December 7th, 2010
Today has been a sad day for me, as this calendar day has been for the last 36 years. Dec.7th, not only is it Pearl Harbor Day, but it marks the day that my dad was laid to rest, in a very small cemetery, on top of a hill, in the town where I grew up in. Near the place where he was born and raised his family. Seems impossible that it has been that long ago.
I was almost 21 years old. I had been married for nearly 3 years, and had a 10 month old baby girl. My life absolutely revolved around my husband and daughter. When looking back, I can't help but think how young and naive I truly was, and so very selfish. I did not realize the finality of death. That when one takes that last breath, it is over, the end of life as we know it, gone. I have so often wished that I had been older and more mature, before he passed from us. I wished that I had talked to him. I mean really talked to him. I wish that I would have known his thoughts and wishes. Where he was 'coming from'. I wish I had asked him more about his life as a young man. I wish that I had realized that mom needed help in caring for him. Many wishes, many thoughts, many regrets.
I always said that Raymond Finney was ONE STRANGE BIRD. Don says that "'he was what he was." But truthfully, he had some very strange ways. For instance, he thought boys and girls lived by two totally separate set of rules. There are 5 of us kids. 3 girls and 2 boys. The boys were just expected to drink, smoke, cuss, and stay out late (after they got older of course.) I have heard him say more than once that, "boys will be boys." For us girls, it was a whole different story. I have to say that I had it better than my two older sisters, even though he still had some strict rules, lucky for me, times changed and so did he. He had a dress code that the older girls lived by, and wearing shorts was NOT in it. So playing sports in school was not an option for them. Fifteen years later when I was in high school he had mellowed out some and I got to play volleyball, and I wore shorts. You could forget about being a cheerleader. His thought was "you are NOT going to get out there and turn flips for those boys and show your underwear." Period.
He did not attend any of our weddings. He said that he had only been to one wedding in his life and that is all he intended on going to. When Don and I got married, he chose to sit over on the "liars bench" in front of the cafe/pool hall until the wedding was over . He did however come in time to share the wedding cake with us, and enjoyed being with all of the people. Again, One Strange Bird!!
He had many other ways and thoughts that at the time I just took for granted, but as an adult, I indeed think they were strange.
I can only speak for myself here....
I was almost like an only child. There are 8 years between me and my brother closest to me in age, so by the time I got to be 10 or 12 years old, the other 4 were married and having kids of their own. So a lot of time was spent with just dad, mom, and me in the house. The sad part of that is that I feel like I never really knew him. To me he was an authoritative figure, that simply ruled the house, and I do mean ruled. Always telling me "you are not going there" or "you are not doing that" or "you are not running around with that girl" "you are not going out with that boy" etc. We never really had any conversations at all, and I remember thinking that my life would be so much better if he wasn't in it. Again, so young, naive, and selfish I was.
I have often thought about Reba McEntyre's song, "The Greatest Man I Never New". Some of the song fits so perfectly with the way I felt during those young days. I always new that dad loved us kids, even though he never said the words, at least not to me. There were never any "I love you's", kisses, or hugs from him. He just didn't know how to show any affection or emotion. Although as I said previously, I knew that he did. Maybe this is why I always tell my girls that I love them when I am leaving them or hanging up the phone from talking with them... I want them to KNOW that I love them. I never want them to doubt it or question it.
I suppose work was hard to find in the days before I was born, and afterward, because sometimes during the winter months dad would go to my uncle's houses in New York, or Florida, and work and send the money back home to mom. It was his way of keeping food on the table and trying to provide for us..... After my mom passed away I was going through an old suitcase filled with some old memorabilia of their lives together and I found some old letters that dad had written to her while on these work trips. Which shocked me to the core. First of all, I really didn't think dad could read or write much, other than to write his name. He always had mom do that kind of stuff. I was mystified to see he could actually write pretty intelligently.
As I held these letters in my hand and read the words for the first time in my life, tears flowed down my cheeks. It was so sad that 30 plus years after he was dead and gone, I saw a glimpse of a man I never knew existed. He spoke of how much he missed mom and us kids. He would say things like "Now you have the boys help you get the wood in"...at one point I guess one of my sisters was gone with someone for a few days because one letter said something like..."I want Gerry home as soon as possible, I don't like her being away from home, " With the later letters he would always end it by saying.."Give that little ole baby girl a kiss for me"...Which meant me....As I sat there reading these letters I literally saw a side of him that I had never seen in the 21 years that I knew him, and it tore me up inside. I will cherish those letters until the day I am laid to rest.
Dad found out he had lung cancer on Sept 5th, 1974. He lived exactly 4 months to the day from when he found out. After he got sick, he became a Christian, and got baptized. He laid on his death bed with his arms straight up in the air. Praying. He told someone that he wasn't afraid to die, he knew he was going to a better place. The only thing that bothered him was that he didn't want to leave his kids and grand kids in this world, the way that it was. Wonder what he would think if he could see it now!!
So, this is the story. I know that it may seem like a sad story to some, and maybe it is. I harbor no ill feelings toward him at all, for as Don said "He was what he was". I know that he loved us, he just wasn't good with words. Sometimes, I find myself in that same situation. I am just not good with words, but I love deeply and wholeheartedly. I look forward to someday being able to sit down with him and 'really' talk to him. There is so much I want to say and so many questions I want to ask... Until then, every once in a while, I will dig out the old letters and read the scribbled words, and ponder the bitter sweetness of knowing that even
even though he never spoke the words out loud to us, that down deep in his heart... He loved us all......................