Thursday, July 30, 2009
May 1, 1926--July 30, 2002
My dad was the third of four children born to Frank and Lydia (Ring) Menge. When he was three years old, the stock market crash of 1929 occurred. The family made it through, although life during the Depression was hard. Only those who lived through it can truly understand.
Dad graduated high school in 1944, and immediately left for seventeen weeks of basic training in the Army. He was eventually assigned to the Phillipines, and served honorably until 1948.
Around 1950 or so, he married his first wife, Velma. Three children were born: Linda, Don, and Tari. He went to work for Burlington Route railroad. Dad and Velma later divorced.
In 1962, Dad married Ruth Tripp Glines in Warsaw, IL. Three children were born: twins, Jerry Lee & Julie Ann (died same day of birth 6-2-63), and Robert (me).
1968: Dad transferred to Beardstown IL, nearer his home town of Arenzville.
1972: My folks filed for divorce; finalized in July of 73.
When I was little, my dad and I spent time together as he was able. As a railroad engineer, his typical schedule was something along the line of four day trips, with maybe two days in a row at home.....it depended on how the trains were running. After he left our house, I didn't see him a lot, even though we were still in the same small town.
1975: Mom and I move back to Warsaw. Later that year, Dad marries Dorothy, my stepmother. Time with Dad is less and less.
1980: Dad is in a train accident. Some jackass decided it would be fun to put an obstruction on the train tracks. The engine hits it, and Dad is thrown nearly out of the train. A few feet more and he would have been dropped down a steep ravine. My mother contracts hepatitis, and becomes diabetic.
1981: Mom passes away. As a minor child (16), I was forced to go live with dad and stepmom. Dad's health was very precarious still. He had suffered major damage to his back as a result of the accident. That, and the gap of eight years of my life when he was not a major part of my life, results in not really being able to have the type of father/son relationship I wanted, and needed.
I am sad to admit that I didn't know my father well. I accept responsibility for my part in that. I'm not unique. Many, many boys have grown up without a real father figure. I am one of millions. Things happen. I understand that. I only wish I had taken advantage of the time after I left his home, following HS graduation and into my 20's and 30's. I did not, and that is my fault.
Having said that, he was a fine man. He was like most men of his era; he could fix anything. He knew how to do so much. He tinkered with cars. He collected antique cars. He had many friends and acquaintences. He loved his family: kids, stepkids, grandkids, everyone.
Yet I somehow always felt like an outsider. No one but me can make me feel that way, I know that. It's just that after Dad left us for Dorothy and her family, it seemed to me that he bonded with them in a way that I never felt happened with me. As a result, when I would be at his house, and among the step brothers and sisters, it always seemed to me that the attitude there was that THEY were his real kids, not me. At ten, eleven, even twelve years of age, I kept wondering why my dad left me for five other kids. Irrational, perhaps, but that's how I felt. Of course I could never have expressed that...to Dad or anyone else.
I could go on, but I have thoughts that I believe should remain private.
In 1998, I took Ingrid home to meet the folks. Dad treated her with respect, although he would have preferred I bring home a white girl. I later received a letter, written by stepmom, indicating their disapproval with my decision to marry Ingrid. Dad signed the letter, but I could tell by the handwriting that SHE wrote the entire letter. Thus began a four year period with no contact with them. I pleaded with them to reconsider. On my wedding day, I asked the ushers (my uncles Bud and Denzel) to look for them, and if they arrived, seat them in their place of honor that I had for them.
They didn't come.
Ingrid told me frequently to call him. I wouldn't do it, partly because I knew that she always answered the phone, but partly because I was so hurt and angry. In 2002, we received an invitation to my niece Kara's wedding. Kara is Don's daughter. Of course we accepted. It would be the first time in four years to see Dad. We came in after Dad and Dorothy had been seated. We sat near the back of the church. I could see him. It turns out Dad had left the hospital that morning to attend the wedding.
After we filed out, I went to where they were seated. I went up to Dad. We exchanged greetings. Then I broke down. I hugged him, and told him how sorry I was. He and I were reconciled at that point.
As I figured out at the reception, it was STEPMOTHER who had the problem with Ingrid and me. She snubbed Ingrid the whole time we were there. Dad came over to the table where we were seated, and sat down and talked with us. Not Dorothy. She did not even acknowledge Ingrid's presence. Everyone else, and I mean EVERYONE ELSE, was kind and respectful.
I did not know until that day that Dad lost half his right leg in 1999. Plus he had bone cancer. A few weeks later, stepmom calls. Dad is in hospice care at his home; can I come? I did go for a weekend, but had to return to work on Monday. 9:30am Monday, another call from Dorothy. Come back after work; it won't be long. Ingrid and I both went this time. Dad died around 9:15 the next night. We, along with Dad's kids, and Dorothy's three daughters, were at his side when he drew his last breath. During this time, stepmom was respectful.
I have not spoken with Dorothy since October of 02. She talked of gathering us all together....but she never called to let me know. I was so hurt, that I made no effort to contact her. Understand this, she never had any use for me. I reminded her of the wife (my mom) she had pretended to like, in order to steal her husband. Dorothy was considered by my mom as her best friend for a time, until it became apparent that Dorothy was after my dad. I think every time she looked at me, she was reminded of Ruth, and she didn't like that. Every day that they were married (over 26 years), she ruled the roost. I could not truly access my own father, without going through her. He loved her. I don't fault him for that. I only wish he could have understood how I felt.....how I felt like an outsider, when all I wanted was for him to be my dad, and I wanted to be his son.
I miss my dad.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Ingrid and I just returned from a reunion weekend. I had not seen these people since 1981. Due to my mother's death, I left Warsaw after sophomore year, and graduated from another school in 1983.
When we arrived in the area, the first person I made contact with was Melissa Keltner Mathis. Melissa and I missed being classmates by a year. She attended WHS for senior year only. I phoned her to let her know we were nearby, and about fifteen minutes later we met face to face, for the first time.
After getting settled in, more people began to arrive. Melinda Clothier Bosworth arrived from St. Louis with her daughter, Julie. As others flowed in, it became a festive party atmosphere. The afternoon was spent talking, laughing, and reminiscing. Several bottles of fine Missouri wine were opened, and consumed. Stories were told, good times, remembered, and wine and munchies polished off.
Around eight PM, a group of us totaling nine went to the Brewery restaurant. For many years Warsaw was the home of Burgemeister beer, and the brewery was located just north of town on the banks of the Mississippi River. The brewery closed in the late 60's and the building sat empty for years. Just a few years ago, it was remodeled into a restaurant. It is a great atmosphere, and really good food. There was a brand new local band playing called Hangover. They are mostly comprised of 17 and 18 year old guys. They played classic rock and newer hits too.
After dinner, we returned to the cabin with more stories, talking and laughing. I was up with the group until 3:15 AM, when the last ones not staying at the cabin left. I haven't had so much fun in a very long time.
A plan is in the works for another gathering in November, right before Thanksgiving and the same weekend as opening of deer season.
I think I will have more to say about this weekend in the coming days.
Until then, keep your stick on the ice.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Not counting this past January when I was injured and unable to work, this is the first (!) full weekend, Sat./Sun., that I have had off since I began working at Walmart. I am not complaining, mind you. I accept working on Saturdays in order to have Sundays off. When I began part time, I made clear that I wanted Sundays off, for worship. They have complied......except for six weeks last Aug/Sept when my boss would schedule me to come in at 1 pm. It did allow me to attend morning service. But, I digress.
I have not seen these people since 1981. I don't use this term as a rule............but I am excited to see them again. As I said, I will have more comments (and maybe pictures) when we get back.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I first began to learn about death at age seven, when my father's parents died within 3 months of each other. It continued through childhood, with the death of a classmate at age 13, and a classmate's mother the same year, along with a seven month old cousin.
At sixteen, I lost the person closest to me, my mother. It altered the course of my life. Everyone has stories like this; they are unique to the individual.
In the last two weeks, several celebrity deaths have made headlines. Some of those I have mentioned here. The latest: British acress Mollie Sugden, best known in America for her role as Mrs. Slocombe in "Are You Being Served?" and "Are You Being Served? Again!" She is the third cast member in the last two years to pass away.
Each person who passes away leaves grieving family and friends. In that regard, ordinary people and famous people are the same. We should appreciate and live the lives we have....with gratefulness, humility, and service to others.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.