Thursday, September 18, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Days 3 & 4

So here you see the animal print clothing Mom loved to dress her “little Pebbles” in – although I was rowdy enough at times to remind her more of Bam Bam.  When I was a toddler we lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming and one of the things my parents loved to do was go out hiking. There are a lot of lovely places around there and one of them is the amazing rock formations around Vedauwoo.  I remember riding on my Dad’s shoulders, but I also remember Mom and Dad taking a hold on each of my wrists and telling me to jump, and then they would fly me between them for several yards before lightly landing me on my feet and I’d beg “again.”
I didn’t have any siblings. Mom had a miscarriage 8 months before I was born. And then even though she was only 24 when I was born, she went into early menopause and it looked like my parents would be my only playmates. 
Well I found a playmate in the big Airdale dog next door.  He was a vicious guard dog, who loved me, but if I got over and under his belly, Mom had to wait until his owners returned because he’d threaten anyone else who came near me.
And then when I was 2 we moved back to my Mom’s hometown of Cody, Wyoming to be close to her parents.  It was actually Dad’s idea, because he had so many siblings but mom was an only child and he wanted her parents to be around their only grandchild.
My parents were really good parents, but they were not perfect.  Mom had never been around babies and became depressed and convinced that a child could never love her. She had a rough time for a couple of years, and I grew up both afraid of, and in love with her.  Dad had a sense of play, a great sense of humor and a strong work ethic, but he also was raised in Pittsburgh, PA in a time when racist language and prejudice were not even questioned.  He named our black poodle, that “N word” and balled Brazil nuts “N…..Toes” and told racist jokes about every nationality and race including his own, Polish Jokes, Hungarian Jokes, Mexican, Asian, Black – he was very willing to laugh and tell stereotyped stories about everyone.  You would never hear him doubting the “stereotype that ______ do not value life like we do”

And yet . . . everytime he met a person from another background or culture, he was polite and friendly and then surprised. Everyone he met was an exception to the stereotype – and he never quite realized that by making friends with his diverse co-workers, and telling us, “____is Bad –except this one” he was really reaching us that all stereotypical judgments are not to be trusted and individuals can surprise you in good ways.

My Dad was born on September 4, so today is his birthday. I’d love to bake him a yellow cake with bananas and fudge frosting but he died of esophageal cancer on Feb. 1, 1997.
In this collage there is me, and my Dad with me riding high. Then my Dad in a cowboy hat holding a longhorn and petting our sheep dog as he helped my Grandpa, Mom’s Dad sell horns and Antlers to tourists coming to Yellowstone park from off a black pick-up truck in the summer.  Then there is a much older, Dad/Grandpa reading to my two boys, and two pictures of mom and Dad. Then there is my dad as an adolescent and the curly haired picture his brother Walt tried to destroy because he hated that his baby brother looked like a girl.

Dad was many things in his life, a baseball fan raised close to the Pittsburgh Pirates. A Genius who was so poor he had to go to a technical high school and then into factory work although he could win Jeopardy and know about every subject.  Unlucky, he got drafted and had already lost a brother on Okinawa and had his Dad blinded by mustard gas in service – but also lucky, he became a morse code operator who ever after could type over 100 words a minute and survived his military time to move to Wyoming and marry my Mom.
They were oddly suited to each other, and fought a little but mainly got along very well.  He worked at a sawmill, and fought forest fires and worked in a wall board factory. Always he made little more than minimum wage and benefits only cane at the last job he had, but he provided a happy childhood to my brothers and I.

He always loved Babies and wanted to be a grandpa, but his first three grandkids were born in between March 29, 1993 and April 16, 1994 and then he died just a couple years later.

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