This was my Dad in a good mood…
He really was a good guy – you just didn’t want to piss him off. I was an expert at pissing him off, whether I meant to or not. If there was a way to screw things up, and piss my dad off, I would manage it.
Before Kyla was born, her dad and I would go down to Teeny-Tiny Town for Christmas every year. He had two kids from his first marriage, so that made arrangements difficult. Worse, I worked in retail – in a mall – and I had two days to celebrate in: Christmas Day and Boxing Day. And those poor kids had a lot of places to be.
Our Christmas routine tended to look like this:
Matt & Maude Falls
(’round about the first time he “died”…)
My dad died in July of 2008. It’s still really weird to say that. I’ve been thinking about him a lot, lately, and I haven’t yet told the story about the first time he died, which was a few years before I was born.
Except he wasn’t really dead… just… the whole town thought he was. It’s like a sitcom episode.
A Letter from Overseas-1944
Taken June 18, 2009 with Canon PowerShot A550
In three days’ time, my father will have been dead for a year. I have a hard time believing that.
Sometimes, it feels as if he’s been gone forever. Other times, I hang up the phone mid-dial, when I remember that he won’t be there to answer whatever question I wanted to ask him – usually about World War II.
I didn’t ask him enough questions…
A while ago, I wrote here that I was going to publish all the letters Dad wrote home to my mom. I’ve since had the chance to read them, and truthfully (surprisingly), they don’t make great blog-fodder.
Instead, I will publish just this one – which my mother has given to me to keep, as it seems to have just a little bit of everything in it. It’s very strange to read my father’s words while he was courting my mother (while my mother was courting somebody else – gasp…!); he sure was a tease – I can just hear his voice when I read this.
Anyhoo… I’ve kept the syntax the way he wrote it – some sentences may need to be read twice to get the proper gist – but I’ve taken the liberty of breaking things up into paragraphs. I guess paper was at a premium, and he didn’t want to waste it.
He was training in England when he wrote this.
July 19, 1944
#1 C.O.R.V. C.A.O.S.
Dear Teacher –
I received your letter and pictures to-night so here goes for a start at least. I don’t know when I’ll finish this.
Say how do you manage those pictures anyway? That ‘close up’ of you alone looks like Dorothy Lamour. They were all very good and Thanks a million for sending them. Now I’ll have something to spend my spare moments at gazing.
There was a buzz bomb went over a few minutes ago and of all the jobs I had to doing. By the time I realized what it was and got outside it had gone past.
I thought it was a squadron of our own planes until it was right above us – one of the fellows here has had his camera ready for a couple of weeks intending to get a picture of one but they seem to be too fast.
They make a terrific noise and fly very low and fast. It is only a few seconds from the time you first hear them until they are gone out of hearing and at night look like a ball of fire in the sky.
This place seems to be charmed or something. There has been any number of them went over but none have taken a notion to stop here yet. The closest were a mile or so away and just shake the windows and doors.
Well I wouldn’t mind if I could get a couple of weeks leave on the Island now. I can imagine the nice weather you would be having there. I am kind of disgusted with the weather over here. There doesn’t seem to be much difference in the winter and summer.
We had a few weeks nice weather the last of March and since it has been raining about three parts of the time. The fogs are beginning to start now & also the blackouts again.
I wouldn’t mind so much but through what nice weather there was we weren’t allowed any leave and by the time this course is over the fog will be so thick we’ll have to carry a shovel with us to make a way for us. Of course that shovel would be handy to have along for the B.S. too wouldn’t it?
This is a sort of gloomy letter I guess it’s the army blues.
I hear they are going to give the 7 day leaves soon (I hope. I have 16 days coming now). They have already lifted the ban on train travel & the 20 mile limit. Before we had to ride on the buses or hitchhike as the trains were supposed to be reserved for the evacuees. I guess all the small towns are filled with them now.
Bill (Ahem…* Sorry to interrupt: Bill is my mother’s brother) thinks England is O’K. eh? To tell the truth I like it a lot better than Canada too as far as army life goes. I’d sooner be in Canada just for the sake of being in my own country though.
The stuff isn’t rationed as much now as it was. We can get most of the things you can in Canada but only in small amounts and they use you more like a human than an animal.
With the odd bomb around and France not far away you’d be surprised the difference it makes to the N.C.O.’s & officers. There are very few A.W.L’s here. Fellows that were always away in Canada never think of going loose here.
For one thing there really isn’t anything to go on the loose for like Canada. No means of travel and no place to go or stay or eat if you did go.
Say I hope you don’t get tired of reading this monotonous thing supposed to be a letter and throw it away before you finish.
I had a letter from Edith, my sister-in-law last week. You should see some of the queer English expressions but I’m getting used to them. I suppose if I’m over here another year I’ll be completely “Limetized”. There is a Limey camp right near us and we see quite a few of them often.
Did you know Jack MacMillan from Cockburn Island? I met him in the canteen last week. He is here on an A.F.V. course. I had quite a chat with him. It almost seemed like going home.
Well I haven’t been out of camp for a month now. I think I’ll go on a “bender” at the wet canteen and then settle down for the duration of the course and get ready for trade test Bay. It is only 4 weeks away now. It’s nearly three months since I came here and it only seems about three weeks.
By the way don’t let Eiro tickle you too much (I HOPE). It makes me nervous and I’d hate to have to tell the instructor some day what is wrong with me. ha. ha.
Let me know how your pictures of you and Helen and you and Helen and you and you and Helen, turned out eh? If I were you I would move my shorts around and get all sunburned the same. That would feel too much like shaving only one side of your face (Of course I’m not you though).
How are you and the cows getting along in the mornings?
Well I guess I’ll close as there isn’t anything else I can think of. In fact there was nothing to write about in the first place: Write soon & long.
I’m getting so I can almost start an argument with myself eh?
A Doctor in Sequatchie Valley in Tennessee was called to examine the young wife of an elderly, deaf mountaineer. “Your wife is pregnant” he told her husband.
Mountaineer, hand behind his ear, queried, “eh”?
The doctor shouted, “I said your wife is pregnant.”
Finally the doctor screamed, “Your wife is going to have a baby.”
The man walked to the edge of the porch, spat out a mouthful of tobacco juice, and drawled, “I ain’t a bit surprised. She’s had every opportunity.”
Excuse the writing. It is slightly worse than usual as there is a poker game going on, on the next bunk & every once in awhile somebody just has to step back & shake my bunk.
I would dearly love to know what “job” it was that my dad was doing when that buzz bomb went over. I don’t know if he started writing the next sentence without realizing he hadn’t finished the last, or if it was something a little embarrassing and he didn’t want to say. Perhaps, he was in the latrine…?
My mother still remembers writing to him about that sunburn she got, from laying for too long in one position. And how her father used to give the girls holy hell for going out in public wearing shorts. He thought it was shameful.
And I guess one might have to be a man to figure out how shaving one side of your face might feel the same… does shaving hurt like sunburn?! I wanna know.
Random Song-for-the-Day: “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” – Meatloaf
Can’t you just smell the testosterone?
Taken July 8, 2009 with Kodak DX7440
My father had a quirky sense of humour. More than anything, at least it seemed to me as a child, he liked to get one over on me. Especially if there were witnesses. And every time he conned me, I fell for it.
Every single time.
When I was oh, maybe 9 years old, I remember sitting in his attached garage watching him do something or other while visiting with somebody or other.
They were trying to get something off of something else. Or on to something else. These details are hazy to me all these years later, most likely because of the psychological damage done to me that afternoon.
I see the funny side of this.
Way back then, though… Actually, I can still feel my stomach shrivel up a little bit at this memory.
And then I laugh, because it really was funny.
Whatever my dad and… ummm… let’s call him “Dave”… were trying to do, it wasn’t working out the way they wanted it to… These two big strong men couldn’t get whatever-it-was on or off whatever-the-other-thing was, and my dad was getting pissed off. He was starting to cuss under his breath.
I waited, anticipating the ultimate in my father’s pissed-off-ed-ness to culminate in his utterance of the ultimate of swear words.
He rarely got that upset, but when he did, that’s the word he would invoke to make whatever he wanted to happen, well… happen.
He never raised his voice when he said it. He said it like he would tell the dog to sit. There was command in his voice, but he would say it as if he knew without a doubt that the command would be followed, and the command was generally followed immediately.
I grew up knowing that “C***T” was a Magic Word.
My dad never said it to people or animals. This Magic Word was reserved for uncooperative inanimate objects only: the car that wouldn’t start, the window that wouldn’t open, or the thingamajig that wouldn’t come off of the whozawhatsit.
And it almost always worked, like, well… Magic.
Not that day, though.
Dave finally said, “Matt, ya gotta put some elbow grease into it.”
And my dad laughed and replied, “I’m all out of elbow grease, Dave – used it up on the lawnmower last weekend.”
And then he turned to me, dug into his pocket, and came up with a $2 bill…
“Hey, Diddly-Doo. Run on down to Western Tire and pick me up a can of elbow grease.”
And I fell for it.
Down I walked to the Western Tire, and marched up to the counter. I presented the money to the proprietor, and asked for a can of elbow grease for my dad.
I don’t know how that guy kept a straight face, but he did. He told me he was sorry, but he’d run out. He didn’t expect to have any back in for another week. Hoped he wasn’t inconveniencing my father too much.
None the wiser, I went back home and told my dad the Western Tire was all out of elbow grease. I couldn’t figure out why that was so funny. I didn’t care much, either, because my dad told me to go ahead and keep that $2 bill, to compensate me for my trip.
It wasn’t until we were all at the supper table that I discovered I’d been had. My dad told the story to my mom, laughing to beat the band. My Brother the Trespasser had to leave the table, he was laughing that hard.
Mom gave Dad holy hell for making me go downtown and embarrass myself. Up to that point, I hadn’t known enough to be embarrassed, but the more my Mom told him off, the more I wanted to crawl under the table. I think she might have been more embarrassed to have birthed such an idiot, than the idiot was to realize that you can’t buy elbow grease at the Western Tire store.
I don’t think I ever had the nerve to walk into the Western Tire ever again. It’s no longer there, now, but if it was, I still wouldn’t go in.
I’m sure the owner would laugh and ask me if I needed elbow grease.
Random Song-for-the-Day: “Poppies” – Marcy Playground
Maude on her Hog
Photo copyright either My Brother the Trespasser or My Sister Tootie
(Maude can’t remember who was standing behind the camera…)
I drove down to Teeny-Tiny Town today, having had no sleep since… well, I’m not certain when, but I’ve been writing – really writing – for real writing, so No Sleep Disease isn’t exactly a bad thing. This time.
On the way down, I saw a small plane tipped over on the four-lane median strip, surrounded by a single fire truck and a couple of cop cars. I thought I might be hallucinating at first, but then remembered that if that was the case, my imagination would have turned it into an airliner. I ought maybe check the news to be certain (I assume a plane landing on the highway might be considered news around here, anyway), but I think it’s safe to say I actually saw what I think I saw.
Yup. It’s good to know I’m not completely nuts. Ahem…*
When I got to Teeny-Tiny Town, though, and saw that photo of my mother in leathers on a motorcycle… well…. that was something I was pretty certain was all in my own mind.
Until she started to laugh, and told me the story…
Seems My Brother the Trespasser (or maybe it was a nephew – I’ve had no sleep, and my mom can’t remember…) bought himself a new ride this past spring, and went down to show it off to my mom and my sister, who were both suitably impressed. Mom was so impressed, in fact, that she told one of the aides in the Nursing Home that it was her hog.
I don’t know why, but the aide didn’t believe her!
Mom said she would prove it, and got the Trespasser/Nephew/Whoever to fit her up, put her on the bike to pose, and then had [somebody] get a couple of copies of this pic printed up. The aide displays her copy on her fridge at home. I stole the other copy, to show you all how cool my mom is…
Look real close now… she’s not pointing at you. She’s giving you the finger (yeah, yeah, she’s flipping the bird backwards – give the ol’ lady a break – she’s 85).
We had a visit to the graveyard (my dad’s monument is finally in place – his boat, sailing off into the sunset lasered into it somehow – he would have been right impressed, I think – and it’s an odd kind of comfort to see that boat on there, sailing away…), and went out for lunch before I sneaked off back home, pilfered photo safely tucked away.
On the way back, I saw an upside down tractor-trailer in the ditch, which my brain turned into a crash-landed Borg ship for a minute. The lack of armed militia tipped me back into the real world soon enough, but not before a whole ‘nother story clicked into place, waiting for me to start writing when the current project is put to bed.
Which is where I’ll be going… once I’ve pecked out a few more scenes.
Random Song-for-the-Day: “Graceland” – Paul Simon
Taken August 9, 2008 with Canon PowerShot A550
Ky’s finally sleeping again, and is back to school for her morning classes, which is good. I’m assured by the school that she’ll manage to get those credits without a problem – music class, which is hardly surprising (the principal tells me she’d have passed that one based on her talent, never mind that she doesn’t bother with any assignments – I don’t know whether to be proud or pissed off), and geography. Now, that surprises me.
Two credits is better than no credits, though, I guess, isn’t it? I’ll try to be proud.
My own sleeping is not happening again, now. I’m a little concerned about my job. I’m getting there, but it’s difficult. Luckily, I don’t have to drive to get there, so no lives are in danger – unless I blow the place up, but there are safeguards in place against idiots, so maybe that’s not such a big worry…
I need to finish the latest novel. That’s that “hard” one I mentioned a while back. It’s still got a lot of the same elements that the sitcom had in it, but the entire pilot plot has pretty much disappeared, along with a character or two. I’ve kept the bare bones of what would have been the first season. I tried to change the main characters’ names, but they just will not be renamed. All I’ve managed to do is steal away their last names completely.
I had a lot of false starts trying to pick this project back up again. There was a time that I ate, slept and breathed it. That turned into boozing and smoking it, and I think I just wanted it to go away. Working on it kept bringing up nasty, bad thoughts that I didn’t want to think.
I lamented about this to Ky one day, and she surprised me by telling me I should be getting it done and over with. When I told her I didn’t want to listen/watch/write my main characters anymore, she rolled her eyes.
I told her I’d noticed she wore the one and only promotional t-shirt made for the project all the time, even though she’d once told me she was glad it was dead in the water so what’s up with that, huh?! And then, she made me laugh by paraphrasing Holden McNeil: “They’re fictional characters, Mom. Fictional characters. Am I getting through to you at all…?”
So I’m working on it. And it gets a little easier (and a little closer to done) every time I sit down to it.
My blog is turning back into a place to air my grievances, and although that’s part of what it’s for, I really want to get back to telling the Ruby stories (there’s a ton of them), and The Father Chronicles (there’s a ton of those left, too).
And I talked to my Mom today, and she’s feeling a little lost and lonely without my Dad. She said it’s gotten worse, lately, and she’s been rereading his letters from World War II. At first, they made things worse, but now she finds them a comfort and is glad she saved them…
Wait a minute…. “You have letters from Dad during the War…?”
All his letters…?”
Wow. I didn’t know this….
“Can I read them…?”
“Ummmm…… can I blog them…?”
So as soon as I can get myself down to Teeny-Tiny Town, I will have a new category here: Dear Maude…
Another worry is my imminent move. Far, far away.
I’m not certain how imminent it is, now, considering new and ugly turns of events of legal and financial persuasions that may (shudder) bankrupt me (not if I can possibly avoid it), but I will be moving to Vancouver and will be there for at least a year, once I manage it.
I’m going to be going back to school (yes, again), in an accelerated screenwriting program at the Vancouver Film School. I chose this program, because a Canadian school somehow seems more “doable” than trying to get into one in the States – although I’d rather be in the States. I have more friends there. 🙂
It’s going to cost me a mint, though. I don’t know where the money’s going to come from, yet, but then again, I bought the Prissy-Van with money I didn’t have yet, and so far, so good, she’s still mine. I’ll manage this. Somehow. Gulp…*
I didn’t think I’d be able to convince Kyla to go with me, so was working out an alternative arrangement for her, but when I told her about it (actually, I let it slip in a moment of upset over all this stress), she surprised hell out of me by telling me she would love a change of scenery.
It’s amazing how fast things change.
Random Song-for-the-Day: “Black Coffee” – Ella Fitzgerald