Thursday, May 08, 2014

Wishing I knew more


I rediscovered this image of my father last night when I was going through old color slides, looking for something interesting to digitize.

The date on the slide was December, 1969. Dad was born in 1910, so he was 59 on the Sunday afternoon that I shot this photo of him sitting at his kitchen table, illuminated by the soft light from the north-facing window.

I know it was a Sunday because the Sunday comics section from The Indianapolis Star is on the table in front of him. And I would have driven up from my home in Indianapolis, which almost certainly makes it an afternoon photo. I can’t identify the cased object on top of the newspaper, but it was probably some of my camera gear.

The kitchen was a new addition to the house at the time, an expansion of what had been the dining room. My parents were very proud of it with its Zinn cherry cabinets and Jenn-Air range. The house was built in the late 1940s and the original kitchen was a cramped space, which made the new addition seem doubly luxurious. The old kitchen became the new dining room.

But I digress.

Like most people, I feel like I never knew my dad well enough. Sure, I knew his habits and his preferences. He liked being warm in the winter, which explains the Pendleton wool shirt buttoned at the collar. I suspect he was also wearing long underwear under his slacks.

But dad was like most men of his generation when it came to expressing his feelings and that was reinforced by his inbred Indiana farmer stoicism.

I know I made him cry when I flunked out of college twice. But I also know that I made him proud when I succeeded at a career in journalism at the state’s largest evening newspaper, with almost daily bylines – some of them on the front page. He told me that, if he’d had his druthers, he would have been a newspaperman, so I ended up fulfilling his dream.

(Interestingly, I had wanted to be a musician, but lacked the talent. Both of my sons have succeeded beyond my wildest expectations in that field.)

Dad was almost 10 years younger in December, 1969 than I am today, but I still think he looks older than I do. Maria thinks so too, so I don’t feel so delusional about it.

There are so many things I’d like to ask him. He loved dogs and I think he would heartily approve of our two Aussies and the two dogs who preceded them. And he would be bursting with pride over his two grandsons and his great-granddaughter.

He was a modest man from a large farm family. He believed in community service, was an officer in his church, helped found the local Chamber of Commerce, and was president of the school board during the construction of the current high school.

I know a lot about him, but looking at this photo of him gazing pensively into space, I wish I understood him more deeply.

Maybe I will someday.

No comments: