Sunday, November 1, 2015


         I’ve written a lot about the kind of father we had, but I should also tell you the kind of husband he was. As I’ve noted, he was almost 39 when he finally did get married. There was a big height difference between him and Mom, he being over six feet tall and she being 4’11” and never much over ninety pounds. Still, she was boss.

         After supper, except for Sunday, Dad would do the dishes while Mom read the paper. Later, they would go into the living room and watch television---her choice of program. When she was home, she never had to leave the seat she was in.  He would always get her a Coke and pretzels, and if she needed a refill, he was right on top of it. Of course, remember, he also did cleaning and laundry.

         Dad was so happy when Mom got her driving license after going to driving school and buying our first car. At least once a week we would go to Lloyd’s Department Store. Dad loved that store. He would tell how they would go in the door together, but once she got in the door, she was on her own. He said he would wait for her to sneeze, and then he would go in that direction to find her.

         Daddy also joked about how she knew the location of every bathroom wherever they went.

         Dad loved Grant’s for their hot turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, and later on when the Orange Plaza opened, he would go right to the Orange Julius stand for one of those drinks and a hot dog.

         Dad actually had many places he loved to go:  Monticello Raceway, where he always placed his bet on the number two horse and always came home a winner, and the Orange County Fair, where he relished their sausage-and-pepper hero sandwiches.

         Before we got married, Tom would bring Dad double-sour pickles. Daddy loved them. I tried one once and couldn’t finish it, being way too sour for me. Just like the hot peppers he would eat, Dad ate these like candy. He ate Limburger cheese and head cheese, and we would be amazed that he could do it, given the smell alone.
         Dad got sick in 1972, bone cancer,  when our daughter Claudine was three and our son Christian only one, and he didn't really get to enjoy his grandchildren.

         I know it was hard for us to see big strapping Dad so sick and weak. The grandchildren were between 4 and 1 1/2. Our daughter, Claudine, was 3 1/2 when we went over to Castle Point, NY, to see Dad. Later on, she referred to it as "heaven": "we went to see Grandpa in heaven." He was so happy to see them!

         One time I took Mom to see him at the Castle Point Veterans Administration hospital, in 1973, and this turned out to be his last night. We talked a lot about the railroad and the grandkids, and as we left, we said goodbye and walked out into the hall. I heard him call, "Kacky!"

         I went back to the door, looked in, and said, "What's up, Dad?"

         He saluted me and said, "See ya."

         I can still see him sitting on the bed. When we got home, Mom got the call telling her that he passed away soon after we left. I wondered if he knew….


We are pleased to be serializing this book, Home Is Where the Story Begins: Memoir of a Happy Childhood, by Kathleen Blake Shields, for which I served as coach and editor. It is avalable from its publisher, Outskirts Press, as well as from online distributors including and

My writing-editing-coaching site is

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