Copyright 2016 by Barry Carver
I've been writing quite a long
while, but I find I'm
just not interested in beating my own drum to sell an article here or
get votes on some site there. I just want to write things
mean something to me and see if they're worth anything to anyone
else as well. So I really appreciate this opportunity and all
the work involved in doing such a thing. Anyway, here's the
story. Let's see what you folks think:
Dad finished his dayís work at Fordís Livonia
Transmission Assembly Plant, hopped into the family station wagon and
made the drive from that Detroit suburb to the more distant one we
then called home.
Mom had gotten the five of us still at home, of six kids total, to
finally head off to bed. She turned on one of the silver,
built-in, two bay electric ovens and chose from the freezer my
Fatherís evening meal. It mustíve been about just
strange the things you think growing up. Dadís evening
meal would consist of either a potpie or a Swansonís TV
dinner. The fridge always had a stock of those foil-encased
delicacies and we kids thought it quite the treat when we got the
same thing for dinner that Dad would get when he came home.
days I think Iíd be hard pressed to get down much of those
original recipes but back then, I kid you not, they were the most
wonderful assortment of exotic foods we could imagine. Even
just the fried chicken was nothing like Momsí Ė with
parts of the chicken in there that weíd never seen before!
But there was a special joy in peeling back that slightly toxic bit
of thick aluminum foil to find a whole dinner squeezed
No passing the plates or arguments over who got the last piece of
whatever. Just a compartmentalized tray with everything you
need, including a dessert. A combination that could never be
rightly predicted, even though it had been pictured on the
From the moment those space-age foil packets went into the oven, not
to mention that the needed to be rotated halfway through, all bets
were off on which one was turkey or Salisbury steak or
And I donít think a blind taste-test would have helped much
because, of course, we couldnít wait to get at them and the
contents always seemed hover a few degrees shy of the surface of the
sun. The scalding was just part of the adventure.
his heart attack, Dad was no longer allowed to have salt so, the vile
tasting Ďsalt substituteí was placed next to the pepper
on one of those small metal trays whose legs scissored to provide a
top-heavy support. The tray-table stood just in front of Ďhis
chairí. Wide arms and well worn, it came complete with a
floor lamp beside it, into which was built an ashtray Ė always
at the ready.
The heart attack had also convinced him to cut
down on the smokes. He did however carry a pipe. A short
corncob affair that rested in a holster that hung from his
Why a corncob pipe? Beats me. It may have been that
were simply the least expensive or it may have been that they somehow
reminded him of his roots (Born in Aledo, Illinois, in 1920, both
economy and corn could have been comfort factors for
then 48 year old).
only picture I have of the two of us together is a Christmas shot,
taken as he was trying to get me to pose or to sing when I had just
turned two. Itís a funny old picture but itís the
one thatís left to me... so I treasure it. The simple
workman pictured in it, sitting cross-legged on the floor with one of
his boys, did have something more than youíd ever guess.
had, all through his school life, army career and tenure as husband
and father, a gift for music. As incongruous as it may
this grease monkey could play any instrument that fell into his
hands. In his teens, knocking about after graduating the
grade (as far as he ever went) his mother told me he had quite a
following as guitarist and singer in a band. That doesnít
quite jibe with everything I remember about a sometimes strict,
sometimes working too hard to be available father... but itís
is a flash of a picture in my memory looking at him as he pumped a
harmonica back and forth like a man possessed. Another flash
him trying to tune an old guitar whose face had warped Ė which
I think one of my brothers snatched from a curb just before the
weekly garbage pick up. Then I have a real memory of what
mustíve been hours of him trying to teach me to play the
ukulele (as a precursor to a guitar no doubt). I remember
calling me into the kitchen one afternoon to perform a song for a
neighbor or friend. I canít quite recall it but I believe
it was well received. I mustíve been about seven. I
may still have, somewhere in my mind, the fingerings for a chord or
two rummaging around in my head but. . . I
just cannot hear the music.
that typical night I started this with, Dad arrived and sat down to
his dinner. He chuckled a bit at Carson, who was just
his monologue. Perched in his hard-earned throne, he was
wearing the dark green work pants and plaid shirt that my Mother laid
out for him that morning. Just after midnight, Mom cleared
the simple dish and went to rinse his cup and fork. Dad,
feeling, Iím sure, very well cared for, chose this night to
enjoy a Lucky Strike after his meal. It was rare these days,
but not unheard of.
she hung up the dishtowel and looked into the living room, she saw
him shake his hand... twice, as if it had fallen asleep. Then
the cigarette fell from it and he exhaled Ė for the last time.
were no paramedics yet, no 9-1-1, none of the drugs and machines that
save a hundred lives a minute these days. By the time she
reached him she knew that their twenty-four and half year marriage
had ended in the only way either one of them could ever conceive of
it doing so. Twenty-six years later, she joined him... and he
was still the only man she ever loved.
I did try at each of them, I never learned to play an instrument; not
the trumpet; the guitar; the harmonica, or even the ukulele.
For that I beg his pardon (and yours). I think of the joy he
absentmindedly tossed into the laps of others Ė with a talent
he couldnít have even wished for and I am sorry that I have
never been able to do the same.
though the tune may wander and the notes are somewhat out of align, I
do play the instrument that he gave me and I hope you can imagine the
dates may be off and I may be seeing a few of the facts through a
lens, which was a long time in making, but I have tried to tell this
story many times. Please bear with me, as I may never be able
to do it well.
I'd be happy to get any sort of
Check out Barry's short story collection at Amazon. Click here.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
another of Barry's stories
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