There are many things in life that mold us and make us into the people we are. Every day, every moment, every person we connect with brings another form of change to who we are meant to be.
I learned early on that what you have is far less important than who you have.
And, we had family.
I was in my late 30’s, with two little’s of my own, before I came to realize that the man I called poppers, the happy go lucky man who had all the answers and made sure I had everything I needed, came from a time and place where he needed and never received.
He struggled through his life in many ways, and he became determined that we never would.
He is my greatest influencer. My hero and my lifestyle pattern.
He is among the greatest of adventurers, the Paul Harvey of storytellers, the king at uncle bo-duncle and kick the cans. He would win hands down, as the most honorable “troll” under the bridge! (a game he played with us as kids when he took us camping) the master of I spy, and the inventor of the dappy dinky doodler!
Whenever he had free time, he was with us. Taking us on bike rides or hauling us down the road in the back of his pick-up, screaming and shaking his fist out the window, “you won’t catch us, you dirty coppers!” stopping only for ice cream, or penny candy from Gimmer’s dime store.
In our eyes we were rich. We were not.
He worked for the railroad, and would be gone for days, as he would leave, he would gather us all around and ask us to “name our poison”. Taking lists of the lifesaver candy flavors we all wanted and smothering us in kisses and hugs.
He was our favorite playmate, our confidant and without a doubt, our fiercest protector.
Days after my mom died, while reflecting, he said of himself: “I suppose I was a better father than I was a husband”. I can confirm the first part, he is a spectacular father, caring, compassionate, ornery, and incredibly thoughtful. Oh, I met the uncomfortable end of his belt a time or two, but like most pain in life, it redirected me and made me better, for the care in the correction.
I can easily refute the second part of that statement, as he was a loving and caring husband.
He made it easy to see what we as children should strive to achieve as we began our search for “the ones”. He made it difficult to fill those spots.
Boyd, my pops, was born in April of 1930, somewhere in the middle of 13 siblings and smack dab into a world of want, need and unforeseen opportunities.
Raised in the same small town in Indiana, as he raised us in, but seemingly, completely different worlds.
Before he was 10, he and his family lived in 15 different places, not quite what you think. Having 13 kids and living well below the poverty line, his folks could not afford a home or rent, so, they squatted. For years they carried what they owned in a small bags, and drug along with them 13 children, doing odd jobs and scavenging for food.
An ugly, but realistic definition of survival.
Strength and determination covered in dirt and grime, nearly unrecognizable to "normal" society. Quite simply lost and overlooked.
This is the story of a boy and his family, that as it turns out, I never knew. Living in the same backyard as I, and yet, never seeing what he saw. Never experiencing what he survived, yet being shaped, and molded into someone stronger, because of his struggles. Proving, that we only know as much about someone, as they want us to know. (Books, covers and judging... you know)
Later, he would tell us tales of sneaking into abandoned houses after dark, making beds out of old newspapers and burlap sacks. Lighting fires in old tin cans for light. They would all go out rummaging through the local grocery store and soda shops garbage cans for leftover food. If they were lucky, they might find glass bottles to turn in for cash. On the good nights, some bottles still had soda in them, a real bonus!
They would stay until they were discovered, and then it was off to find somewhere new to live.
When he was 8, he worked at the local bowling alley setting pins for tips and sandwiches, taking home what wasn’t eaten for his younger siblings.
At 16, he joined the Army, as his brothers did before him. He said it took many years before he stopped collecting and saving leftovers from the trash. It was the first time he had a real bed, and clothes that were just his. He served for several years, fighting in the Korean war. This was another part of his life he chose not to talk about.
When he returned to his small town, he and his older brother used the money they made in the service to buy a small house for their parents. They both got jobs at a local service station.
He would grin as he talked about how he met my mother there. His story went something like this: “She came driving through several times a week to get gas, or her oil checked, or the windows cleaned. Each time she drove through, her dress would be pulled up, higher and higher on her thigh. I had to protect her honor, so I asked her to marry me. Mom would roll her eyes and say, “he was a scoundrel, I felt sorry for him, so I finally accepted.”
They were married 64 years.
I never met my dad’s father, he died before I was born, but his mother lived with us for some time, before her death. Trying, I suppose to give her as comfortable a life as he could, after all her struggles.
He is a huge propionate of actions over words. He showed us love and duty though deed, and whatever he said, he stood behind it.
Proud, faithful, loyal, humble and hopeful.
He would say, if you aren’t happy with what you have or where you are, take the steps to make it better. Complaining is fine, with a plan. Otherwise shut-up and get going.
I said to my dad one day when we went back to this small town to reminisce, that I had never been to the side of town he was taking me to. He said, with his hands folded in his lap, “I never wanted you to” I always wanted you to have a happy, carefree childhood.”
I answered him saying, “we had the best childhood ever, and I am so glad you were able to grow up with us!”
He laughed and said, he hadn’t thought of it like that, but that was probably very true, and he was proud to have been able to provide that for us.
His life was simple. Ordinary, I suppose, in comparison to some. But this boy, covered a lot of ground, changed a lot of lives, and created a world full of love and wonderment.
As a man, he is still making his mark and changing the world at 91!
I am proud to be my father’s daughter. Sometimes we feel too much, and life takes advantage of a gentle spirit. But I learned from the best that life is a journey, not an opponent.
Thank you, Boyd, for reminding me that I can enjoy both the good and the bad, and still be better for it, because of it!
My dad, my poppers, my hero, and the maker of the best of my world.
I love you!
Thank you for the happiest memories and the skills to leave the best of me behind, for mine!
About the Creator
Telling stories my heart needs to tell <3 life is a journey, not a competition
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