Dad died on Halloween 1988. I always think of him this time of year so I’m sharing a little bit of his life…and mine.
“At ease, at ease…” These words run through my mind anytime sound decibels begin to rise. My dad, the military man, had phrases he would bark at us kids. “Get with the program”, “At ease, at ease”, “Grab it and growl” these were his favorites and the ones he used most often.
Every night Dad came home from ‘work’ and grabbed the Old Crow out from under the kitchen-sink cabinet. He filled a tumbler with a couple of ice cubes, a wee bit of coca cola, and then topped it off with Old Crow. Why anyone would want to drink or put anything in their mouth called Old Crow is beyond me. Afterwards, he headed straight to the couch in the family room to ‘rest his eyes.’
The couch wasn’t long enough for him so his socked feet hung off the end. It was actually a 1950’s sectional – very low to the ground, about three quarters of the length of a regular sized couch, with one side open so you could push the two pieces together and make a really long couch; or you could place them perpendicular for a modern look. Dad liked modern.
The couch was upholstered with a neutral taupe, itchy textured fabric. It was, that is, until mom had it re-upholstered with a yellow and orange pinstriped print. Mom hated the couch. She thought it odd. Dad loved it. It was comfortable (though itchy) and modern and his feet could dangle.
Finally, the two of them reached a compromise about the couch…one section went to the dump…the other, the yellow and orange pinstriped section, stayed in the family room until Dad died; then it went to the dump as well.
Growing up we kids never did much with Dad unless it could be done while he was lying on the couch – playing ‘up on knees or traps’ pretty much covered the extent of the games; but, every once in a while he would take us to the local dump. Scavenging around in all that wonderful stuff was like heaven! Thrift stores don’t hold a candle to an old fashioned dump.
There must have been two different types of dumps, because this one didn’t smell at all. There were just mounds of great stuff to look through. I guess Dad liked stuff being that he was the purchasing agent for the military base. He ordered stuff, amassed stuff, and sold stuff all his life.
Because of his propensity for stuff, we had really odd play items. Things like airplane tire inner tubes to use as mini trampolines. Loads of fun, until you forgot to turn the tire with the valve stem faced downward. Ouch, puts it mildly.
Another fun item was the very large heavy metal cow trough we used as our summer swimming pool. The pool was refreshing for the first couple of days; but after that, the water became pretty disgusting.
Toward the end of its stay at our house, the trough remained tilted on its side under the back deck. We used it as a spaceship to play ‘Lost in Space.’ When our family moved for the last time, the trough sold for more than it was purchased for years back. Dad knew how to deal!
Of all the odd items we had, the large roll of brown paper had to be my favorite. You could do anything with that stuff – color, cut, draw, paste, mold, hang, cover, wrap. Your imagination was limitless.
When dad quit drinking, he would become hooked on ice crème and candy. He didn’t like to share them. In fact, several months after he died, I came across his stash of Butterfinger candy bars hidden in the cedar chest. That was such a sweet find! Or so I thought. You really couldn’t outwit Dad. He would always have the last laugh. Trust me when I say, never bite into a Butterfinger candy bar that has been stored in a cedar chest.
This time of year always makes me think of Dad. He died on Halloween – a most interesting day chosen for him to die. After all us kids were grown, Dad would sit alone in the house on Halloween night with no intention of sharing the candy mom had purchased for the trick or treaters. He sat there in the quiet dark house hoping that no one would ring the bell; because if they rang the bell, he would have to answer the door. And if he answered the door, he would have to share the candy.
At ease, Dad…
your candy is safe.