By Lori Welch Brown
Hail to the Bacon Guy
After Mom passed, balls dropped. And that’s not the only thing. Hallmark stock dropped as well. My apologies to all the investors. It was the first year in many that I didn’t open up a Valentine’s Day card from my parents or a Mother’s Day card from my cat, Safari. (Mom—the Hume postmark was a dead giveaway even if I didn’t recognize your handwriting cleverly disguised as Safari scribble). Granted—it is not like my father was some dead beat who never lifted a finger. He was what I would call a typical 1950s husband and father. He went to work, came home dutifully every day (didn’t stop at the neighborhood watering hole). He ate a snack, took a nap and got cleaned up for dinner. He didn’t attend to boo boos, help with math equations, come up with science projects or dress my Barbie. That wasn’t his thing. He would, however, throw us in the car on a summer evening and head to High’s Dairy for an ice cream cone or Wendy’s for a Frostie. He was the neighborhood umpire to all our backyard wiffle ball tournaments. “Over the fence is a foul!,” he would yell from his spot on the cement retaining wall. He was never a big drinker, but occasionally, he would pull a Bud from the fridge after mowing the lawn or enjoy a few Jim Beam and cokes during his regular poker outings with my uncles. He was the guy that all the neighborhood kids were slightly afraid of, but respected him nonetheless. He didn’t yell a lot, but when he did, you listened. Or else.
Funny—all my classmates complained about being dragged to church every Sunday. My brothers and I whined because Dad woke us up early every Sunday to come out to the table for the breakfast he had waiting. Pancakes, bacon and eggs. Every. Single. Sunday. Without fail. Occasionally he would switch it up and serve scrapple. Another one of my dark secrets—I actually like scrapple. Now that I’m an educated consumer, I can’t bring myself to buy it, but that’s another story. Sunday morning breakfast was a Welch family ritual of its own sacred kind. Hard to believe I ever complained about someone making me pancakes, but trust that it was sorely missed when he wasn’t around which was rare. When I was about 8, his union went on strike. Dad didn’t want to break the strike, but he had a family to feed. He left for Canada to find work, and was gone about 6 weeks. I still have the silver maple leaf pendant he brought back for me.
Mom’s passing in 2006 brought a lot of change to our family, but especially to Dad. He lost his wife of 52 years and was left to fend for himself—which he hadn’t done for a long, long time. Initially, I tried to carry the torch. I made the hour drive out to their place every weekend, stopping at Bloom on my way to load up on food for the week. I’d buy things that I thought would be easy for him to make on his own and also make him a few dishes to eat throughout the week. I did some laundry, cleaned, and convinced him to hire someone to come in a couple times a month to clean. I worried about him when I wasn’t there. I hoped he remembered to turn the stove off and visualized him falling down those steep wooden stairs to the basement. Turns out—he lived the lessons he taught me my entire life. When life hits you between the eyes, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep on truckin’. And that is what he did. He never complained or wallowed or made us feel guilty for not being around more. He showed us how independent and strong he was—which we already knew, but had never really seen in action. At 76, he made new friendships and built a social life. Within a couple of years, he met a lady friend who became his companion. At 82, they threw us all for a loop when they packed up two households and moved to Pensacola to begin another chapter.
Dad now makes the calls. At least weekly. We chat, talk about the weather, my job, his pool (color me jealous), the usual stuff. Recently, my oldest brother was diagnosed with a serious illness. Dad calls him daily to check in on him. He also insisted on going to visit him which meant getting on a plane by himself (at 86), traveling several states away so he could show his support and give him a hug in person. I sure do miss my mom, but I am beyond grateful to have this guy around who is still teaching me lessons about how to live a courageous, purposeful life.
Fatherhood ain’t for sissies. I’ve watched my own husband navigate his share of challenges. I’m sure there are a lot of great Dads out there who don’t always feel appreciated or respected—and many of whom are forced to wear the Mom hat too. They might not be dodging land mines or rescuing kittens out of burning buildings, but they are heroes all the same.
Happy Father’s Day!