Publisher’s Corner

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

I have been thinking about my father recently. Maybe because Father’s Day comes up in June. I was thinking what it would have meant to me to have a cell phone when I was 20 years old and vagabonding through Europe with a friend. If I had a smart phone back then, I would have learned of my father’s passing while I bicycled through France. But back then communications were limited to dial telephones and transatlantic cables. Maybe I could have seen some photos of the funeral and glimpsed his face one last time. It was hard coming home to find out he had died and was buried. I went to visit his grave and thanked him for what little money he had to give me for my trip. I remember he was tending bar somewhere and I stopped in to say goodbye. I just didn’t know it would be goodbye forever. Part of my wonderful experience abroad was because of my father. He had his problems, but everyone loved Chuck. He was a gentle giant, an avid fisherman, canoe floater, and he loved to play corkball. He was the announcer at the little league baseball games back in Bethany, Missouri when my brother and I lived like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. He loved to barbecue and entertain friends. He always had a cold beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Both would lead to his demise. He loved to work with wood. Mainly balsawood. Which for those of you too young to know, is wood so light you could sneeze it off the workbench. It is used in making model planes mostly. He loved the outdoors and we would spend countless hours on Sunday family drives down Missouri’s Blue Highways. I think he was trying to relive some of his rural days as he was born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He loved the streams, campsites and catching anything that wiggled through the water. He taught me to catch and clean fish. Gotta say, I haven’t done well in carrying on the family tradition. He drove a tank in World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart. He was the person who taught me to love sports. Mostly baseball, but he loved football and we would watch games together on t.v. and I remember Falstaff Beer’s “Old Pro” commercials. My dad had a quick dry wit and a twinkle of mischief in his steely blue eyes. He could make you laugh and was always ready with a joke or a gag. During his good years, his charm made him a great salesman and later a bartender people loved to be around. He was a Jackie Gleason fan and my childhood was saturated with the Honeymooners. I spent hours and hours cleaning the basement and the garage with my dad. And at night when my brother and I were supposed to be asleep, my mother would send my dad up the stairs to check on us. Being a large man with baggy trousers, he would come up the stairs, “chink”, “chink”, “chink.” The change in his pockets rattling with every step. This would alarm my brother and me to climb back in bed and under the covers quickly before the giant entered the room. He would check to make sure our socks were off and back down the stairs he went. I will always remember his whistle, every night at dinner time. Some people had a dinner bell and we had my dad’s whistle. And in the mornings it was my dad who roused us from bed with that famous “Up and at em boys.” And when my sister was born, he loved his little “Sugar Boat” more than anything. She was a daddy’s girl for sure. Chuck was a complex man. So loved and yet so troubled at times. He died in his late 40s. His heart and his life gave out while on a camping trip with friends. But his memories live on. The good ones still etched in my heart are building blocks for me as a father and grandfather. The bad memories forgiven as dents in the armor of a knight who shined for his children when he could.

Happy Father’s Day, J.B. Lester; Publisher