PS-I need to clarify that my father traveled quite a bit with his work, and rarely saw the abuse we went through at the hands of his second wife. People tried to tell him what went on while he was gone, but he never believed them until we children were utterly dysfunctional adults-too late to save us, Pop.
My dad was far from perfect, he could backhand any one of us from across the front seat of our '59 Ford station wagon without any real effort, although physically he was never taller than 5'8". And, as said above, he refused to believe what a monster Dirty Dort was until the damage was done very nearly beyond repair.
BUT. Two years before he died, during a vain attempt to leave Crusty, I loaded a rental truck with some furniture and the kids, and went to L.A. to make a new life. I drove from north Florida, and pulled into my dad's neighbourhood in time to see him hobbling across a parking lot dragging an oxygen canister behind him. I hadn't known he was sick, although the voice in my heart told me to look him up first thing when I got back to L.A. with the kids.
We spent the next two years, his last years, together, reconciling the past with the future embodied in my defiant little Fox. GadsZOOKS, Pop loved that kid!
My dad got my brother and me to sit down one time during those last two years, to tell him everything we were unhappy about from our miserable childhood-today 'they' call them issues-and he sat without flinching or making excuses for everything we went through. At a few of the most horrific points in the evening, he dropped his head into his hands, and moaned "I'm so sorry" over and over. (Later, after he'd died, and his will was read, the first words after the legalese were "I let you kids down, and I am so very sorry.") It was the bravest thing I had ever seen, my Pop sitting there gasping for air while we told him what our childhood had really been like.
Pop taught us to fly airplanes, and drive speedboats, how to shoot, hunt, plant, plow, troubleshoot a broken piece of machinery, and "Jerry-rig" (a phrase he picked up in the Army during WWII referring to the way Jerry, or the Germans, could rig up the most ingenious things with which to kill the Allies...) He taught us how to jump out of airplanes, too, although I gravely disappointed him when, on my maiden jump, after all that training, I got to the point where I was to go, looked out of the hatch, and thought "Not now, not ever" and told the pilot I would ride the bird down with him.
Most importantly, my dad taught me not to judge people by the colour of their skin, or religion, or national origin-even though the Germans shot the bejeebers out him regularly, and he'd more Purple Hearts in a box than I thought one guy needed...
My dad, oh God help me, I can't stop crying, My Dad, when Gov. Wallace was shot, was so patient with me while he explained, in response to my shameful expression of gladness that the man who stood in the door had got back a little of his own, that even George Wallace was a man who needed compassion, and that I should never ever be glad someone had been shot or worse, killed.
What a strange night this is for me. My father died 20 years ago tomorrow night in Los Angeles' Cigna Hospital ICCU.
Last night the co-worker who'd got another fired lost her son to a gunshot to the head.
I know none of the details. I dislike this woman yet tonight I wish I could hold her as she weeps for her murdered son, and try to comfort her shattered heart.
I am Fox'sMom. All I want right now is to hear his voice.