Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dad


Dad and Mom 1948

Robert W. Beale
1923 - 1971

Dear Uncle,

Tomorrow is Dad's  89th birthday.  Every year since his passing his birthday is bittersweet.  As you know I was just 18 when he passed so unexpectedly.  The word "Sudden" doesn't even begin to describe how one moment can change so many lives. A wife and 3 children in shock, their world shattered, off balance, surreal, a nightmare all too true. But to dwell on that part is to do a disservice to a man who was so kind, funny, intelligent and yes, handsome. Oh, he was far from a saint...he could be stubborn and he had an opinion and he was a debator and he was a staunch Republican.  There was no "gray area" with Dad.  It was or it wasn't. There were rules, there were commandments, there were laws. You were one side or the other, for or against. And he could confuse us kids.  Many was the time when I'd hear "Look I was raised this way, believing this [that or the other thing] and it's wrong."  So yes, his mind could be changed with facts, statistics and just plain morality. But it wasn't easy.  To discuss subjects with Dad, to argue a point, to attempt to change his mind you'd better have the facts and you'd better be prepared to be aggravated, frustrated, angry, and ready for a "fight". And the satisfaction of winning him over to "your" side was a real accomplishment.  Needless to say all 3 of us children are very good debaters. We all learned, eventually, to stand our ground.

He had the black hair and blue eyes of much of his line. He was taller than his ancestors at 5'11" and he had the ruddy complexion of the other men in the family.  He was of average build, not small of frame, nor large.  Like much of his family he loved music and played several instruments.  Trombone was his instrument of first choice but he also played Trumpet, Cornet, Violin, and Banjo.  He played well enough to play in the Coast Guard Band and travel with the USO during WW2 .  When he and Mom were married in 1945, Dad only had a few days off duty.  Their honeymoon was aboard a train with the Coast Guard Band and they were serenaded to their compartment by the other bands on board.  My Mom said it was quite an evening and she remembered that Cesar Romero, a very famous actor at that time, was among the group of singers.  He was on board as a member of the USO Tour.

Dad was brought up in a multi-generational Irish household. The ladies, his Mom, her Mom and then her Mom, were women to be reckoned with. Dad and his father were outnumbered by the girls.  I remember though that there were laps to climb up on and hugs and kisses to be had when we visited. I suppose being grandchildren had it's advantages.

Dad had a wicked, dry sense of humor.  He had a twinkle in his eye and an eyebrow that he'd raise in question which meant you'd done something surprising, wrong ( as in what were you thinking?) or WRONG - as in your backside was about to be reaquainted with the palm of his hand. Now let me state here and now that spankings didn't happen often.  We knew the rules, we knew the consequences and he suffered more than we did when forced to back up what he said he'd do.  Usually "The Look" was more than enough to keep us all in line, and not just us but the neighborhood kids also.

As for his humor, well it was usually something totally unexpected that he would do or say that would have us all rolling on the floor laughing. Like the time Ed Sullivan had Rudolph Nureyev on his show.  I ooh and aaahed at his graceful dance.  Whereupon Dad , not to be outdone, leapt into the air, twirled and landed gracefully with a bow and smile on his face. My jaw dropped.  I sometimes wondered if he saved it all up and then just exploded because he just couldn't contain it anymore.  Nowadays it would be known as an OMG moment.

The phrase "Now the bit here is..." was Dad's way of beginning the explanation of a circumstance.  A way of explaining how things are not necessarily what they appear to be, how one thing may seem one way but digging a little deeper would reveal the real purpose, the motivation.  Dad loved political discussions and election years.  He would have had quite alot to say about this election year.  Of that I have absolutely no doubt.

I envy those who can describe their parents in depth.  Their various traits and quirks, the minute details, the shape of the face, the angle of a smile.  But I am not that clever.  To me Dad is a feeling.  Warm, protected, defended, laughter, seriousness, strength, intelligence and being loved to the very core of my being.  Happy Birthday Daddy. I miss you very, very much.

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