When I think about my father I smile and laugh a lot.
So…I’m the youngest of six and came five years, almost to the day, after my sister. I suppose I completed the set – three boys and three girls, and even though they had their hands full, my mom and dad always made us their number one priority. My mother was, for the most part, a stay-at-home mom. She worked part-time as a yard teacher here and there until I turned four and her child day care operation began to take shape in the basement of our house.
My father worked as a longshoreman, or as the occupation used to be called, stevedore. Often this wasn’t his only job. He took other odd jobs to make ends meet until he became a building inspector on one of the military bases in the bay area. Once my mother’s day care business took off, he retired early to help her with the books and act as occasional bouncer if things got weird with one of the parents.
I smile and laugh a lot when I think of him because he often took a lot of time out of his busy schedule to talk and play games with me when I was a very small child. My mother had become ill after returning from the hospital with me and with five other children to care for, he took it upon himself to ensure my development. Everything from silly games, to reading and learning math filled up our time together up until the moment I entered kindergarten and beyond. I credit my mother for my creativity, and my father for my vivid imagination.
He took his job as father and provider seriously from beginning to end. He was this little girl’s best friend, this teenager’s protector and guide and ultimately this woman’s role model. I can’t honestly say I’ve always thought this. If you had approached me about him as a teenager or a very young woman you would have witnessed a little bit of eye-rolling and rock-kicking. He brought his love of military discipline and order into our household – a teenager’s worst nightmare. I can tell you though, after holding down three jobs at once myself, WITHOUT six children and a spouse, my appreciation for him renewed and has remained ever since.
This fifth son of a sharecropper left the deep south with only a sixth grade education, joined the military, relocated to California and made a tremendously successful life for himself and his family by all measures. To say that I am extremely proud of him would be an understatement.