Dad, the Days Are Getting Longer

I usually think of my father more during this time of year, because the days are getting longer. He always liked that.

Jan 29, 2015 at 12:24 am

I usually think of my father more during this time of year, because the days are getting longer. He always liked that. Fall and winter were the worst seasons for him. He hated it when the clocks were turned back an hour and when the days would start getting shorter. He was a farmer, a working man who wanted to get his hands dirty. That’s when he was at his happiest.

While he was always a farmer at heart and loved his farm just outside of East Enterprise, Ind., it couldn’t pay all the bills, so he was also a loading dock worker at Schenley Distilleries in Lawrenceburg — did it for some 30 odd years. At least during the cold months, this gave him something to do and kept his mind off those shorter days.

During the spring and summer, my father would get home from his job in Lawrenceburg in the late afternoon. He’d work on the farm, then take a break for supper. After that, he’d work until the sun would go down. He then would come in, wash up and watch a little television while eating potato chips and drinking Coca-Cola. Then, he’d go to bed.

At this time in his life, if he ever said a word to me or my twin or younger brother, it would be a rarity. He was a man of few words to his kids and I remember resenting it.

My father had a stuttering problem. When he would get nervous or be around people he didn’t know, it would get worse. Because of this and because he was a very thin man, he would often get picked on at Schenley’s. He was an easy target for bullies.

I remember him telling my mother about someone nailing his cap down to the warehouse floor at work and then another time when another bully put a pigeon in his lunchbox and how it flew out when he opened it to have his lunch. When I would hear him tell my mother these stories, I sometimes thought they were funny. Of course, I was a kid then. Now thinking about it as an adult, the way my father was treated was extremely mean.

Despite this, I don’t ever remember my dad missing a day of work. I also don’t remember him ever regretting retirement. I think he had had enough of the bullying.

By the time he left Schenley’s, my brothers and I had moved away from the farm. My father still had his tobacco crop, his field of potatoes to tend to, the garden, his fruit trees and the fish in his lake to take care of. This kept him busy and happy, but it would all go away in the fall and winter. He would often turn gloomy and depressed.

During the cold months, he wanted me and my wife and children to visit more. I would often find myself puzzled by this. Why? To talk more? He hardly ever wanted to say anything to me when I was growing up. What would we talk about now?

Being older, I now realize his lack of communication skills probably had something to do with his stuttering. Maybe it was just easier to be quiet and let my mother do most of the talking. Having said that, when I would try to talk to my father, the conversation consisted of the weather and what kind of car I was driving and if it was running OK. I remember wanting to have some kind of meaningful discussion with him, but it never happened.

This is what I know about my father: He was a man who wore overalls every day of his life. He never talked on the phone. He didn’t know how to make a sandwich for himself. He drank coffee all day long. He never drank a drop of booze. I also knew he was scared to death of the dentist. He sometimes only took a bath once a week. His favorite food was baked potatoes. His favorite song was Jimmie Davis singing “Suppertime.” He knew how to play the harmonica, but I seldom saw or heard him play it.

And I think, despite the fact he never told us, my father loved his kids. I know after his son — my twin brother — died on September 27, 1994, he was never the same. He was lost in his thoughts. He would cry often.

After my twin died, ever so slowly, the dementia started taking over my father’s mind. I could see it, so could my mother and so could he. My mother would take care of him until the first day of January, 1995. That’s when he turned violent. That’s when he threatened to kill her. He ended up being in the hospital for a week in Cincinnati before being transferred to a nursing home in Vevay, Indiana.

My mother would visit him every day, would bring him special food to eat and would sometimes read to him. She placed a cassette recorder on the nightstand by Dad’s bed and she would bring him Gospel tapes to listen to. Sometimes my father knew who my mother was, sometimes he didn’t. I would visit him when I could. Often times, it was hard to make my car turn into the driveway of that nursing home.

On Sunday, February 15, 1998, in the afternoon, I visited my father. By this time, the Alzheimer’s was very advanced. Dad, who at this point had no idea who I was, stayed asleep during the visit. I remember looking out the window in his room. It was a sunny day and pretty warm for February, in the low 50’s. I thought to myself the days were getting longer and my father would enjoy that. I thought about waking him up to tell him that the sun was shining, but I didn’t. I wish I had. He died two days later.

He’s been gone for nearly 17 years now. Regrets are a dime a dozen, but I wish I could have found a way to get to know him better. We shouldn’t have had to resort to talking about the weather or how my car was running and we should have found a way to say the words “I love you” to each other. Those words should have never gone unsaid and now it’s too late.

It’s now February of 2015. Dad, the days are getting longer. As they do, my heart is very much with you. I so wish things could have been different.