Dateline: Spearfish, South Dakota
Another 566 miles down. I think I need to clarify a little something about my last post. When talking about my sister’s death, the only point to be made is that we were given a story by the Cheney police about gasoline residue in the stairwell leading up to her apartment and that the sliding glass doors had been frozen shut. Nothing more, nothing less.
After I finished last night, I had trouble shutting off my brain…what should I talk about next? Different thoughts flooded my mind, until I finally dozed off…only to wake up almost an hour before my alarm and be unable to get back to sleep because the brain kicked in again. I settled on topics for tonight and the next two evenings and hope to write something people still enjoy reading.
We are all the products of our parents, for good or bad. We start off with their genes and they provide the initial environment for us to grow. Some of us stay more true to their influence, and some of us deviate incredibly so as to appear to be completely disconnected from them, but they still provided that core.
I have to say I got more of my playful side from dad. Dad was a big kid who never quite grew up, something we realized years ago. He could joke with anyone, and there were very few people I ever saw him get mad at (more on that tomorrow night). I learned my humor from him, and it does tend to be more on the raunchy side. I know it is a White family trait. I saw it in spades from our Uncle George…Uncle Bob’s sense of humor was there although it was a bit more dry than the others….and Uncle Max’s tended to reflect his time in the Navy during World War Two. So dad came by it honestly, and that’s my excuse no matter what you think. I have relied on it as a coping mechanism for years, much to the consternation of other family members. It has helped me with the current situation, as some of the people who have received personal messages can attest. Thinking on it further, I can see how I have incorporated aspects of all of their approaches.
Dad had always been athletic as well, something I could never measure up to having received a lot of my physical aspects (including susceptibility to chronic illnesses) from my mom. However, I DID get his physical appearance as anyone who sees me this week will recognize instantly. Dad was a great football lineman in high school. He was active in the men’s softball teams in Kellogg for years, and coached Junior Football for decades.
He enjoyed swimming, and could swim like a fish. He was one of those guys who would jump off bridges over the North Fork. I can remember going to the Kellogg swimming pool and hanging off the side in the diving area while he would go off the high dive and do a huge cannonball almost on top of us. I think swimming was what he missed most after his cancer. In those days, they did not have a snorkel he could use given how he was forced to breathe.
The three White families usually got together on the Fourth of July (at least from what I remember, throughout the 60s and 70s). We would alternate between houses, but dad, George, and Bob would be like kids in a candy store lighting fireworks…especially the “special” ones you had to go to Montana or the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation to buy. I remember one year they were shooting off the fireworks at our house from a cable spindle that was about 3 feet high when on its side. It was a perfect platform, until….one of my older sister’s friends had brought a large firework that was shaped like a pill with wings midway on it. I will not mention his name…Pat knows who he is. Well, the Brain Trust put this little bomb resting in one of the holes in the spindle, being held up by its wings. As soon as they lit it, it shot down INTO the spindle and proceeded to blow it up. Classic.
Dad was a “pleaser”. He wanted people to be happy, and hated seeing anyone upset…it bothered him to no end. It may surprise some people familiar with my current situation, but I did get that from him as well. But for me, it becomes extremely painful and costs my considerable psychic energy, so I use a different coping mechanism of covering up…and have a reputation as a bit of a grumpy curmudgeon…which I use to my advantage for comedic affect.
I have also never really been very good at “small talk”, at least in my own mind, and it always amazed me how dad could do it seemingly effortlessly. It got to the point where one time where I asked him about it, how he could do it so easily, and I saw a side of dad I never knew existed, if only a quick glimpse. I will never forget the look in his face. He looked like he was at a total loss, that he could not explain it and had no idea what he was doing. It was as if he was afraid of being seen as a fake. I know he wasn’t…but that look in his eyes is still in my thoughts more than 35 years later.
People who knew my parents can be excused if they do not quite understand how they ended up together. Mom could joke, but nothing like dad. And while I get my logical side from mom, it is the enjoyment of debate that comes from dad. In fact, my parents initially get together by way of a trick. Dad had a “reputation”, and even though my mom grew up in Wallace, she knew who he was and would not have gone out with him except they had mutual friends who tricked her into going on a blind date with them…and dad. I am not sure how he wore her down…if it was his sense of humor, the dates to the dump to shoot rats (yeah, they did that…it was the 50s), or whatever, but they ended up together and lasted through many ups and downs until mom’s passing.
Dad was a big kid…a joker…and obviously a hopeless romantic. *cough* *cough* I am glad I take so much from him…just not dating advice. I messed that up enough on my own early in life.