Daily Update: Dad(s) – Part 2
When my mom remarried I, obviously, got a step-dad. I could say a lot of bad things about Loren, but I won’t. It’s father’s day so I’ll try to concentrate on the positive.
I was never what you’d call athletic, strong, graceful, coordinated, quick thinking. Unless you said it ironically. I was a very slow learner. I wasn’t built for manual labor. I didn’t like getting dirty. I didn’t like to kill things.
So when we moved up to McGregor with him it was because he loved to hunt, fish, ice fish, snowmobile, play football/baseball/softball, cut down trees, build houses, roofing, construction, fix cars, tractors, grow gardens. Loren was a man’s man through and through. If it was the manly thing to do, he more than likely did it. He loved to read westerns, watch westerns, action shows.
He was quick with math. It came second nature to him. He could do a bid on a job very quickly and know how much the material was going to cost, give an estimate over the phone based on a customer’s measurements, hang up, write up the estimate, then head off and do a full bid on the job based on his own measurements. It always fascinated me to watch him do the numbers in his head and then redo them on the adding machine just to check his numbers.
In our back yard we had a dump (a really big hole) and people would come by and drop stuff of to ‘dump’. He would go through things like cars and appliances and strip our anything of value and put the rest in the big hole. It was his intention to fill it in with solid material and over the years we got about half-way across a nearly acre wide hole. When it would fill up, he’d push and pack and then get a truck load of sand and fill in up to that point.
In the back acre where I grew up he’d built a pole barn. He had some help from the neighbors and up it went. Being terrified of heights I had no desire to go up on the roof, but he had me on a scaffolding handing him tools, screws, whatever he needed. He had slipped at one point and I caught the pneumatic screw driver and he landed on the scaffold and laughed. Climbed back up, and kept going. It was at least a 25 foot drop to the ground below and I thought I was going to lose it being up there.
As much as we would play during the summer and winter, there were chores and Jon and I did our share. My step-dad would drive us out into the woods where he’d have bought the ‘tree rights’ to an acre lot. We’d cut down all the trees to clear the lot. We’d strip off the branches, Loren would cut the tree into parts and we’d load that tree onto a truck to haul back to the house. We’d dump off one load and depending on how late in the day it was, we’d head back out for another until the lot had been cleared.
Then it was back at home where we’d split the wood. Yes, with axes. It was a blessing the day the wood splitter arrived and we’d spend the day cutting wood. Stacking wood. Getting ready for winter. Sure I had free days to go and do things, but when there was work to do, that came first. It was never easy work and I would go to bed tired, sore, and exhausted.
Remember when I said I wasn’t strong? Well I never felt strong, but all those days of lifting logs I’d built up muscles I didn’t know about. I was 180 pounds in 7th grade, but I wasn’t fat. But because I was big, dumb, and wore glasses, I got a lot of flack from kids at school. It made growing up in a small town hard.
Sadly, I got some of the same at home. I never told my mom until long after she’d left Loren, but Loren would do many things kids at school did. He’d call me ‘stupid’, ‘an idiot’, smack me on the back of the head when I didn’t understand something. Again when I’d start to cry because he wasn’t raising no cry baby. He also drank and at times that would be a problem.
To his defense, I don’t think he ever meant to be mean or cruel. I know he’s still around the McGregor area and I hope that he’s doing well. Since he and my mom have parted I’ve never had any contact with him. Being that I was a kid things were magnified for me as that was my little world. That’s all I knew. I got abuse in school and abuse at home when my mom wasn’t around. If my mom was there, she dealt with Jon and I, but in a different manner. We didn’t have a lot of money, but he and my mom both worked to keep food on the table and with three growing boys (Loren’s son lived with us for a couple of years) it wasn’t easy. We ate, and ate, and ate some more.
Like I said, I think he did the best he knew how. Every night we got a hug and a kiss before we went to bed. He taught me to read. He tried to help me with math but didn’t have the patience. He taught my brother how to play baseball (he was the little league coach), but had a hard time with me because I found the game dull and didn’t enjoy getting yelled at when I did something wrong.
If anything I learned a good work ethic from him. Loren always put work first. Not only was he a roofer/contractor/wood cutter, he also plowed the roads for the Shamrock Township for many years. If it was snowing, he was on the roads plowing. He took me along on a couple late night runs. He would run machinery to harvest wild rice during the season. Those were very long days. He’d come home broken, sore, beat, and all he wanted was a beer and foot rub. Sure he had a temper and my brother and I took the brunt of it when my mom wasn’t home, but I turned out alright.
I was able to put that chapter of my life behind me. I learned how to be strong. I learned how to escape. I rode my bike, I did track and cross country (I ran lots) and I read. I read any books I could get my hands on. Loren read very quickly and I tried to imitate that when I read. I may not have liked him as a father. I may not have enjoyed anything that he enjoyed. I may not have turned out anything like him at all, but he was still a part of my life and my past and part of who I am is because of him.
I’ve chosen to take all the positive of his life and apply to mine. I try to be more patient. I try to be more understanding. I try to contain that anger I feel inside from time to time.
Loren, you’ll probably never read this, but I do still think about you from time to time. I hope you’re doing well. I hope your life has become what you wanted. I bear you no ill will for anything I may feel you did wrong in raising me. If anything, I think you for making me stronger than I ever thought possible.