Thursday, September 24, 2009

September 24, 2009

I just love snapdragons. There are some growing outside my back door. Did you know you can pinch the flower off, put your fingers on either side where the flower separates, mash, and voile', you have a puppet? We used to play with them when we were children and could find them. They aren't something everyone grows. My husband knows that I love them and keeps me some to play with. Yes, I still have to play with snapdragons.

Today I will share some things about my dad. He is called Jeff and I think I forgot to say my mom is another Jane. My dad is a junior, my brother the III, and his son the IV. Would you believe we all have the same middle name? My mother was going to name me Laura Jane after my paternal great-grandmother and herself. However, I was a WWII baby and when I was born my dad was shipping out. He wanted to have someone carry a family name and since I was the first child, I got the honor of having a boy's name. My middle name is Howard. There was only one teacher who was allowed to call me by my whole name, Jane Howard, and I kept it a secret until I grew up. If someone found out, I would almost go into hiding. Now it doesn't bother me in the least, but back then I might as well have had a red A printed on my forehead. I had a wise teacher in college who told us to choose a child's name wisely as they would have to bear it thoughout their lives and to watch what their initials spelled too. For instance, my husband's initials spell WET. Guess it was meant for us to hook up with names like we had.

My dad was born in California and spent his young years there and in Oregon. His dad was a veteran and they moved from post to post. He ended up in a military school at a young age and I guess it was with his best interest in mind with having to move schools, but I always thought it was very cruel of his parents to leave him so young. He is an only and how he ever survived four of us is beyond me. He likes his peace and quiet and I know for a fact that for years and years he never had any peace with a daughter and three younger sons.

He learned to fly an airplane before he was old enough to get his driver's license. He graduated from Hollywood High School and was friends with a lot of people who later became movie stars. He was left to his own devices with both parents working and has told about one of his fond memories of removing a manhole cover, snaking his way with a sack of leechy nuts, and going onto the flats in the San Francisco Bay area. It is a wonder he didn't drown when the tide came in. He would eat his nuts and feed the birds with them as well.

My dad was an artist from the start and was even offered a job working for Walt Disney. After high school, he moved to Louisiana with his mother and started going to LSU in Baton Rouge. WWII interrupted his schooling, but in his later years he would come back and finish three degrees and teach at Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana. He became a pilot and then a pilot instructor in what I believe was called the Army-Air Force back then. He was stationed at Shaw AFB in Sumter, South Carolina, where he met my mother.

Her best friend liked his best friend and they were young and could only double date. Betty Ann begged my mother to date my dad so she could see his friend, Casey. My mother said she didn't like my dad because he was so full of himself like a lot of pilots are/were. She dated him so her friend could see his friend. In the wind up, they had a double wedding and each recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversaries.

My dad was stationed in Burma and flew the HUMP. He said that after the war ended, he would return to base and there were bullet holes in his plane. Word hadn't reached the fighters in the mountains that the war was over.

After the war, my parents moved to Hollywood where my father was in business with his mother. He was a florist and did doctor's offices, restaurants, and movie stars flowers. I can remember getting up at the crack of dawn and going with him to the flower market. It seems there were alleyways filled with cans that had fresh flowers stuck inside and he would buy what he needed for that day. I am wondering if my mom had fresh flowers that were leftovers at the end of the day. I just don't know. We would go on deliveries into the mountains and people had their homes built out on ledges and that might be where I got my fear of heights. I remember seeing the twinkling lights of LA down in the valley area.

My mother was a continent away from her family and being from a tight knit family, she was miserable. She had her sister come for a visit, but I don't know if her parents were ever able to make that trip. The did have two of my brothers out there in Burbank. I don't know if she said she would leave or what, but it was decided that they would move to Louisiana where my dad had relatives and she would only be 1000 miles from home. The had also decided that they didn't want to raise children in that rat race either.

We looked like the Grapes of Wrath moving across country. My dad had an old green Packard car and pulled a thing behind the car with all of our earthly possessions in it. One lady promised my mother she would mail my doll high chair, but that was history. I never saw it again. I left behind my kindergarten class too. Once in Louisiana, my dad set up shop as a florist again, but I don't guess he could make enough to support five of us. He went to work for a timber company as their purchasing agent, pilot, printer, safety man, and Lord only knows what else. He was with them for 20 years and then my mother went to work to support him while he finished his education. She was a school health nurse while he was in school.

When I was 10 years old, my brother, John, came along. It was like he was my baby doll. I can remember getting him out of his crib if he whimpered, as we shared a room, and my mom yelling that I had better not have him out of the crib. He never had a chance to cry if I was around.

Before too long, I was in college and gone from the nest. My dad was back in school and studying art, his life. He has always loved the southwest and all of his art was of mountains and aspens. All of the work was from the perspective of a pilot. When he still worked for the timber company, he also did commercial art work for a printer and I have seen him at the drafting table well into the night. By this time there were six mouths to feed and one paycheck didn't make it.

He graduated from Louisiana College and went on to Stephen F. Austin college in Texas where he got his master's and terminal degree in art. He came back and taught art at Louisiana College until he opened his own gallery. He was a very successful artist and when he turned about 80, we convinced him it was time to put it down and enjoy his later years. He has since taken up golf and it is a passion with him like everything else he has done.

I get my drive from my dad. His mother always said you are never too old to learn and to never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. I guess he got his drive from her and passed it down to my brothers and me. He encouraged me to go to college and earn a degree. My mother didn't understand why I would give up a good job at a department store to go to college. I am thankful for his encouragement as it has served me well. He is someone to look up to. Both of my parents have been good parents in many ways and have erred too. None of us is perfect. Except for a few regrets, I am glad that I listened to their advice.


1 comment:

  1. It is a wonderful idea to document your family-a techinical version of paperversion family tree. You fam will appreciate it now, if not later for sure. Continue to share you insights-we all need some reality. The Jon and Kate family of 8 is so off guard on what families should be....