All My Men Have Been Good to Me – Dad

Making plastic articles was hot, fumey work.I wrote of my dad already, but left much unsaid.

A WWII veteran, my dad was a factory worker. He lifted heavy bags of plastic pellets into a machine that turned out knobs, duck calls, and laundry baskets, at high temperatures. He seldom took sick leave and came home exhausted every night. For that he received $100 per week and a party sometime in December.

Yet he had such energy left for tomfoolery! He played with us kids as if he were one himself. Airplane rides (on his feet), jigsaw puzzles, carom games, goofy drawings, and croquet were among his repertoire. He made the stand for our carom board, himself, without any plan or pattern. He also made several bookcases and two desks the same way. And he repaired our toys.

One play activity he initiated with us was about trust. Did he think it through and decide to teach us trust? Maybe not—he was having fun. He encouraged and coaxed us to fall backward into his hands, if we believed he was strong enough to catch us. Was that ever hard to do! And how insulted he acted when we were scared to try it! He never dropped us, though, and we learned something, I think.

When his family grew, he built an addition to the house, himself. Alone. He hired help with digging and pouring the basement, and with the rafters. All the rest he did with our help. We gained a new living room, bedroom, basement, and bath. It was hard, but he did it. He wired, plumbed, hammered, sawed, plastered, sanded, and varnished. And I still can back any nail out of any board, no matter how bent or stuck. Just ask my kids.

He kept a huge garden, too. Corn, tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers, I remember. Sometimes he hired it plowed in spring, sometimes he could only afford to burn it off and attack with a shovel. But he had a big-wheeled cultivator and we pulled weeds. And there is still something about pulling weeds that pulls me into the garden.

How I loved to sit on his lap while he watched television! Mostly I did not watch, but just nestled and played with his hands. I twirled his wedding ring round and round his finger and rubbed the calluses on his palms and ridges on his fingernails. Sometimes he would give me one quarter of one of his Throat Disks from their slender tin he kept in his pocket. He also had a smaller tin of tiny, black Meloids that were too spicy for me.

One thing bonded me to him more than any other. When I was very little, he would give me piggy-back rides. He sat on a big chair while I climbed up to grab hold around his neck, then he stood up and bounced me around the living room. What fun we had! The day came, though, when the ride was over, I slid down his back, and my leg caught on a screwdriver in his back pocket. I screamed. He was absolutely heartbroken. I had never seen a grown-up cry before and it riveted me.

Oh, to be that concerned about my own precious children!

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7 thoughts on “All My Men Have Been Good to Me – Dad

    • katharinetrauger says:

      Thanks, Kate. He was an amazing combination of childlike silliness and self-directed invention and tenderness for the downtrodden and love for his kids. But he also bore great emotional pain. Very great.

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