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Thoughts on Father's DayPosted Sunday, June 21, 2009, at 10:08 AM
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.
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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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.