Dixie Darr

For Father’s Day/The Carpenter’s Tale

In Learning on June 16, 2017 at 7:00 am

My father was a casual racist, using the n-word almost gleefully, because he knew he shouldn’t, until the end of his days. I never understood his attitude. I let him know my displeasure and tried to reason with him long after I realized he would never change if only because he was a stubborn, stubborn man. Still, people are never one dimensional and he had other frequently contradictory qualities that I loved.

Among his not-so-lovable qualities was that he believed girls didn’t need college and refused to help me pursue a degree. Thirty years later he still maintained that my going to college was ridiculous and unnecessary even though by then it was clear I wouldn’t be getting married and having babies, which was my proper role in life.

We were never a hugging family, and I don’t remember either of my parents ever saying, “I love you,”but he found other ways to show me he loved me. Before I started high school he told me I could always call him to come pick me up after games or other nighttime activities, and he never complained when I also expected him to give my friends a ride home.

He taught me how to change a flat tire and change my oil, although his efforts to teach me to drive ended with my signing up for driver’s ed in summer school.

A talented carpenter and woodworker, he made several pieces I treasure today, including my work table, Grandma Darr’s sewing desk, a spice rack, a pine suitcase/tool chest, a mirrored vanity, a dry sink cupboard, and a step stool and applauded when I took an adult education woodworking class because my school wouldn’t allow girls to take shop. True to his Depression-era roots, he tried to use up every scrap piece of wood in his garage shop. He loved to give me tools as birthday and Christmas gifts.

More than anything, he taught me self-reliance, how to figure things out and use what you have.

My favorite dad-ism was his response whenever I said I didn’t know how to do something. “You can’t learn any younger.” This became my lifelong motto.

He read both the Rocky Mountain News (which shut down a year after his death) and the Denver Post every day of his life and for years subscribed to Popular Mechanics magazine. I never saw him read a book, so I have no idea where my love of books, a passion I share with my brother, came from.

My biggest sorrow is that, after my mom died, his hurt feelings caused him to reject my brother and both his granddaughters, and he never met his great-grandson.

I am proudest that he never lost his sense of humor, joking with his caregivers to the very end.

I can only hope I do the same.

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