Fathers Day (Joe Apr 09)
As a youth, I remember hanging out with Dad. For some reason, it seems like we spent a lot of time together, tinkering on the car or walking through a small auto parts store called Levin’s near the corner of Fell and Market Sts. Other times I’d accompany Dad and Mom on the Saturday shopping trips to an all purpose store called Alec. Once I got my driver license, I still went with them, except I drove. Dad would browse the auto section, then onto the hardware, with me by his side. Most times, he wasn’t out to buy anything, but to look around. Sometimes he’d pick up a small item or two, getting things together for a project he had planned. As his routine, when he finished his shopping, he’d head out to the car to catch a Giants baseball game on the AM radio. I’d head over to the grocery section and finish shopping with Mom, watching her compare prices. She was the one who showed me how to price shop for value, getting the most out of the money spent.
Once that was done and we got back home and the groceries put away, Dad and I would head down to the garage and tinker on the car. He showed me all the basics. How to change motor oil, drum brakes, spark plugs and wires, and check the fluid levels. He taught me basic things about electricity, plumbing and carpentry. He was never in a hurry, always talking me through the process. He had a mind like that, mechanically inclined, organized and patient. He showed me the art of analyzing but broke it down to its simplest form. Look, observe, check, and prepare. Before starting a job, he’d always look, checking for safety, what tools and parts he’d need, then getting everything together before starting. “Don’t be in a hurry”, he’d say, “you make mistakes.” It took a long time, but now I understand: Think the job to completion, including tool, parts, difficulty and length of time involved. He never owned a large set of tools, but he had what was needed to get the job done. That‘s one of the things I admired about him, he was always prepared and made things look easy, nothing extravagant or fancy, just an easy going, uncomplicated, modest guy who valued honesty and hard work when needed. Everything he did was done with simplicity in mind. From his cars to his life, simple was easiest. He liked watching Lawrence Welk and Gunsmoke, listening to Marty Robbins or light country music, and as George eloquently wrote, eating planters peanuts and drinking mug root beer. His meals at McDonalds were, without fail, a cheeseburger, small fries and vanilla shake. Yes, he was predictable, but that’s what made him Dad. I still watch Gunsmoke reruns on Saturday mornings and Lawrence Welk whenever there’s a special. Those indelible teachings a Father instills in his family become treasured and valued memories and ways of life when he’s not around to teach anymore.
He was a role model for a lot of people in his life. Every friend we brought into the house, he embraced as his own and more than one of our childhood acquaintances referred to him as “Dad.” It was a sign of respect for him. There was no color boundary, there was no ethnic boundary, no appearance boundary, each kid was a good kid until proven otherwise, and with that, he garnered a great deal of respect in the neighborhood. Whenever we had a visitor, they were invited to eat and he once told me “you should always have enough food to feed everyone”. When we were experiencing a rough financial patch, he still made sure there was food for everyone. It certainly wasn’t anything fancy, but a pot of rice with meat and some kind of vegetable. Simple, that’s all we needed for nourishment.
He was a down-to-earth, unassuming and humble guy who treasured the simpler things life offered.
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Mug Root Beer and Planters Peanuts
Get the tutong on the rice just right
If you smell it it’s too late
Got to have his cold pancakes
In camp before the early light
Tasters Choice coffee
His cup on a napkin with the handle at three
Sandwich bag crimped corner and corner
And folded into a vee
Gunsmoke and Lawerence Welk
Marty Robbins and Charlie Pride
Giants on the car radio
Sunday’s East Bay ride
Fresh tapioca pudding
Half a cantaloupe with ice cream
A flaky apple turnover
Or a slice of custard pie
Just a little visit
To shoot the breeze
In that respect
He was very easy to please
I have these memories
I hope you have some too
Cherish it all folks
And this is why
He always told us
"Pretty soon patay"
"A Trip to Icehouse" (Ray 2001)
There is a campground off Highway 50 past the town of Placerville, about twenty-five or thirty miles from Lake Tahoe called Icehouse Lake.
For many years we made our annual camping trek from San Francisco up to Icehouse Lake for one or two weeks during the summertime. At first we took the white valiant station wagon loaded down with all sorts of camping gear, Mom and Dad, and all six of us kids all packed up and squeezed in, filling the car until it practically burst at the seams. Always on the night before we were to go, we would load up the car. Dad would make sure that everything was in order, and he had it down to a science and to the smallest detail. Coleman stove, lanterns, sleeping bags, tent and accessories all accounted for and ready.
Our journey began around three or four in the early morning, in the darkness before dawn silent except for our furtive movements and the banter of last minute details that had to be taken care of. Then, we would go. My first marker was always the Oil Refinery in Hercules, standing there like silent sentinels guarding the hillsides in the darkness. The smell of the Refinery was all around, permeating the pre dawn air with the pungent odor of the oil refining process. Past them we went on. When Dad would switch from I-80 to Hwy 50 at Sacramento would be my second marker, and I knew we were really on the way. We were putting more space and distance from the house, and were getting further away from home. Then there was Sams on Hwy 50, with the sawdust on the floor and the gold rush motif where wed stop for breakfast. Sams seemed like it was there forever and was a permanent Sierra place. It was also our first encounter as kids with a breakfast buffet. The next stop was the town of Placerville where Dad stopped at a supermarket so Mom could buy most of the perishable food supply for our camp stay. By then the sun was getting up slowly and the landscape started to take shape. The last stage was the drive from Hwy 50 up to Icehouse Lake itself, and on the sides of the road and well into the distance we were told that this area was the last remaining remnants of an ancient Petrified Forest. I can recall straining my eyes to see if the trees were really stone.
When we finally arrived at Icehouse Lake it was time to set up camp, and Ill always remember starting with the tent
"You Made Your Bed" (Ray 2006)
Lessons to live by… The aphorisms were, and still are time worn and seemingly clichéd; yet in each and every one the message rings as clear as a bell for all to hear. As kids when we were coming up, we would often hear all the old adages that Dad had stored up in his memory banks and dispensed to us on a regular basis. Deeply embedded into each of our collective psyches, the wisdom of Dad is still in effect.
Call it experience, longevity or just plain knowledge of living. He was really old school in thought and deed, and the nuggets of truth he gave us mean much more now than they did back then, and either consciously or subconsciously I think we still conduct ourselves on a daily basis with his old sayings subliminally back there in the recesses, still hearing his voice from when we were small and then tall.
I don’t think any of us ever sleep in late even now; “Get Up! Half the day is gone,” he would say, rousting us out of bed even on weekends. Sometimes we would watch him working on the car in the garage doing routine maintenance, changing the sparkplugs or draining the oil, and he would say to us, “If you don’t take care of your car, it won’t take care of you”.
In an email Joe recalled him quiet and deliberate; “What did your mother say?” was his reply when he didn’t want to be the one to say yes, and “If you get arrested, don’t call me” (When we got older, of course). And we can’t forget “Pretty soon patay” when he had advanced in age to his later years. (In Filipino language patay means ‘to die’) and also “Always cook more food than there are people”.
To this very day I can’t put my hands in my pockets, because I can still hear him clearly; “Get your hands out of your pockets. It makes you look lazy!” After Mom passed away he and I would sit every morning before I went to work at the table in his apartment and have coffee, talk, and I heard over and over, “Save your money for a rainy day” almost every day between bites of his apple turnover.
Just recently George reminded me of what is probably the oldest and the best quote ever, and it’s regarding the after effect in certain decision making processes, mostly when the outcome turned out less than desirable; “You made your bed, now lay in it”. Yet how many times has each us heard it echoing in our own mind somewhere along the line when the decisions we made ourselves turned out to be wrong?
“You’re going to quarter me to death!” Ralph recalled him saying, when we would pester him for twenty-five cents, and if anyone asked him for a bigger denomination he would utter; “Let me look in my little black book.” That little black book contained every amount of money anybody owed him, and when he died I put it in the same shirt pocket he always had it in before anyone noticed, when he was in the casket.
When our Grandmother frequently put down Grampa, and he meekly took it without any defiance Dad used to say “That’s a poor excuse for a man!” and Dad was always coming to Dave’s defense, and he would admonish us; “He’s still your brother.” even though we were at times utterly frustrated with Dave’s antics. When we wore a dirty shirt he would say, “Go change that shirt, you can grow potatoes on it!”
Just plain common sense he picked up along his way? Many of those old quotes are as old as there are people, keeping it real then, now, and in the future, and just plain old common sense. “You made your bed, now lay in it.” Simple and straightforward, either it is or it isn’t. It can’t get any better said than that…
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