So, I decided to make up my own “prompt” called, “Missing You Monday.” I’m glad I can do things like this…it’s my blog, after all!
Well, Saturday made four years since I got the dreaded phone call from my father’s wife saying, “Annie, your Daddy is dead.” I couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t want to believe it! She told me that she was trying to get Dad to get ready to go to the hospital. His lower leg looked bad (he was diabetic) and I think he was afraid of having to have it amputated.
Well, I have to give details here to tie in the story…sorry ’bout that. Anyway, Dad was in the bathroom that morning and he became extremely adamant about not going to the hospital. I guess his heart gave out and he died right there on the john. Poor Dad…
I was living in Rochester, NY at the time. My sister was at the ocean on vacation with her family and my poor brother was at work, in Baltimore, when I broke the news to him. Daddy was living in Lillian, Alabama (right over the line from Pensacola, Florida) and we had to decide how we would get there. We decided to rent a huge SUV and drive, each of us taking turns. We left just before midnight on the 6th from Maryland – my sister, my brother, his wife, my husband and me.
My brother drove for the first part of our journey. None of us said much to each other. We listened to some of Dad’s favorite music on the car’s CD player. Some of us dozed, some slept…we took turns driving. The trip was rather uneventful.
We reached Lillian late on the 7th. We got a motel and the next day, we picked up Dad’s wife and drove to the funeral home.
Such a sad day…our beloved Father gone. I will spare you these details.
We dropped off his wife at home; she needed a rest. The five of us went to dinner at one of Dad’s favorite restaurants. We sat down and breathed…finally. It was over. There was to be no funeral, nothing else. Just the five of us huddled together around a table at a restaurant near Lillian, Alabama. (It is here that I must interject a warning of sorts. You probably know of my sense of humor by some of my writings. I inherited it from Dad. So did my brother and sister. I have to tell you this so you won’t think we are unfeeling, odd or somehow evil. Well, you still might think we are, but I had to warn you just the same!)
The waitress took our orders. We sat and waited, not saying a whole lot. Finally, my brother says something to break the silence, “Well, Dad has a new hit song.” “What?” I shockingly said, “what are you talking about?” “Yeah, Dad has a new hit song,” he reiterated, “It’s My Potty & I’ll Die if I Want To,” he sang to the tune of “It’s My Party & I’ll Cry If I Want To!” We laughed our heads off til I thought we would fall out of our chairs…we didn’t care that the rest of the restaurant was staring at us…that laugh was just what we needed to bring ‘life’ back to us. I’m sure Dad was laughing, too!
In honor of my sister and brother’s birthday today…
My sister found and posted a bunch of old family pictures this week on her Facebook page. Most of these pictures she shared were of my father, David Kern Ballou.
My father was born in Manhatten on October 2, 1931. He was raised by his mother, Vera Kern Edwardsen, a suffragette and editor for Harper’s Bazaar, and her husband, author, editor and publisher, Robert Oleson Ballou. My grandparents were on the cutting edge of society for the time, believing in equal rights for women and blacks, but more about them in another post.
They wanted the best for their only son, Davy, or “Day,” as my grandmother called him. They sent Davy to Cheshire Academy, a private college-prep boarding school in Connecticut, and he spent his summers at the family’s summer home on the shores of the Hudson River in Cold Spring, NY. His parents tried their best to instill their values in him: of seeing the good in people of all walks of life, not to discriminate, to love nature and animals, and to work hard. His mother never raised her voice. His parents tried reasoning with him instead of scolding him when he misbehaved. I’m sure they dreamed of this son of theirs making a name for himself. They probably pictured him marching, locked arm-in-arm with someone like Martin Luther King, Jr., and fighting for equal rights for all!
After high school was finished, Dad enlisted in the Air Force. He went to Korea and drove a truck. Planes, trains and automobiles were in his blood. After his discharge from the Air Force, he went home and got a job. A regular job.
He refused offers from his father to send him to college or even trade school. He refused job offers that meant wearing a suit. So, he got a job working for Flight Refueling, Inc. in Danbury, CT. He could be around airplanes! Eventually, the company opened another facility at Friendship Airport (now BWI) near Baltimore, and Dad jumped at the chance to transfer, to get away from home. While living there, he met my mother and they married in 1958. I came along a year later.
Dad had several jobs after he left Flight Refueling, even once driving a taxi in Baltimore. He never went back to school. He drank a lot of beer…I mean, a lot! He smoked up to 3 packs of cigarettes a day. He tried smoking pot. He was hot headed and impulsive, yet had a great sense of humor…he would laugh so hard he would start to squeal and cough. He liked fast cars, had a bunch of different cars over the years and was pretty much an expert in antique ones. He even named his cars…we had the Green Hornet and the Blue Meanie, amongst others. He had recordings of trains and would put the stereo speakers out in the front windows of the house so the neighborhood kids could hear them. He listened to all kinds of music and had all kinds of records, everything from beautiful classical pieces to Big Bands, from Willie Nelson to Pink Floyd, and he liked to play them loud. He even bought a motorcycle when he was nearly 50 years old and drove it around for a couple of years. He liked to raise hell and have a good time. One of his favorite words was, “Whoopie,” and he said it loud and with gusto! His friends were his “rummies.” I thought of him as Archie Bunker with some Jack Nicholson thrown in.
But despite all of his carryings on, his well-respected and reserved parents continued to smile at him, adoringly. He could do no wrong. And, in my eyes, I felt the same.