Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In A Nutshell

OK, you know what we're doing here. And today, we are down to

63. I remember this about my father's work and responsibilities:

My father was a drummer in a dance band before he met my mother, but I don't remember that. I'm not certain if he gave up music because of losing his hearing or because of the Depression. By the time I was born, he was deaf and working in the shipyards, between the hulls of battleships. All of the time I knew him, he did construction work. When I look at this picture I think of my mother, washing clothes in trailer park wash rooms, in set tubs, on a scrub board. Click the picture and see how dirty my father got at work. And then, I got pomegranate juice on my little white dresses. Poor Mama!

My father always took a shower and changed clothes before he came in when he got home from work. I can remember my grandfather and great-grandfather doing the same at the end of the day. A person didn't traipse into a home in all that dirt. He had to wear boots on construction sites, and he was like me -- his feet overheated easily. So, he not only had dirty clothes, but stinky socks. Mama wouldn't let him keep Limburger cheese in the house because it was bad enough that she had to wash his socks, she wasn't dealing with another pungent odor if she didn't have to.

Because of his hearing, my father was very lonely at work. His hearing aids couldn't filter out background noise and it wasn't really possible to listen to two or more people at once, so he had trouble making friends on the job. At home we all knew -- stand in front of him or touch him to get him to turn towards you, and only one person at a time. You can't train a work crew.

We moved often, and he worked on many large construction projects in California. We traveled the length of highway 99 many a time, and the oleanders in the center divide seem to run through many of my memories of my childhood, as well as many of my dreams. Indeed, 99 runs through my early childhood like a ribbon, taking us north and south, always returning to the Central Valley, where my parents grew up. I first saw mirages on 99. I first saw orange juice stands that looked like giant oranges on 99. One Christmas, when I had received more dolls than I wanted, I threw them out of the car window all along 99. When we returned to Modesto, there was a neon windmill at the north end and at the south end of the town, on 99. See a windmill, know you're close to the family homes.

Because I was only six when I lost him, I don't know much about my father's work. Except that he got up and shaved and dressed to go to work the day that he died.


J at said...

I loved this really got a good sense of him down, even if you lost him so early. It's an achy sad kind of post, though, isn't it.

Ally Bean said...

It's interesting to me that a highway connects so much of your childhood. Rather cool, really. Have you been back on highway 99 recently to see what it's like now?

Ginnie said...

I found this post of yours to be very poignant. It reminds me of my husband who lost his Dad when he was 8 and regretted all his lifetime that he'd not known him.

Maya's Granny said...

ally bean,

I've was on 99 about 15 years ago. It has changed a lot since the mid-40s. And yet, in many ways it hasn't.

Jess Riley said...

Wow. This is a moving post! I ambled over (finally) to thank you for visiting my blog only to find that you're Julie's mom! :-)

You have a wonderful way with words & details, and ginnie is right--this was very poignant storytelling.

Chancy said...

Your father looks so very young in that picture. He was a handsome man. I am glad you still have good memories of him.

fatfu said...

Lovely. I have a family member who was also a musician who went deaf in adulthood. I think it was the greatest sorrow of his life.

Py Korry said...

I remember when I read that your father was deaf, I wondered if it had to do with his drumming. But working in a shipyard between the hulls of battleships would pretty much wipe out anyone's hearing.