Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18th

February 18th, 1973: Tonight, dad went into the hospital about 7:30. We ate at the Cardinal Inn. Just before he left, dad told me I'd have to be the man of the house for awhile. And to help whenever I could, at the store. I'll be damned if I'll let dad down.

February 18th, 2013: Dad was officially admitted to Illini Hospital, in Pittsfield. As stated before, I don't think he'd been admitted to a hospital in years. Never, in my lifetime. Maybe never, period. There was one blip, I'm not sure when, that he had problems with his feet. He may have missed a day or two of work then. But other than family vacations, a planned day off, or hardware shows, twice a year, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the man was an iron horse. Nine hours a day, six days a week, at Pittsfield Hardware.

Mom got the night off from cooking supper. We ate at the Cardinal Inn. A truck stop diner a little towards the west end of town. It sat along U.S. Route 36, the main drag through Pittsfield. In town, its name is Washington Street. Pittsfield is bypassed now. But back then, Route 36, which ran from Indianapolis to Denver, was busy. A well traveled route for long haul truckers. "The red bird," as it was sometimes called, was the classic "greasy spoon" eatery. A good breakfast spot, but we didn't eat the evening meal there very often.

The store was going to be left in the very capable hands of Pat and Peachy. They'd handled it before, short term, when dad was on vacation, or at the hardware shows. Wilbur Bartlett would also help pick up the slack when he wasn't busy with his full time job as a rural route mail delivery driver.

Mom would check in too. But on a limited basis. She never had much of a hand in being involved with the store in day to day operations. That would come back on us, not long after dad died. Mom and dad had a "traditional" marriage. Mom was the "homemaker." Dad was the alpha male, the breadwinner, and the one who brought home the bacon. Did I leave any cliches' out, there? I found out many years later that mom and my Aunt June had wanted to open a beauty salon. "No, Dorothy. Your place is at home with that boy," he was said to have told her. I think that's kind of harsh. It didn't give mom a chance to become her own business woman (though she did eventually have the antique store). The salon idea had come earlier, when I was much younger. Dad felt it was important to have a parent at home, with the child. To watch over, and teach right from wrong. I'd agree. In ideal circumstances, it would be great for one parent or the other to be with a child until they begin kindergarten. That doesn't happen so much now, unless there is a lot of money in one income.

Mom didn't have a lot of self-confidence to begin with. I doubt dad's directive helped. But she did stay home. And despite all my shortcomings, both parents instilled a few traits in me, which I try my utmost to practice everyday. Honesty, respect, and accountability. To others, and myself. And when dad died, mom was given the unenviable task of assuming BOTH roles to a 14 year old boy. A time in my life when I could have easily gone off the tracks. She played both roles well, and I made it through. Not going off the tracks until many years later!

Dad at The Badlands. 1972. His last vacation.
When dad was admitted to the hospital that evening, and having him tell me "I'd have to be the man of the house," etc. I looked at it as a chance to start showing him I could do those things. I was kind of excited by it. Psychologically, it gave me a chance to step up and focus on what he asked, rather than focus on why I was having to do this in the first place. It was good to help. But it probably put me deeper into denial as to what was really going on. A Yin/Yang thing.

1 comment:

  1. Bless that boy who still lives within you, Kent! I adore that boy's "soul"!