23 April 2008

H is for Harry

Meet my dad, Harry:



Isn't this a great picture? On the back someone wrote "Harry 4 months," which means the picture was taken in December 1916. The funniest thing is, this is a perfect depiction of my father - hardly any hair, posed like he's at a bar, waiting for his drink!

When I was a little girl, and first saw this photo, the thing that struck me was that it was my dad, wearing a dress!! Later, of course, I saw other photos of him, taking part in "hilarious" shows for organizations where he was a member, dressed up like a woman (not nearly as upsetting as the pictures where he is in blackface for a minstrel show ... oy with the poodles already!) - but this one was amazing to me, as until I saw this, I had no ideas that little boys *ever* wore dresses, at any time in the universe, for any reason!

Of course, since he was my dad, I thought he was great. But pictures of him as a young man didn't look like anyone I knew, as I remember him when he was heavy set, with a crewcut and dark glasses (a la Drew Carey on his original TV show). This picture to me looks just like him, and it amuses me greatly to boot. I have it framed with other family photos on display when you come in our front door.

The Dad that I remember was really funny, lots of fun (much more than my mom, who was stuck with us 99% of the time), and a really good cook. I also realize that he was prejudiced, though we were not allowed to be. That has always intrigued me - the fact that he couldn't change his feelings, but knew he didn't want us to be that way. During World War II, he was in the Army, and he always said his major contribution to the war effort was his excellent vocal skills as the singer for the base band - it was years before I realized that he was laughing at himself when he would say this (as I was always sure he meant he went on tour with Bob Hope in the USO shows ...).

I also remember a story about my sister Mary Ellen coming home from school one day crying, because someone had laughed at my father's name. We had a last name that is also a first name, so when the teacher asked Mary Ellen what her father's name was, and she said "Harry ______," they thought she meant "hairy" as a descriptive term.

Then there was the time that we decided that we would spend the day speaking to one another using only Gregorian chant. My father called home, and Mary Ellen answered, chanting, "Hello this is the ______ residence," at which point he asked to speak to my mother. The first thing he said to her was "What is in the hell is going on there??" Which of course made us think it was even *more* hilarious!

My dad died when I was 13 years old, from liver cancer. I think of him nearly every day, and thought of him especially when I was going through all of my tests for cancer, and the resulting surgeries.

But mostly I remember him, sitting at a bar, waiting for his drink, pretty much like he is in this picture. Or taking me - just me - to the circus every summer. Or our many trips to the shore, filled with adventure, because he didn't believe in making hotel reservations. And so many other little things, it seems that he has always been around.

Love you, Dad. I hope if there is a heaven, that you are there. And that it's lots of fun.

16 comments:

april said...

At the risk of being warm and fuzzy, that was a lovely tribute to your dad Mzz B. I think no matter where he is, he's proud that you grew up to be a kickass chick. :)

theballadofyoko said...

"Then there was the time that we decided that we would spend the day speaking to one another using only Gregorian chant."

wow. I thought our family was weird. I would've loved to have known you when you were younger.

But then, I'm sure you haven't changed all that much!

Maureen said...

What a lovely post!

Liz K. said...

Thanks for sharing about your dad, and giving me a glimpse of what it was like to grow up in your household. The Gregorian Chant Day sounds just hilarious!

Eric said...

I found your blog while searching for just how Shakespeare spelled "sleave," since that is how I spelled it when quoting from MacBeth in an email to a friend. I must say that I was delighted by your post about your Dad, and I love the photo (I am a photographer myself and have leaned on a number of bars in the same manner). I once passed a biology exam in college, because a Catholic friend of mine (I am a heathen) and I made the Krebs Cycle into a Gregorian Chant ten minutes before the exam. Heathen or not, I must say "bless your heart" for this beautiful piece of writing.
Eric Dobbs
Richmond, VA
blog=
www.ericdobbs.com/cgi/wp

handeyecrafts said...

My Daddy's birthday was this week, so this entry is right in my emotional wheelhouse.

I suspect there IS a Heaven, and maybe our fathers have met there. . .

Brigitte said...

And you know, I'm sure he is there, and making sure heaven is a fun place.

Susan said...

I love the old pictures and have a few of my ancestors. This is a lovely tribute to your dad, he would be proud.
(came from the abc along)

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

Thanks for sharing some of your memories of your father. He was of the same generation as my dad who was raised on a farm and fought in the Korean war. Very much manly men, no? BTW, I love Gregorian Chant - some of the purest music ever written.

amanda said...

Bid!! LOVE the picture!!!! and the stories.. I think we should resurect Gregorian Chant day next time you guys visit. I'm sure Pat will be up for singing. . as long as it involves his and Tim's milkshake speech.

Carrie K said...

That's just a beautiful tribute to your Dad.. You know he's in heaven livening it up a bit.

You and your sister speaking in Gregorian chant for a day just amuses me greatly.

Quilting Mama said...

Thanks for the tribute to your dad. It is always so much fun to catch a glimpse of your world.
Of course the reactions of your mother to the antics of the children are just as enjoyable.

Lorraine said...

Bridget- Maybe your Dad and mine are having a drink together- he liked a good time as well.

Wherever your Dad went- it's a good place.

knitseashore said...

I love looking at old photos, and they're even better when you know the story behind the person in the photo. You have a treasure there, the photo *and* those priceless memories of your dad.

Carol said...

Your family sounds like great fun. I'm sure your dad would be very proud of you right now!

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