Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Day to Remember a Father Lost

Dad and his 3 sons,
August 1956,
Enid, Okla.,
the day we left to move to Hiram, Ohio
I miss my dad--Charles Edward Dyer, 1913-1999--with a sense of piercing affection and loss that has not diminished since his death in November 1999, an impossible seventeen years ago this fall. And I miss him every day. As many of you know, you don't ever get over the loss of a loved one; the loss changes, multiplies, surprises you with fresh appearances in dreams, in daily events, in memory. It's astonishing.

My dad was overseas in France, WW II, when I was born on November 11, 1944, and didn't even know I existed for a while (his letters at the time are full of queries about the me he didn't know--but Mom's letters took a while to catch up with him). (And yes, for you with naughty, skeptical minds, he had been home nine months earlier.)

We were living in our Osborn grandparents' home, 1609 East Broadway Avenue in Enid (they had an apartment upstairs--1609 1/2--where we lived), and both my older brother, Richard (by three years), and I got to know Grandpa very well--so much so, in fact, that when Dad returned from the war, and Richard (Dickie at the time) found Dad in bed with Mom that first morning after that first night, he asked Mom: Who is that strange man?

It was a question he and I (and, later, our younger bro, Davi) would spend a lifetime discovering. And everything we learned was a marvel. Just a few things--some of which I've mentioned here before. Tough. Here they are again.

  • He grew up--the 2nd oldest of nearly a dozen--on a farm in north-central Oregon (near Milton-Freewater).
  • His own father died when Dad was just a teen.
  • He went to work during the Depression to help support his family.
  • He worked his way through college.
  • He was at Phillips University (RIP) in Enid in the late 1930s when he met my mom, the daughter of one of the professors at Phillips. They married on October 12, 1939.
  • Off he went with her to begin his career as a minister (Disciples of Christ) in Denver.
  • World War II. He served as a chaplain.
  • He stayed in the Air Force Reserves after the war, retiring years later as a Lt. Colonel.
  • He earned an Ed.D. at the University of Oklahoma and switched his profession to Education.
  • He was called back to active duty during the Korean War and was stationed for nearly two years at Amarillo Air Force Base in Texas.
  • Back to Enid afterward where he became the provost at Phillips.
  • In the late summer of 1956 he took a position as the Chair of the Division of Education at Hiram College; he would stay until the spring of 1966 (my years of junior high, high school, and college), when he and Mom (who'd just earned her Ph.D. at the Univ. of Pittsburgh) took positions at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. And that's where they retired.
  • They built a retirement home in Cannon Beach, Oregon--with a gorgeous view of Haystack Rock--but then he began to fail physically and they built another, more "elder-friendly" place in Seaside. But soon he needed more help. So they moved to Pittsfield, Mass., not far from the place my brothers use in the summer (Becket, Mass.). Then he diminished even more, and they moved to an assisted-living place--and then it was a nursing home--and then ...
Dad was most definitely not a "helicopter parent." He was so busy--teaching during the week, filling in as a preacher here and there on weekends, having meetings and other duties out at the airbase. He taught summer school every year. And why did he do all this? For his family. He had a wife, three sons, and he worked hard to make sure Mom would be okay if he were to go first (he was six years older). Since his death, she's continued to rely on his retirement packages from the Air Force, from teaching, from preaching. Mom isn't rich by any stretch, but she's been able to live in physical comfort; she will turn 97 in September.

But the times we did have were special. Long car trips to Oregon to be with his family (I loved those trips--and have, ever since, loved long car trips), games of catch in the yard, watching him grill outside (oh, did he love to do that), evening trips to the A&W in Ravenna--or the ice-cream stand in Burton. Dad came to my baseball and basketball games. He strongly supported the interests of all three sons--all three very different sons.

When he was sick (he had emergency surgery for kidney stones when we were in Enid), I was terrified. I still remember, not long after his return home, his struggling outside to toss a baseball with me (I was 9 or 10). It was so odd, seeing my father weak. He was a powerful man. Athletic. Fast on his feet. Even when I was in high school I could not catch him in our games of touch football in the yard--not unless he let me.

Dad was a Republican; his best friend was a Democrat (those were the days when that was possible!); and as his sons' politics drifted to the left, we resolved not to debate with Dad. It was pointless. And we loved him beyond words. And so we talked about our cars, the weather, the Oklahoma Sooners (whom he adored).

I remember him standing up and saluting the screen during the National Anthem on televised sporting events.

I remember his eruptive laugh--especially with his brothers--that would turn his face fiery red.

I remember some of his sayings (some I will not repeat!): After eating (I feel like I swallowed something), after passing someone on the highway (I took him like Grant took Richmond), when seeing the ocean appear as we rounded a curve in Oregon (There's that mighty ocean!), after eating--again (I've got convexity of the epigastrium) ... and on and on ...

I remember when, pitching to my little brother, Dad hit him in the cheek with a curveball that didn't.

I remember him going hunting, fishing, and always returning with something--rabbits, quail, rainbow trout.

I remember the buckwheat pancakes he would make on a Saturday morning.

I remember when he whacked my butt with the back of a hairbrush when I deserved it (which was very, very often).

I can hear his voice, preaching.

I can hear his lovely, pure tenor voice, singing.

I can see his eyes redden when he got the news of his mother's death.

I can hear him ringing a school bell to awaken his boys in the morning.

I can smell his Mennen aftershave.

I remember the touch of his powerful hand on my shoulder when I'd done something well.

I can hear him say on Christmas morning that we can't start opening until he's shaved.

I can see him, dressed in red tights, heading off to play Charles the Wrestler in a local production of As You Like It.

I can hear him, watching the opening of Gunsmoke, saying that James Arness (Sheriff Matt Dillon) has the most famous behind in TV.

I can see him pushing our lawnmower (and probably wondering where Danny is--Didn't I tell him to do this?)

I can hear him reading to his little grandson Steve.

I can see myself, rubbing his hand on his deathbed, telling him over and over and over that I loved him.

Dad with grandson Steve, 1972 or 73?

No comments:

Post a Comment