Saturday, June 20, 2015

Father of the Year

Marrying Ben was an idea my own father very much supported.
I wanted a good father for my children, so I chose wisely.
I was actually very deliberate about that.
My father always liked Ben.  He took this picture.
My mother was nuts about him, especially when she learned he had red hair.
After the wedding, Dad helped me load all my worldly possessions into the back of Ben's Blazer.  My honeymoon was a trip from Idaho to Houston, where Ben had a good job.
When I told Ben I was in labor, he jumped out of bed and took a shower. He was beyond thrilled.
The first time we bathed Davy, it took us two hours.  It was a steep learning curve.
This was our first Christmas card.  We took an entire roll of film of the three of us. Ben's head was cut off in every shot.
Being a father was an entirely new adventure for Ben.  His own father died when he was 12, and Ben was determined to give his children everything he had.
He taught them all the things his father had taught him.
In those early years, camping was fun, but the truth was that there were no extra funds, even for a Motel 6.
Besides, you can't perfect roasting marshmallows in a motel.
I took this picture five days before Jeff was born.
I am sure I was saying, "Please hold the baby's head!"
Ben was snitching some candy during this picture.  The clown costume was already a hand-me-down, which I had made for Davy.
This is the father I remember best, one not all that comfortable around kids.
It was a major event teaching Jeff to walk.  He finally mastered that skill at 16 months.  This picture was taking during a family vacation at Mom's home.
So was this.
My parents did their best.  Who can ask for more?
I feel it important to mention that Ben had a moustache when I met him.
My memory is that in 1981 he entered a beard-growing contest at work, which by then was in New Jersey.
When he shaved off the beard, the moustache went, too.  It was a major event.
I know this picture was taken in 1981, because that was the first year without a moustache.  You are seeing a birthday party for our dog.
Tommy, aka Steve, was about a month old, and probably in my left arm.
This was our Christmas card picture that year.  We still have the clock, the chair and the ottoman, but the latter two have been recovered.
This picture was taken Christmas morning with a tripod and a timer.  Notice the patches on Dave's and Sam's jeans.  I got really good at those.  Notice how relaxed Ben is with the kids.  I've always liked that about him.
All fathers love to play on Christmas morning.  This is Ben's train, not a new one.  He set it up under the piano during the holidays.
There is often a long story behind the picture, and this is no exception.  First, I thought this was a picture of Ben reading instructions to Dave's new skates.  That was a good guess, because the boys in our New Jersey neighborhood were hockey fanatics.  Ben helped the other fathers clean the ice off a pond near our home, creating a fabulous rink, and then he strung wires for lights to our house so everyone could skate at night.  Which they did.  All winter.  It was awesome.
Thank goodness for the edit feature, because the truth is that Dave had asked for a programmable car, a 280Z, to be exact.  "If all else fails, read the instructions," are Ben's famous words.  I suspect that they were at that point.
Spaceships, skates, trains.  It was a great Christmas.
For little boys who had been born in Texas, experiencing New Jersey winters was a thrill.  In another back story, the move in 1980 was necessitated by a job transfer.  Good year to remain employed: bad year to buy a house.  We had a 16% mortgage.  We refinanced as soon as the rates dropped, my memory is down to 8%.
We loved New Jersey.  Ben built a tree house between the pond and our house.  He spent five years working on that back yard.  I used to call him Farmer Ben.  We had two vegetable gardens.  The Italian neighbor taught me how to fry squash blossoms in Mozzarella cheese.
Who takes trips across the country with four kids?  I'm pretty sure we flew, because I remember running out of gas in Dad's car, which we borrowed.  That was a long day.
Ben coached Davy's Little League team.  He was the best.
Ben didn't miss Corinne's birth, but almost.  He had taken all four boys camping the night before.  She was five weeks early.  I have never done a better job of summing than I am doing now:
A park ranger woke him up in the night.  It was raining.  Ben missed the exit on the freeway and backed up.  And I delivered a baby with a man at my head who reeked of campfire smoke and sticky marshmallows.  And then it was a girl, born in the days when we didn't know those things in advance.

I hung the wallpaper in the two-story entry behind us.  At the time I was very proud.  Now I'm not so sure.
It was a lot of work having those kids, but having a good father around really helped a lot.
The moustache grew back.  I can date pictures by its absence or the age of the kids.  We lived close to Hacklebarney Park, one of the most wonderful places on earth.
We spent a lot of Saturdays there.
No Sundays, though.  We always went to church.  That was important to me, too. 
We moved back to Houston in the mid-80s.  Ben took the kids to New Mexico to ski many, many times. I went once.
We did escape together one weekend, a rare moment of spontaneity for me.  This picture was taken in Mexico City in 1989.  Ben and I visited Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Bill on their mission.
We visited Yellowstone one year.  Sam is wearing my camera case.
We moved back to New Jersey in 1994.  Sam got his mission call that year.  It meant a lot to me that Ben took each of our sons to the temple.
A couple of our boys came home from their missions underweight.
Steve and Corinne were almost only children during those New Jersey years.
Ben and Steve, just right of center, flew to New Mexico for a Philmont trip with the Houston scout troop.  This was Ben's third Philmont trek.  Ben did not miss camping trips with the boys.  Not ever.
Steve and Ben at the top of Baldy.
I have tried hard to remember the event where this picture was taken.  I remember being very proud of Jeff,   There were many proud events during those years.
Ben and I took our first trip to China during these years, leaving Steve and Corinne with a babysitter who bought organic food, which they hated.  Ha, I had forgotten that.  I came home to a fridge full of items I had to throw out because no one would eat them.
When Dad turned 85,  Ben encouraged me to host a birthday party for him.  Ben was a good son-in-law.
For a time, Ben and I lived in Tokyo.  Corinne was with us.
Will was born while we were there.  That was a huge milestone.  The moustache and hair aren't red anymore.
Then Matt was born.  By then we were in Virginia.
Grandpas are good at naps.
And puzzles.
It's wonderful to watch my grandchildren love Ben.
And for Ben to love them.
For a long time Julia called her grandfather "PapaDewey."
One of these days Jacob is going to win.  But not today.
But Ben will carry them when they are worn out.
Ben still likes to play with his boys.
I asked Ben to cook his own Father's Day dinner. Tomorrow will be just as good.
I made a pie from scratch.
This was actually my first cherry pie.
Not my first rolls. 
Ben doesn't like cantaloupe, so I didn't buy any.
He does love asparagus.
And corn on the cob.  Early in the season, but still delicious.
This morning I was unable to open this door.  Definitely not good.  Yesterday we both worked on that balcony, and if it had locked itself then, the fire department would have been invited for a visit to get us down.  What did the Father of the Year do?  He took the door apart.  He laid all the parts out.  He found the problem, and he fixed it.
I had no doubt.

Thank you, Julie. You're Welcome, Louie.

Did I really want to start this last post of Steve's visit with another picture of my groupies watching Star Trek?  I sure did.  We'...