My father didn’t have the easiest childhood, to say the least. He was born into the Great Depression, and remembers his mother setting out an extra dinner plate on the back step for hobos, because they were always stopping through town while hitching rides on the railway. Sadly, his mother wasn’t around very long. She was a beautiful, delicate woman whose birth name was Blanche Rose Wilder. Everyone called her “Joy” because of her sunny disposition. We only have one photo of her. When I saw it the first time, I thought someone had Photoshopped Dad’s head onto the body of a woman. They look that much alike; he must take after her. That’s probably why his Dad, my grandfather, treated him particularly hard. Back then there were no domestic violence shelters, and the phrase “child abuse” had had yet to enter the popular lexicon with the ubiquity we see today. There was no tv yet, and most telephones were shared lines. You learned by the ring if you should pick it up or not.
Dad remembers his father striking his mother, and that she went to the hospital and didn’t come back. Grandpa Cue was a skirt-chaser; there had been another woman and he was remarried within an indecently short time of my grandmother’s death.
I had known about this history since I was a child, but my father suffered another tragedy in his early years that I never knew about until just a few Christmases ago, when he mentioned that he’d had a baby brother who died in a fire. Dad’s father was a forest ranger at the time, and the family was living in a little cabin with an outlook. My Dad told me that they didn’t have enough beds so his baby brother was in a drawer when the fire started. Dad was only five years old, and too small to save his baby brother, but he tried.
Most adults would be shocked to find that their parent had such a significant event occur that had never been revealed. But in my family, bombshells are greeted with nonchalance. We’ve gotten used to it. See, when I was a kid, I tried to figure out how many different jobs my dad has held. Every time I asked him the question, it invariably led to another story when he got to a job that I never knew he’d held. If I asked “You were a taxi driver in Salt Lake City?” it would end up turning into a story about the time he met a real giant, the kind who worked as a circus freak and had to have specially made shoes. (And in Dad’s later years, he started writing these down, thankfully! I haven’t read everything he’s written yet, but I do my best to keep up.)
Even after college, I tried to record his answer to this question, and I think after two hours and a list of thirty or so positions, including jobs I’d never heard of, we got off on another tangent, this time about a Portigee he’d known in San Pedro. That story, however, is not appropriate for public consumption.
The story Dad is going to be famous for is the story of a little mouse named Miss Mousie (and yes, there’s WGA-registered and copywritten material-so copy-cats, beware!) Miss Mousie has been a part of my life since as long as I can remember. Miss Mousie is kind of like Dad’s female alter ego (and I hope, a little like me too!) See, Miss Mousie, like Dad, was never afraid of anything. And when she gets in a pickle, like Dad, she comes up with the craziest tricks to not only get away from danger, but protect others, too. Like, when he met Mac the giant, it was because Dad had stepped in to stand up to some thugs who’d gotten a lady a little too inebriated. The lady wanted to go home, but these jerks had other ideas. My Dad stood up to them, and when they wanted to fight, Mac stepped up and backed Dad. Needless to say, the bad guys decided to pick on someone else.
Now, with a dad like mine you might think I had a perfect childhood. Certainly, there were many idealic aspects. I have something special that I can keep the rest of my life: the memory of sitting on my Dad’s lap, or laying down next to him, and hearing his soothing voice and feeling completely loved and safe. I always felt loved and safe with Dad. But Dad through no fault of his own, couldn’t protect me from everything, even though he wanted to. And while I’m not exactly sure what went wrong and I’m more interested in moving forward, there were difficult years when I wanted nothing to do with my family. I suffered with mental health issues in my teens to and early twenties. (Yes, I’m ok now-doing really well, in fact.) It was a hard time, but now I know that the obstacles I have overcome have made me the strong and caring person I am today. During this time, I slowly cut myself off from everyone who loved me one by one, until, ten years ago when I hit rock bottom, I had lost all my friends*, my home, and my husband.
I’d gotten beat up while in the relationship that ended the marriage, and Dad, of course, wanted me to come home. But I had other plans: finishing college—which meant staying in a Domestic Violence shelter, where I was fortunate to receive counseling to continue my recovery, and able to continue my coursework. But I knew that if I’d been less stubborn, I could have called my dad at any time from anyplace in the world and he would have come and picked me up and taken me home. He and Mom NEVER gave up on me. I gave up on them temporarily, and I’m sorry. I was misguided.
My Dad is an optimist, and I get that from him. My parents have both been very successful, and everyone knows my mom is sharp as a whip and can dominate any conversation. Mom and Dad both have IQ’s in the 140’s, but while Dad got his Ph.D. in the School of Hard Knocks, Mom got hers, or was in the process of getting until I came along, through academia. He’s a little country. She’s a little ivory tower. People assumed she was the brains behind the business because she works the numbers, rallies the troops, and presents herself with polish. Her clients in the alternative health business hold her in very high esteem. And my father loves her so much that he doesn’t give himself credit where it’s due. It’s true, we all worship Mom. But without Dad’s positive attitude, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.
Napoleon Hill says, “What the mind of a person can conceive and believe, the mind of a person can achieve, with a positive mental attitude.” Last year when I was home for Christmas, I found some old newsletters that my parents used to mail to their Sunrider downline, called ON CUE. These were written by Dad. And issue after issue, his positive attitude, encouragement, and sunny outlook shine through.
Dad continues to surprise me. I didn’t know Dad is an accomplished bird watcher, until I was on the phone with him this Spring and saw an unusual pair of birds. After describing the markings, Dad told me they sounded like Western bluebirds. When I got home and did a quick Google images search, I was impressed: Dad was right. Maybe Father Knows Best afterall.
Happy Father’s Day!