Every good story, of course, begins at the beginning. And my earliest memories were of a man larger than life, as he was indeed a tall tree to me in my toddler years. Some of my more vivid recollections were meeting him with my mother and brother at the train station, he with suitcase in hand and loaded with a treasure picked out for each of his kids from a recent adventure. Mine during one of these occasions was an Eskimo squaw covered in soft rabbit fur. Dad had been up in Alaska, flying a pontoon plane. I don't remember why my father was in Alaska, and now too much time has passed for an exact memory. But this was my dad. For me and my oldest brother, he was a young father with an even younger wife, a man I looked up to, loved, slightly feared and admired.
He was a maverick of a man, living by his own principals. And later in life these often clashed with mine. Nevertheless, he was a hard working entrepreneur who provided extremely well financially for his growing family, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.
Another influence in my life was my grandfather. He and my grandmother’s was a happy home, neither rich nor poor but always filled with love and laughter. Company was key to them with good food, ample stories and the occasional song.
Gran was proficient on the piano and Gramps was a tenor in a group of Barbershoppers. He being a carpenter had built all their sets, and I have fond memories of attending a lot of his performances. “Oh, that tiger…grrr, oh that tiger!”
Yet another was the man whose family I stayed with during the years I’d run away from home. Rather than having a horrible time, mine to me were enchanting, especially for a storyteller. Yuri, the father, was a retired professor from his homeland and honorary Smithsonian. When he wasn’t working on his ‘Free Russia’ newspaper with his other expatriate cronies he would often sit on the balcony of their old dilapidated mansion with me and point out and discuss all the local birds he knew by species and habitat…a fascinatingly lovely man and, I believe, the inspiration for me later going back to school and finishing university.
Still another was my first father-in-law, an Irish-American ex-Texan who, along with my then husband’s German expatriate mother, seemed to celebrate life together by enjoying whatever they put their hands to, beginning with their lovely little mountain motel by a running stream that my man and I, still early married youths, helped them run. My father-in-law was an electrician by trade and yet was always involved in some kind of enjoyable side enterprise. In the days following the motel business, the in-laws operated a main street gallery, still in our mountain town. And I worked for awhile with them, learning how to mat and frame. I loved being there but, again, decided that finishing school in the midst of raising two boys was what I really wanted to do.
Besides the men in my life, the first husband, music partner in-between I had a common law relationship with, ending with my latest man I’ll probably go to the grave with, was another I truthfully barely knew but was fascinated by. This was the father of my Dutch husband, now sadly passed on. When I first met my father-in-law to be, it was later in life. So his time of greater productivity had passed and he was into his retirement years. Yet, during the several years he’d been researching history he was also photographing it. And with him I would often sit and peruse his albums of pre-WWII Zeeland – our province of the Netherlands – occupied WWII and post-WWII. History rich and ultimately engaging were his photos and tales.
Of course, there was my first man I knew when young and foolish, sharing together the follies of youth, its joys and tragedies. Ours was a constant struggle, which can be the case of two growing up together as we did in the American counter-culture. Later, as can happen, we grew apart. Still, I’ll never forget those lovely days of youth when we’d go on merry madcap adventures or just sit by the creek together, laughing, drinking and swapping zany philosophies of our yet to be found out lives. Those were the good moments, the happy moments that I’ll always treasure…along with the sons, who were our much wanted and loved offspring regardless of our later not so lovely splitting up and going our own ways, our desires and mindsets changing over the years.
My second man began as my music partner and great love. We had many happy years together playing music, performing and acting like bohemians before I again grew up and desired something more stable out of life. Perhaps such dreams are only delusions, but off I went exploring new territory as an international teacher.
So, to all these lovely men in my life – and more – I wish you a very Happy Father’s Day!