My father was a delightful eccentric who enjoyed the company of other eccentrics. These interesting folks were sometimes from other countries, other cultures or sometimes just out in left field. But all of them enriched the lives of us kids.
I remember Henry from England. Whenever he wrote to my dad, he addressed him as “Esquire, Royal Order of the Garter.” That really impressed our mailman.
And that reminds me, our dad always told us kids that we were royalty, direct descendents of Robert the Bruce of the Scotch throne. He would point to the veins in our arms and say, “See, blue blood!” Our Scotch grandfather wore kilts on holidays so it was convincing to us.
Father had a most unique life, born in 1895 on a rural Wisconsin farm. He had a log house, kerosene lamps and farmed with two horses, yet he lived to see a man on the moon. I can’t believe it when I think of all that happened in his lifetime — electricity, phones, cars, airplanes, radio, TV — all marvels to a rural farm boy.
In World War I, he joined the Navy and stayed in for nine years until he met our mother. He saw the world and had amazing stories of volcanoes erupting, swimming with sharks in the Philippines, and the Queen of England serving tea to American sailors. He saved all his money (being Scotch) and bought a farm just one mile from his parents’ farm.
Our dad had peculiarities that we loved. He always had two wallets; one wallet had just $2 in it in case he met up with robbers or muggers. He was ready for them.
I remember one Thanksgiving when our mother was sick, Dad roasted the turkey. He asked if us kids wanted stuffing. Well, of course we did. He had stuffed the turkey with beans.
During World War II there was a shortage of sugar. Dad anticipated that and had stuffed the back of the piano with boxes of sugar. When my sister, Jean, would practice her piano, Dad would say, “Bertha, don’t that girl play sweetly?”
Then there was the time mother was to sing a solo in church. But her front tooth was missing, and she was waiting for a replacement from the dentist. How could she sing a solo without her front tooth? So our resourceful dad carved a tooth out of a potato for her. He smiled ear to ear as she sang her solo.
My mother’s sister was a rich socialite who belonged to the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution). Dad considered her a snob and uppity. He insisted that D.A.R. meant the Damn Ornery Republications. That still tickles me.
I remember when he sneezed, it was not “achoo.” He sneezed “whis-key!”
Then there was the eccentric friend with the long white beard who brushed his teeth with a pencil and owned a pet raccoon. We babysat his raccoon “Tom” for awhile. Tom would ride on my tricycle with me, and I really loved the little fellow. As an adult, I got a raccoon of my own. Oh dear, I’m becoming an eccentric, too! Now where did I put my other wallet?
I really miss you, Dad.