Once again, we have observed Father’s Day.
Not all fathers deserve a connection with Father’s Day, but most fathers do. We are a worthy bunch.
I can recall my own father being ridiculed, being made to ride in the back seat, being scoffed at for this and that … after he gave up his driver’s license.
But he was a real father. He was a salaried employee of the then-Pennsylvania Railroad, working in 30th Street station in Philadelphia. As kids, we often met him at the train station when he got off the last stop of the Paoli Local. He would take our hands as we walked the few blocks to our house.
Let me tell you a bit about my father. We lived in Paoli, about five blocks from the railroad station. At the time I knew him, he rode the train to Philadelphia each day to his position on the railroad. He didn’t drive; in fact, he had given up his driver’s license because of a long-standing illness. Nobody made him give up that license, he did because it was the right thing to do. Every once in awhile he would suffer a “blackout,” which was caused by some kind of problem with his brain. Wanting to protect society, he gave up driving.
But this was the man who had built our house, two stories and an attic on top of a full basement. My father did much of the building of that house. He loved tools and was constantly working with them, despite onslaughts of his illness. I never heard him say he felt sorry for himself. He would do carpentry work, cut down full-grown trees, build a box out of cement blocks and a wooden top for our garbage, and much more.
This was after he stopped driving.
He obtained Pullman tickets for us to ride to Maine on vacation, and he kept track of us in our wanting to wander. He led us across Boston on foot to catch the next train north. We had ridden all night from New York City in Pullman cars, and now we would ride from Portland to Augusta on a much smaller train, consisting of a diesel-switcher engine and a couple of cars. One of those cars was the one for passenger, half baggage car and half passenger car.
When we got to Augusta, my great aunt met us with her ’52 Plymouth station wagon. My father led us in and out of a supermarket, and my great aunt drove us out to her farm in Belgrade.
When we got there, it was time for my father’s vacation to start, right? Wong, he rolled up his sleeves and did a lot of work to improve my great aunt’s farm house, barn, and driveway.
He didn’t know how to stop working.
He also helped us pack up for a trip to Baxter State Park and took care of us on that long auto trip to make sure we got there okay. We did. We climbed Katahdin, and my father gathered firewood from near the campsite. He walked with me to Sandy Stream Pond where we saw a moose, which he proclaimed to my mother had been 14 feet tall.
I wish I could have been as good a father as mine, Harry M.C. Gross.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.