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Thoughts on Father's Day

Posted Sunday, June 21, 2009, at 10:08 AM

This morning I'm thinking about my father, missing him after all these years. He died in 1995 at the age of 84, after a stroke in his brain stem. I always thought he would live to be 100.

He was a small man, barely 5'3," slim and dark, with a roguish grin like a pirate. I guess that's what attracted my mom to him when she was barely seventeen. That, and the fact that he was a pilot. The story goes that the guy Mom was dating wanted to curry her favor by introducing to her to a pilot, who would give her a ride in the plane that he'd built.

Bad idea.

Needless to say, the pilot got the girl. They were married for 25 years and had five children, of which I am the oldest.

Despite that dazzling smile, which he could turn on like a beacon, Daddy was actually a bit reclusive and not a little detached, spending many hours reading his chair; however, my sister and I knew that we could always interrupt him and he wouldn't mind. The photo shows him reading in the old house on Elm Street in the early to mid-fifties, when he was a flight instructor at Malden Airbase. I've written about those happy years, before the base closed and my family had to leave Dexter.

I would have been in about the sixth grade when that picture was taken, and I was walking to the Dexter library in the old armory across from Central Elementary. I read all the Black Beauty and "Lad, a Dog" books I could get my hands on. I never had to look up words - I always asked Daddy, and he always knew.

At the Flight Line, they called him "Steady Eddie," a nickname which he got one day when there was a fire in his plane. All the fire crew rushed to the site when he landed, and he was perfectly calm. Someone asked, "What happened to the fire?" and Daddy said, "I put it out."

He flew T-26's and T-32's, and he often brought his student officers home to eat with us. One particular group of German students were our favorites, and we even took them on an outing with us to Big Springs in Van Buren.

By then, I was in my early teens and absolutely infatuated with them! I was a senior in high school when the base closed, so I never got to date the students, but I doubt if Daddy would ever have allowed it, anyway. My sister Kathy lived with him in those years after Mom and Dad divorced, and he was pretty Victorian in his ideas of dating. He vetoed her idea to go to Woodstock, as I remember...

My dad met only one of my children, Todd, the oldest, when he was about three. We were flying through Seattle from Alaska, and, by that time, Dad was remarried and living in that city. Circumstances were never like that again, so I didn't see him again for seventeen years, when we got the call that he had had the stroke. My sister and one brother and I went to Florida to see him, lying in the hospital, unable to communicate. He died shortly after.

I've thought often of the time wasted, worrying over a barracuda-like second wife who kept us from him. How many times have we said, "We should have gone to see him, even if she didn't want us there!"

So, Happy Father's Day, Daddy, wherever you are... I love you.

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Blessings to you today MD, we can never wonder about all the 'what-if's' in life till it's over. I attended a funeral this weekend to a man who lived life to it's fullest,,,,,my brother-in-law,,, he marched to his own drum, sometimes leaving folks in wonderment.

-- Posted by changedname on Sun, Jun 21, 2009, at 2:50 PM

I am so thankful I still have my dad, I saw him yesterday, because I had to work today. I called him this morning and told him Happy Father's Day.

He is still my hero and my heart swells with love every time I think of him.

-- Posted by SKDellinger on Sun, Jun 21, 2009, at 9:17 PM

This Father's Day was particularly difficult for me. My dad passed recently and I miss him terribly. He did live a long life but it doesn't make it any easier. I can still hear his voice and I always thought my daddy was the prettiest thing. (most little girls don't think in terms of handsome) I think that I can mostly sum it up by saying "I sure did love my daddy."

-- Posted by ct on Wed, Jun 24, 2009, at 10:48 AM
Madeline DeJournett's response:
Actually, ct, I felt the same way about my dad. I thought he looked like my favorite actor during that period of time -- Audie Murphy! (Most decorated soldier in WWII).

In fact, when we lived in the old house on Elm (which later became the library), we had a mailman who I thought looked even MORE like Audie Murphy than Daddy did. I would watch for the mail every day, so I could see him. Then one day Mom beat me to the door, and I heard her say, "My daughter thinks you look like Audie Murphy!" I was so embarrassed that I never went to get the mail again!!

But oh, my, Daddy and Audie Murphy were handsome men!! They would flash those sparklingly white smiles and charm the birds out of the trees!

Maddie, I do know Audie Murphy! My favorite was always Gary Cooper. Oh those long legs! My dad reminded me of him...tall and lanky and just so handsome! And you're right about being charmers. What good memories of our daddy's but I do miss him so. Thank you for sharing!

-- Posted by ct on Fri, Jun 26, 2009, at 4:04 PM

Oh, oh! Audie Murphey and Gary Cooper! What great stars - even if Audie couldn't act his way out of a paper bag!

I went to an MSTA convention years ago (the camp on the Jack's Fork River at Mountain View), and one of the leaders was named "Audie." I told him that Audie Murphey was my favorite film star when I was a kid, and he said, "Yes, he was my mother's favorite, too!" Hahaha! I thought everyone had forgotten him!

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Jun 29, 2009, at 8:12 AM

I remember standing behind Daddy when he was reading his paper and "doing" his hair. He'd sit and let me comb his hair into different styles for the longest time. My particular favorite was to use my hand to rough up the hair and called it a "boufant." That always illicited a chuckle. Daddy had the most wonderful laugh. I wish I had it on tape, but alas, I'll have to settle for the ultimate ddr of my mind.

I was just a toddler when we lived in that house on Elm Street in Dexter, but my memories are all golden and fuzzy. I don't know if they are true memories or are born out of the glowing stories I heard from my family. The picture of Daddy is just how I remember him. Finally. The memory of him in the hospital is no longer the way I remember him first when I think of him. Time can be kind.

Years later I discovered that Madeline used to do the same thing with Daddy's hair. He always (laughingly) said that our attentions to his hair were what made it sooooooooo thin.

Ah, he did have a wonderful, rakish grin - white, even teeth. Both he and his younger brother lived to be 84 and they both had all their teeth. Either Daddy or Uncle Phil had one cavity, but I don't remember which. My dentist didn't believe me until he saw my teeth. Luckily I inherited Daddy's gene for good teeth, rather than Mom's.

-- Posted by mokath52 on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 7:38 AM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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