Monday, May 18, 2015

My Father

My Dad's full name is Alfred Earl McEwen.

When I was born I was cross-eyed and my tongue was attached to the bottom of my mouth. I was a premature baby and I was a mess.

That's when my Dad stepped in.

When I was a bit older we played two games, the first one was called Watch the Finger. He used to have me look at his index finger as it got closer and closer to the point between my eyes. He moved his finger in and pulled it back, moved it in and pulled it back, and that exercise helped the muscles in my eyes get stronger and stronger. We must have played that game a thousand times and eventually my eyes straightened out.

The second was after I'd had an operation to clip that muscle under my tongue, which in my case allowed mine to move more freely. That also left me with a lisp. My Dad would have me say "Sufferin' Succotash" and "Snookie Snook Snook" (a mouse in Cinderella) over and over again. He says I said it so much that I thought Snookie Snook Snook was my actual name. But...

The lisp went away.

Never give up.

That's my Dad.

He was born in Mobile.  His father, Beverly, died when he was three. His mother, Julia, passed away when he was twelve. Even with all that hardship Dad thrived. He moved to Jackson, Mississippi and early on he found out that people liked to hear him sing. At sixteen he had his own show on the radio.

That's a big deal now but back then? A really big deal.

That singing turned into a scholarship to Xavier University in New Orleans where he was the star of his class. He and his voice played the lead in many operas.

After that, he moved to Baltimore where he met and married my Mom. I'll save their love story for a different time.

Dad joined the Air Force and went to OCS, Officer Candidate School. He retired as a colonel but he began as a lieutenant. He started our family with my Mom.

Then we went to Germany.

One day there I was looking at our grandfather clock and said, "What time is it?" My Dad said, "You can tell time.  Keep moving closer until you can see the clock." My face was about an inch away from it and I said, "It's ten till seven."

"Oh, no!"

Shortly after that I got my first pair of glasses. I was ten.

Through it all my Dad kept singing.

I've seen him sing so many times I've lost count but I've always been very proud of him. I could never sing but I like to think that exposure helped me to be a disc jockey down the road.

He taught me manners and how to be courteous.

Yes m'am, no m'am. Please and thank you.

Learning that has gotten me so far in life. He taught me the importance of honesty, of integrity. He taught me the value of intelligence.

He taught me a lot of things.

If you asked him something he didn't know, he wouldn't just tell you anything to make you go away. He'd say, "I'll find out." And come back with the answer. It was like living with an encyclopedia.

Later on, after we returned stateside and I had long left the nest, a letter came to our house addressed to ALBERT McEwen. My younger brother, Kirk, thought that was so funny and used to call our Dad, Bert. Well, they went to Mexico on vacation and my brother shouted out one day, "Hey Bert!" to get his attention.  A man near my Dad sniffed and said, "You know, I wouldn't let my kids call me by my first name." He chuckled and said, "That's not my name."

One day I said to my Dad,"I've always been lucky." He said, "Do you know why?" I didn't expect that answer. As I heard the theme to the Twilight Zone in my head he began...

My father had six brothers and two sisters. He was the baby. "I'm a seventh son. And you're the son of a seventh son."

I'm now a father and I had a great path to follow. I have daughters and sons and they're all different. It's great being their Dad. It sounds cliche, but my Dad has always said the best thing in his life was the raising of his kids.

My Dad is 86 now and has been a grandfather for awhile.

It's been a great ride.

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