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Catching up to my old man
May 3, 2019
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by Ivan Raconteur

I’ve been thinking about my old man this week.

It was his birthday, although he hasn’t been around to celebrate those for decades.

I was not long out of high school when he cashed in his chips. I’ve spent more of my life without him being in the picture than with him in it.

This year is an important anniversary. When my birthday rolls around later this year, I’ll be the same age Dad was when he died. That makes a guy think.

If I can hold on for another few months, I will have made more trips around the sun than he did.

It seems to me when people pass out of our lives, they become forever locked in a time and place. This can happen when they are still alive, such as when they move far away. It can also happen when someone dies.

In my memory, my father will always be the age he was when he died. I don’t remember as much about what he was like when he was younger, and he hasn’t aged any since then.

I sometimes wonder what he would have made of the changes that have taken place in the world since he checked out.

There are times when I’d like to ask him about this or that, but the window of opportunity is long gone.

I’m curious about what his life was like, and what factors shaped the man he became.

I missed out on a big part of our family history with him dying when he did. He didn’t talk about himself much, or what things were like when he was growing up.

I have an impression, from some of the things he said, that he didn’t have a lot of chats with his father, either. My grandfather died at an even younger age than my father, before I arrived on the scene.

Perhaps this reluctance to talk about some important matters was a result of trying to shield the children from the harsh realities of life. They didn’t sugar-coat things; they just avoided certain subjects.

It seems natural to me to want to know more about family history. No doubt our family has an influence on what we believe, and on our world view in general. It might be helpful to be able to ask some questions to learn more about what it was like for my dad when he was growing up. I know there were some tough times, since he lived through the Depression. As one of the older children in a large family, he took on responsibility early in life.

One thing I do remember about my dad is that he was a big sports fan. When I was a kid, it seemed like he was always listening to a Twins game on the radio. Harmon Killebrew figured prominently in my consciousness even before I knew who he was. It was clear my old man approved of Mr. Killebrew, whoever he was.

Dad was also a long-suffering Vikings fan. He didn’t watch much television, but he did spend a lot of Sunday afternoons watching football.

I never talked to my dad much about his military service or the jobs he had before I was born. What little I know came from hearing him talk to his siblings or other adults, which leaves a lot of gaps in my understanding.

I’m not sure what Dad would have thought about computers or cell phones or other electronic devices. I suspect he would have embraced those things. Because he died before they became popular, the time when he was with us seems even more a part of a bygone era.

I was still using a manual typewriter when my dad was alive. It’s probably in some museum now.

If I manage to scrape by and survive long enough to celebrate my old man’s birthday next year, it will mean I outlived him. I’m not sure there’s any significance to that, but I suppose it beats the alternative.


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