For Father’s Day: a Salute to an Ordinary Man

As i have said many times before, i am not a big fan of government sponsored holidays or most holidays in general. Most are commercial boons to make people feel good about having fun, not working, or buying a lot of stuff we don’t really need — and ironically, i acknowledge this buying stuff is essential to the way our economy works. Then, i keep disproving myself like i did at Mother’s Day.

i am uncomfortable with “Father’s Day,” perhaps embarrassed is a better adjective. i don’t desire having my daughters, grandson, and others acknowledging me because some yahoo many years ago, jealous of mothers having their “day,” coming up with this idea of “Father’s Day.” i want people to express any gratitude they might have, any inclination to praise me, or give me something because it’s their idea when it’s their idea, if they have such an inclination, not because it’s mandated to be done on the third Sunday in June. Bah, humbug.

Then, damn near out of nowhere while Maureen and i were returning home after buying a new washing machine, coming up the hill to our turnoff into Bonita Long Canyon, this random thought comes rushing into my head as i shifted down from sixth to fifth. The thought was how i wish i could be fishing with him, this ordinary man.

After spending about seventy years with him, i think he would like me calling him an ordinary man.

i don’t think he had any aspirations other than having a good life with his wife and his children, all of his children, not just his daughter and two sons…and fishing, of course.

He was not a scientific fisherman although he eventually bought a sonar to determine if there were schools of fish beneath his boat. His secret locations for the best fish catching were mostly superstitious, i think. But he did catch a lot. It was his pursuit, void of the latest fish-catching equipment (except perhaps lures: he bought into the latest lures). There are about one hundred fishing stories i could relate here, but not now. No, not now. He always, always, caught more fish than me. Perhaps that is symbolic.

i have many photos of him i could post here. In fact, i have posted many of them. But there is an image in my mind i prefer.

He was a good-looking skinny man, five feet, nine inches of 135 pounds of skinny for most of his life, whose strength was belied by the thin frame. i have watched him lift a 300-pound barrel of oil onto the back of a pickup bed by himself using only that strength and practical, no nonsense know-how.

He  was not alone. He was like many men of his generation: loving husbands, good fathers, primary wage earners, no nonsense, caring men who served their country to defend their way of life, religious, community-supporting, workers in trades that served the community, not asking for more than a secure and safe lifestyle. His love for his wife was total and worked to make the relationship a compatible, synergistic existence. He was the strong one, the provider, the defender, the handy man, the buck-stops-here guy, the go-to man, the final decision maker.

i don’t remember him ever mentioning politics. i know he voted Southern Democrat for many years, but i never heard say a word about them or any other politician.

On the grand scale of advertising and marketing folderol of today, he was not a hero.

My image of him was captured in a couple of seconds of an 8mm home movie from the 1950’s. He had come home from work sometime after five (he might work later, but i don’t recall him ever getting home before five: he went to work at seven, a ten-hour workday, not counting lunch; this included evenings when he would leave around eight to go night fishing, getting home at three or four in the morning but still not missing the six-thirty o’clock departure for work the next morning).

The image was captured on film by my mother, who never quite caught the hang of movie making, jumping from subject to subject like she was taken snapshots from the old Kodak box camera. His time for movie fame was about two seconds. He had come home from work on a summer weekday. He is still in his work clothes, blue cotton pants and shirt with his first name on a white patch bordered with red stitching over his right shirt pocket. His sleeves are rolled up. He is mowing the front yard at our home on Castle Heights Avenue. His hands have grime and oil from working on cars all day, before he washes them with lava soap, which still doesn’t get all of the dark from under his fingernails. He might use his pocketknife to clean them later.

That’s it. That’s my image of this man. He was pretty special even if he wasn’t a plastic, false-image hero to the masses of social media.

He was my father. He was my best friend.

And even if i never caught as many fish as he caught, i wish to God i could go fishing with him again.

Even though i wish no special acknowledgement on this government proclaimed day, i do wish to thank you, old man.

Thank you, Jimmy Jewell, for being the father i needed.

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