De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


Not Just Another Holiday

Every child needs a father.

With the exception of commercial interests, today must be The Most Overlooked "Holiday" of all. How it can be a "holiday" when no one gets any paid time off, is beyond me. But that's neither here nor there.

Fortunately, I can remember making a big deal out of it when I was a kid. Mostly because I actually loved my old man. And maybe that's what's wrong with today's society. Few people appreciate fathers anymore.

Someone once said that there are things that you never get over, you just get used to them. Less than a week before Christmas, when I was not quite 16, my Dad dropped dead of a heart attack at work. Christmas has never been quite the same for me since. Still in all, there are three times a year that I do think of him slightly more than at other times. (Not that I don't think of him a lot anyway.) One is his birthday, the second is Fathers Day, and the last -- quite naturally -- is Christmastime. Admittedly, much of my thinking revolves around the void in my life left by his passing. Every child needs a father.

Even though my parents divorced when I was only 6, my Dad remained a major influence in my life. I've told people on a number of occasions that if I could bring in five men -- one of them being my Dad -- and let the five speak for two minutes each, at the end of 10 minutes there'd be no doubt as to which one was my old man.

Despite the fact that I only got to see him on weekends, it was not the duration of the visits but their nature that affected me. I have a lot of fond memories of those times. Every child needs a father. I can remember many hours spent in the park or at the beach or even in a restaurant. He was a man of many talents who gave us a peek at a much larger world than the one we lived in day to day. His influence was not just emotional, but intellectual. To paraphrase Strickland Gilliland, "Richer than I you can never be; I had a father who talked with me." He not only told us stories about his own childhood (and yeah, I've been there and seen where he had to walk to school through hip-deep snow), but also about his travels and his various jobs.

Toward the end of his life, my Dad worked as a machinist. It required a good head for math, the importance of which he stressed on numerous occasions. For several years until he died, we had a raging debate over which was more accurate, fractions or decimals. (I took the fractions side; he argued for decimals.) To this day, I still think he played Devil's Advocate just to sharpen my wits. Every child needs a father.

I've only found two maps that show the little town of Brunndöbra, where he was born. It lies in what's called "the musical corner of the Vogtland", up on the northern edge of the Erzgebirge, just over the line from Böhmen in what is now the Czech Republic. That particular area is known for two things: embroidery and musical instruments. So it's no surprise that he was not only a classically trained musician, but also worked in an embroidery factory (Gebrüder Männel). I didn't find out until several years after he died that he played more than just steel guitar. He also played clarinet and violin. But I remember many occasions when he would haul out that steel guitar and play and sing. (Unfortunately, those genes seem to have skipped a generation. But I do know all the words to "Tief d'rin im Böhmerwald", which he sang often.) And he did teach me to read music, which gave me a leg up when I joined the band in high school. I miss those times, especially since he only got to come to one of our concerts.

One of the other jobs he had was running his own music studion in New Bern, NC, where he met his first wife. Somewhere in all my "stuff", I still have a letter of appreciation from a local radio station for the performance his group did. I also have at least one picture of them. Which leads me to something I mentioned last year at this time:
"The leader of the band is tired
and his eyes are growing old.
But his blood runs thru my instrument
and his song is in my soul.
My life has been a poor attempt
to imitate the man.
I'm just a living legacy
to the leader of the band.

I thank you for the music
and your stories of the road.
I thank you for the freedom
when it came (your) time to go.
I thank you for the kindness
and the times when you got tough.
And, papa, I don't think I said
'I love you' near enough."
One of the few comforts that I have in this life is that I can spend time with him in the next. Every child needs a father.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad.

(NB: Yes, I sometimes refer to my Dad as "my old man". Some have used that appellation as a pejorative, but I've never meant it except with the utmost affection and respect.)


At 05:57, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Jahn, every child does need a father! You were lucky to have such a wonderful dad, I know that you miss him...

My dad died 9 years ago... He was a good man... He made sure we had a roof over our head and food on the table. WE all knew he loved us because he spent time with us when he was not at work. We grew up with very little money, but we felt rich because dad did things with us. We went to the beach almost every weekend, during the summer, when I was a child... We went to the drive in movie theater on Friday nights to watch movies. He was always there when we needed him. Some of my favorite times are when he was a little league baseball manager for my brothers little league team... He was good with the boys and taught them a lot... He never let one sit on the bench..He let every child play in a game, even if they weren't so good. My mom was the score keeper, with me as her helper...My two sisters ran for foul balls and earned free snow cones. We did this as a family and I will always treasure it. Maybe that is why I love baseball so much. After my mother died, 24 years ago, he kind of became the mom and the dad answering questions that we might only ask a mom. Fraser and I started taking him on vacation with us and he loved it... He eagerly awaited our camping trips to Colorado. When dad died, we all decided to keep his travel trailer so that, the four kids, could still go down to the beach for a week each summer and just be together. I treasure that time I have with my brother and two sisters...We live busy lives and this is one time that we can just relax and enjoy each other. We talk about mom and dad and remember our fun times together. Life was no picnic but we remember the love.........I can't believe I just wrote all of this... Yes, every kid needs a dad.

At 10:04, Blogger T. F. Stern said...

Thanks for sharing that, every child needs a father.


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