedy skit where he dressed up as a woman & they were talking about the problems they were having getting men. And they both sing together. They got a gold medal for the skit – and also for some of the athletic competitions (long jump, basketball throw, softball toss, etc.)

        1. What fun! I must say, some of the changes for the older folks among us are all to the good. I’ve always thought “senior citizen” was a bit of a silly phrase – what was wrong with “the old lady down the block”? – but events like Senior Games are great. Wheelchair races, anyone? ;-)

  12. Linda, my heart is smiling and my heart breaking in every imaginable way with this wonderful tribute to your father and to the best of fatherhood –raising a child with the values your father passed on to you — not just by words, but with walking the walk and showing how when you don’t, how disappointing that can be.

    I love this post with all my being. I love what you say, what it meant and I simply adore all those fabulous photos which are a treasure in themselves. No, he didn’t have to make you promise — your mother was right.

    Hugs to you!

    1. jeanie,

      I thought about some of your photo-memoirs while I was writing this. It’s such a commonplace to hear someone say, “I don’t know what I think until I write it”, but that surely was true for me with this post. So many memories and so much emotion – writing is a way of sorting it out. It’s another good opportunity to think of Durrell’s comment that the purpose of writing – perhaps of all art – is to “rework reality to show its significant side”.

      Every child deserves such a father. I was one of the lucky ones – I know that. And when I look at those photos, and think of all that have fallen to the wayside over the years, I can’t help but wonder – perhaps I unconsciously kept the ones that best illustrate the story of our relationship. I knew you’d enjoy them!

      Linda

      1. I must confess that of all the Father’s day posts I read this year, it was my favorite. Partly because of the photos — they always resonate, but mostly because of your wonderful words.

        I just love words that come out — that you start and it goes where it goes. Sometimes we find the most precious gems — you certainly did here.

        On an unrelated note, we missed having you with us when Diana, Kerry and I gathered. I don’t know if you saw my post on it earlier this week, but it was indeed a special gathering — one of old friends who had never met. Perhaps someday we’ll converge on Houston or somewhere closer so you can come play with us!

        1. jeanie,

          I saw oh’s post about the gathering, but haven’t been to read yours yet. I’m so behind in my blog reading it’s pathetic, though understandable. I think I’ll have some extra time today for blog-reading – it’s raining, steady and nice. If it just can keep it up for a few hours it won’t be a drought-buster, but at least it will wash things off and give a nice drink to the lawns, trees and critters.

          Meeting bloggers is such fun. I’ve had a couple of opportunities and certainly do look forward to more. Mom and I have done a little talking about her finally making the move out of her own apartment. She hates the thought, but also understands that the time may have come. It’s a fact that I’d have a little more freedom in that case, and she understands that’s important, too.

          I’d still love to tempt you down this way. A city is a city, but a swamp is an experience! ;-)

          Linda

  13. Linda – what a wonderful story, and truly does show how setting an example is far more important than words. My daughter wrote some really nice things in hubby’s Father’s Day card, and she listed 5 things that he has taught her. Everyone one of them was shared through words, and then set by example.

    Both of our girls have said that finding the right mate would be hard, as their father has set the bar so high. I also respect my husband so much for the father that it is….as he didn’t have a very good example set for him. My girls are very lucky….and so were you!

    1. Karen,

      As a child, I can’t remember ever hearing that obnoxious phrase – “Do as I say, and not as I do”. Whether anyone ever really says that I’m not sure. It may be nothing more than a common way of describing a certain attitude – one I can’t remember Dad ever exhibiting. It took years for me to realize he was a rare combination of responsible-and-caring. He wasn’t perfect, and there are a few things about my childhood I wish I could change, but that’s true for any of us.

      I imagine you’ve seen a few kids who’ve not been so lucky in the course of your work – we’ve all come across the sad reality of a child without a dependable adult to care for them. That’s where a good teacher can become really important!

      Linda

  14. Your dad was an honorable man, in all that it means. My dad was the same, there was right and there was wrong, and that was it. His “no shades of grey” way of looking at the world made for strife ridden teenage years. But I appreciate him now. Sadly, he died long before I could tell him.
    Sorry to hear about your Mom Linda, and great to read about your Dad!

    A wonderful , honest piece of writing. Your dad would have been proud.

    1. Jeannine,

      Gosh, it’s good to see you! And I’ve peeked into your garage already, so I know what you’ve been up to. Plus, I think the boys must be in school now – it took me a minute to sort out the seasons again!

      I do regret that Dad never got to witness my transformation into a varnisher. It would have made him laugh, I think. Mom was slightly scandalized by the choice, but I suspect Dad would have wanted to “hire on” and work with me. His own dad was a coal miner who was injured in a slate fall and afterward forbid Dad to go into the mines. Still, Dad always considered manual labor and self-employment just slightly more honorable than some other occupations – even though he’d never have said so!

      Mom’s doing all right, considering. She’s accustomed to recovering from surgeries, but cascading medical problems are something else. She’s out of ICU now, so we’re making progress.

      Thanks for stopping by – and for the kind words.

      Linda

  15. Hello, Linda;

    This is such a lovely blog; sure to tug at the heart-strings of any daddy’s girl. As a a parent, I can tell you that your father would be so pleased and so touched by your loving tribute; as a daughter, I can appreciate your sentiments toward your father.

    Mothers are wonderful, but it seems that dads teach us different life lessons and open up our worlds to the adventures of exploring woodlands and shores; how things work and how to work with nature and not against it. At least that was true in my case.

    Thanks for the poignant and precious read. :-)

    1. Beth,

      Clearly, our fathers had some traits in common. I’m not a huge “keeper”, but some of the things of Dad’s I chose to keep point directly to that doing, exploring and creating you mention: a pair of leather work gloves, his drafting tools, some hand tools, a couple of projects from his woodworking class in school, some of the rocks we collected together.

      It’s funny – I have several of his wristwatches, but he’s also the one who taught me the value of leaving time behind now and then. It was one of his greatest gifts to me.

      So glad you enjoyed the piece!

      Linda

  16. Such a wonderful piece of writing, but so sorry to hear about your mom! I hope you are okay – I couldn’t tell from this piece if your mom had passed or is near to doing so.

    Regarding the rest of the piece, I too am incredibly lucky with my father, and perhaps even more blessed to see what example Sam sets for Evangeline on a daily basis. There is something so terribly special about fathers and daughters, and I am so glad Sam gets to experience that!

    1. Courtney,

      Mom had a fall the day after Memorial Day. She didn’t break or injure anything, but it was the beginning of a bit of a medical-issue cascade. Not surprising, at 93. Anyway, we’ve had a time of it for three weeks – ERs, ICUs, all that – but she’s in a regular room at a Long Term Acute Care facility now, and perhaps will be out of there in a couple of weeks. Day by day is the name of the game.

      I was thinking when I saw your new entry how much fun it’s going to be to watch Evangeline grow up – and watch her relationships with both you and Sam develop. It’s a kind of magic, for sure. And just think – my Dad didn’t even have the internet or books or family dynamics experts to help him figure it out! ;-)

      Linda

  17. What a beautiful and touching collection of photos! Replete with every season of your life. And may I say that I covet your ‘Mad Men’ prom dress?

    You understand so completely your relationship with your dad – appreciate, accept, absorb. It is lovely to know that you will never forget him and therefore he will live forever.

    Thank you for this wonderful post!

    1. aubrey,

      Oh, that dress! Yellow roses with dark lime-green and avocado leaves, and custom-dyed lime green satin heels. Good gosh! How very 1964!

      There’s nothing more fun than re-membering the past – taking the bits and pieces, putting them back together and giving them new life. It’s always worth the effort, because it not only brings the past to life, it gives us fresh liveliness, too.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

      Linda

    1. Mary Ellen,

      If Mom hadn’t asked me that question, this post probably wouldn’t have been written. She’s the one who started me thinking about it.

      And I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. We’re close enough in age that I suspect you have some similar ones tucked away in a closet!

      Thanks for stopping by – it’s always a delight to see you.

      Linda

  18. I loved reading this. What a great dad he was. The photos are wonderful. You were a cutie. Hope Mom is getting better.

    1. Bella,

      I was a cutie as a kid. On the other hand, my “awkward period” was slightly extended. As far as I know, every photo from my fifth grade year has been destroyed – at least those in my possession!

      He was a great dad, and I’m absolutely certain he would have gotten along famously with your dad. Whether their generation was the “greatest”, I can’t say, but they were great, for sure, and losing them one by one is affecting our society – no matter what anyone says to the contrary.

      Thanks for inquiring about Mom. She’s out of ICU now, and willing to eat ice cream again. In our family, when someone’s not willing to eat ice cream, it’s time to call the ambulance! ;-)

      Linda

      1. Well, I’m so very glad she’s eating ice cream. LOL

        I don’t know if I believe you about your awkward period. You looked pretty fetching in your party dress.

        I couldn’t agree with you more about our parent’s generation. They weren’t perfect, but they had a sense of duty that seems to be missing now. I could go on but I won’t.

        I enjoy everything you write, but I do love when you give us the personal side of Linda. All the best to your mom.

        1. Bella,

          Trust me – if I showed you one of those 5th grade pics, you’d groan. But they’re all gone from my life. I think. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of a former classmate?

          Like you, I often find myself in the position of choosing not to “go on” about this or that. It wasn’t that long ago an acquaintance said, “Oh, well – the world’s always been full of Anthony Weiners”. That almost did it, except for the fact that I didn’t want to get close enough to his story to write about it.

          The truth is that the world’s always had its cads and jerks, not to mention the irresponsible and narcissistic, but my dad is far more representative of his generation than people today like to think. I could go on about that, too, but I won’t. ;-)

          Linda

  19. I’m glad your mom is feeling better and is out of ICU (Ice Cream Unwilling) and enjoying my favorite food.

    It’s beautiful that your father knew your character and heard your unspoken promise to take care of your mom.

    1. Claudia,

      Not only is she out of ICU, yesterday she was sitting up and eating her ice cream herself. She allowed as how she was getting a touch tired of chocolate – a sure sign of improvement. When she starts grumping about the nurses, I’ll know she’s really on the mend.

      Dad not only knew my character, he helped shape it. I suspect he also knew I’d do what was necessary even when I didn’t particularly want to – and there were a few of those times through the years! If there hadn’t been, it would have been a fairy tale, and not real life. ;-)

      Linda

  20. Oh, Linda, such a moving post. I am so happy to have found your blog. Your story of promises moves me to tears. I love your photos. Your father was a terrific dad and he was so proud of you. Your mom knows you and her husband very well. She was fortunate to have you as a daughter.

    May I share a creed that is mine and others’: Say what you mean. Deliver what you promise. And, fight for the right. What your father said and did in deed needs to be printed on leaflets and dropped from the skies.

    1. Jack,

      I think it’s no mistake that, when I read your creed, my immediate thought was of my years in rural South Texas. So many good people I met there lived by that creed, whether they could have articulated it or not.

      It’s becoming fashionable in some quarters to take potshots at Texas, and certainly there are things to criticize. Still, I live comfortably here, and part of the reason is that I can spot my dad, walking, talking and working in the form of other people who embody those values.

      He didn’t care if a person was Catholic, Methodist or nothing at all. He didn’t care if a man was black or white, and he certainly didn’t care if a girl wanted to learn to use tools. Lacking a college degree, he understood its importance, but he also knew from his own experience that a degree was neither necessary nor sufficient for advancement.

      He cared about honesty, dependability and commitment – I wish he’d had the chance to live here!

      Linda

  21. Linda,
    That was so beautiful and of course between the story and the photos I had tears in my eyes. But smiling type of tears. Your relationship with your Dad was so special and it is wonderful you have so many great photos to help with the memories.
    I really enjoyed this one a lot.
    Patti

    1. Patti,

      After all this time, I “know” your family enough to suspect that any of your grandkids could write the same kind of post in the future. Clearly, they have close and loving relationships with their folks, and dads that are ready and willing to nurture those relationships. No matter what comes in the future, those ties will endure.

      Writing that, I suddenly remembered that quotation from Robert Frost::
      “Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
      they have to take you in.”

      The real blessing in life is to have to go home, and then discover that they want to take you in. ;-)

      Linda

  22. I relished every line of this, Linda, and read it slowly because I didn’t want it to end. My father also taught me the importance of keeping your word. Times change, though, and whenever I talk about that particular value these days, the response I get is often one of puzzled silence.

    Your father was a wonderful man; thank you for giving us this glimpse into his life, and into your relationship with him. I hope your Mom is doing better.

  23. bronxboy,

    Well, “times” do change. There’s no doubt about that. On the other hand, we’re free to decide whether to go with the cultural flow or stand against it.

    When I was growing up, it was a given that the elderly deserved honor, respect and support – even the crazy old lady down the block with all those cats and a propensity for singing opera under a full moon. (No joke!) It’s taken only three weeks of schlepping along from ER to hospital room to nursing home to ER to ICU to figure out that not everyone views old people the same way that I do. My job now is to ensure that even people who don’t respect the elderly treat my mother as though they do.

    I watched my dad cope with the difficulties that came at the end of his own parents’ lives. I’m glad I’ve got his example to follow.

    Linda

  24. Oh, Linda!

    What a wonderful tribute to your dad, so rich and poignant. A great “quiet man” very rare, indeed. Thank you for sharing him. And thank you for the wonderful pictures, which tell the story almost as well as your words.

    Hope your mom is doing better…

    1. ds,

      He was a “quiet man”! You’ve reminded me of a wonderful story. He’d been working on the roof, doing whatever. Mom walked into the kitchen and found him sitting in a chair. He looked up at her and said, “Maybe I should go to the doctor”. As it turns out, he’d fallen off the roof onto our concrete patio and laid then for a spell, before getting himself up and into the house.

      That pretty much was his way of coping of every disaster – including the ones I produced. It tended to be reassuring. ;-)

      And Mom’s doing better – thanks for asking!

      Linda

      1. A generational style, that. Reminds me of the time I received a phone call from my mom, all light & cheeriness as she usually is, and then “oh, by the way, your father’s in the hospital. Don’t worry.” Understatement of the year (it was a valve replacement, which I guess is not so big a deal now, but still…).

        So glad your mom is okay. And how are you?

        1. ds,

          How am I? Distracted and unfocused to a great extent – there’s been a lot of hoopla to deal with at the hospital this week. With that resolved, I’m hoping to get back into what passes for a routine around this joint! Mom will be chez acute care establishment for another week or so, and then maybe she can begin moving into a new routine, too. My 4th of July will be spent beginning the process of emptying out her apartment – we’re past the point of her being able to come back to her own home. That she managed it for 93 years is an amazement!

          You’re right about that generationall thing. There weren’t nearly as many drama queens – or kings! – back then!

          Linda

  25. This is wonderful. The photos remind me of many of my own. I’d love to have that bark cloth chair in your living room. :) I had a father with an eighth grade education, but went on to be quite a success on all levels. He had a great sense of humor and although we had our rough times here and there, he was a profoundly positive influence on me. Now, I think I have an even better relationship with him, six years after his passing. I feel his presence, his influence, still. thank you for sharing your father with us and the beautiful relationship you shared.

    I would much prefer to be the old lady down the block, add the adjective crazy and that would be fine, too, but never senior citizen. Ugh. Political correctness has left us lacking other things of value, like colorful words to describe the everyday.

    1. Teresa Evangeline,

      It’s just the tiniest bit ironic that medical concerns with mom should break my normal blogging routine precisely when I’ve written about Dad. Things have stabilized for her a bit – now I’ll see if I can get myself stabilized!

      Bark cloth – I’d forgotten the term, though not those wonderful fabrics. I’d prefer to leave the harvest gold and avocado kitchens back in the 60s, thank you very much, but much of the 50’s is appealing again.

      I miss the real humor that characterized my dad, too. He was a great lover of word-play and puns, and would tell the most wonderful jokes. What passes for humor these days too often is
      coarse and offensive. Interesting that the rise of political correctness and the degradation of language go hand in hand.

      Linda

  26. Linda, I went to see my 95 year old mother and didn’t once switch on the computer while I was there, so I’m busy catching up on my reading.

    What a beautifully written homage to your father. You really are lucky to have had such a relationship with him. I love the pictures – you were such a cute kid.

    I’m also happy to hear your Mom’s doing better :-)

    1. dearrosie,

      Wonderful to hear you still have your mom, too – and good for you on leaving that machine off. One of my best blogging buddies calls computers “infernal persnickety time-suckers”. Isn’t that just the truth?

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I certainly enjoyed doing it – I relived a lot in the writing. And I’ve learned something new. If you look at the photo of me standing at the corner of the sandbox, you’ll see I’m holding a little stick. Mom reminded me that was my “fishing pole” – I’m reaching out for the imaginary fish I just caught. I wouldn’t be surprised to know that we’d just come back from one of our Minnesota lake vacations.

      Linda

  27. Looking at the photos made me wonder which came first in the development of this blog, the photos or the text? Every photo is so appropriate to what you have written. Was your mother the photographer? If so, then these images say a lot about her visual story telling too and her sense of personal history. As usual it’s a good read with a little prod toward my own personal introspection.

    1. Laura,

      Which came first, photos or text? I suppose the answer is “both”.
      As best I can remember, Mom’s comment started the thought process. I remembered the tricycle story and went looking to see if I had a photo. Then, as I browsed the photos, I found a few more. Once I had the photos I wanted to use, I processed them and arranged them in order, and then began the writing.

      Mom would have taken the photos of Dad and me. I suppose either of them could have taken the others, but I’d suspect Mom. She always was eager to “freeze” moments in time, while Dad couldn’t be bothered. He was more interested in moving on, seeing what was next.

      Linda

  28. Hi, Linda —

    I was catching up on your comment to mine! Yes, you’re right — meeting blog friends is really quite wonderful! Lots of good pics, thoughts on the meeting at the Gypsy (plus one or two other Chicago posts because face it — the place is so darned photogenic!)

    I’ve been thinking of you and hoping you have had the rain you so desperately need. j

    1. jeanie,

      Despite my best efforts I’m still just snowed under with medical concerns, life-decisions and such. I’m really looking forward to this three-day weekend so I can substitute blogging for work!

      We’re still hot and dry, and there’s no relief in sight. Drought is a terrible thing, and it’s just devastating Texas right now – along with some other states. It’s the first time since Ive lived here I’ve seen people wishing so passionately for a tropical storm. (Another month of this and we might even take a hurricane!)

      Linda

  29. Linda,

    I was out of town in Toronto for a while, right after the book sale ;) , came back busy a few days ago. Now at 7 am, clicked onto your blog and read what I’ve missed for a while. And what I’ve missed.

    Thanks for sharing with us your precious memories of a wonderful father… your post makes me think of Scout and Atticus. You’re truly blessed to have had such a perfect human being as your father, and such a loving relationship. And for the photos, looks like somebody had taken those pictures knowing you would write about them some day.

    And of course, write about them you will, for that’s only natural isn’t it… for it flows from the heart. I thank you for sharing with us and inspiring us all that yes, Atticus Finch can be found in real life as well.

    1. Arti,

      Well, of course he wasn’t the perfect father, any more than I was a perfect daughter. Trust me on that! But “precious” still applies to the memories, and to the relationship itself. I didn’t discover how much he’d taught me until well after his death, but the lessons have and will serve me well.

      I love the reference to Scout and Atticus. That never had crossed my mind, but it’s so apt. I think I’ve just found a book to add to my own summer reading list!

      Linda

    1. Andrew,

      Funny – I just was thinking how much life is like a fireworks show. You have to “watch quickly” when it comes to fireworks, because they fade so quickly. So does life, when it comes right down to it. We always think things will go on forever, but of course they don’t, and in the eternal scheme of things, we’re nothing but a beautiful flash.

      Somehow, those promises keep the light flickering a bit longer!

      Linda

    1. Désirée,

      Funny that I ended up writing about Dad and Mom both, in such a short time. But, now they’ve both been shared with the world. I suppose it’s a good thing I wrote about Mom now. There’s no guarantee I’ll be around in another 30 years!

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it – thanks for saying so!

      Linda

  30. One of your best entries ever IMHO. A touching story with marvelous photos and a chapter for the parenting manual.

    1. LowerCal,

      For a couple of scared “oldies” who didn’t have a baby until after seven years of marriage, they did pretty good, didn’t they? I suspect part of it’s because Mom raised her sisters after her mom died, and Dad was the eldest kid, and pretty darned responsible after his dad was injured in a slate fall in the coal mine.

      Yep – that’s me. A coal miner’s grand-daughter. I would have been a coal miner’s daughter, except Grandpa wouldn’t let Dad go into the mines.

      Thanks for stopping by – and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Linda

  31. You were truly blessed with wonderful parents; it shows in your writing.

    My Dad once commented that kids become interesting at about the age of 20 when you can have intelligent conversations with them; but I know he was really only kidding. He too was a most remarkable person and father, although it took a mellowing of years for him to overcome his (sometimes violent) temper.

    For Christmas 1982 he sent me a photo album (which would have taken days to assemble) as a record of my first 20 years. It is a more precious gift to me than any of the ‘objects’ sent before or since. It brings back memories of love, good times and of learning morals and values which cannot be taught in school. I could write a book or two about him.

    I’m happy to have been able to return some of his gifts by designing my parents’ last house; one which he enjoyed for his last 15 years, and repeatedly said was the greatest place he ever lived in. (Of course having a spectacular view overlooking Oak Bay and the Straight of Juan de Fuca is worth a little.)

    Rick

    1. Rick,

      It takes being tempered by time for most of us to begin “accentuating the positive, and eliminating the negative”. If we’re blessed, we do it soon enough for others to appreciate it, too.

      Beyond that, it takes some time for most of us to begin appreciating our parents. My only wish now is that my dad hadn’t died so soon – he would have loved this new world we have, especially the computers, and he would be a wonderful traveling companion – as he always was.

      I’ll only note your comment about morals and values which can’t be taught in school – I certainly agree. Part of the issue, of course, is that values and the ability to make moral judgements based upon them aren’t so much taught as absorbed in the course of daily living. Children certainly do pick up values at school, but they’re probably not in the lesson plan.

      Having a view is worth a lot. In the list of things wrong with nursing homes and etc., I’d put “no view” near the top. One of the worst situations I ever encountered was a woman in a room whose window looked out to – a brick wall. She often said she thought she might die of suffocation. I’m glad your parents had an infinitely better option.

      Linda

  32. Linda-
    I love seeing these photos and hearing these stories about you and your dad. I love hearing your exposé on how one learns trust. Thank YOU for being steadfast here with your good writing, in this great camaraderie created by readers and writers … in this way you share these values you were brought up with, methinks.
    -Cirrelda in Albuquerque

    1. Cirrelda,

      There’s so much in the world today that’s negative and destructive. I was greatly blessed to be born into a family and community that, while certainly not perfect, nevertheless was stable and loving, and I enjoy sharing my memories of that world.

      I must say, our little blogging community shares some of those same values, and I enjoy being here. The day I tossed out the television was a good one. I’m much happier reading about your tapioca and Jack’s ranch than watching pundits yell at one another or those so-called “reality” shows.

      Thanks so much for stopping by – it’s always a pleasure.

      Linda

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