VIP Dad!


June 16, 2019

Father’s Day was fun for Gary because he was given special attention by his family. He is one of many Americans who are reported in recent studies that found that in this era, 70% of respondents “said their role as a parent was either important or very important,” that this role was very important to their identity. The study published in a June 16 Deseret News article by Jennifer Graham concludes that nowadays, parents are “predominantly concerned about what goes on in their homes and find satisfaction and pleasure in the rearing of children, despite stresses.” In the further past, fathers were “supposed” to be involved in other aspects of life than children, but very involved fathers have been growing more common.

In fact, “children benefit when parenthood becomes central to the father’s identity, and this begins even before the child’s birth. . . . One thing we know is that when fathers develop an identity earlier, maternal health is improved, women are less likely to get unnecessary C-sections, babies are less likely to be low birth-weight and more likely to be born on time.”

These findings amazed me. Having been reared with an invested father (until he died) and later step-father and having had a husband who would come home from work, lie on the living room floor and wrestle with the kids until they grew too big, I expected affectionate fathering. Gary would encourage prayer at family dinner (and other meals as possible) and led Family Home Evening as well as going on high mountain camping trips, still a treasure of our family memories.

Nowadays, fathers change diapers and tend babies far more than in the past. Maybe that’s a benefit of women’s rights movement. We do expect more of fathers than that they give financial support and see to the car. As well, a greater percentage of women are outside employed even after a child is born. To have happy homes, it makes sense for men to pitch in more around the house and help with the chores.

Having been reared in the olden days when women stayed home with the kids, it seemed natural to me to continue even when we didn’t have kids in the home. We got used to the old ways, and I still do 99% of food preparation and housework. Gary is my computer “system manager” and is on call whenever I can’t do something, so that sometimes takes many hours. He does other chores such as taking out the garbage for which I am grateful. But the pattern itself remains the same as before he retired just because, I believe, we were used to it. Besides, the single women in our town home development many times don’t bother to cook. TV dinners and other prepared foods are okay when they don’t have the incentive of preparing for others. I’m interested in cooking mostly because I want to keep Gary healthy and go along for the ride.

Still, though without children in the home, Gary remains a father, very interested in our kids, watching them on Face Book, praying about problems, keeping track. He was reared without his father in the home except on every-other weekend. Even that little attention still produced a couple of children Bill and Meda Allen could be proud of. It isn’t surprising, then, that Gary and I have children we are proud of and, even more, admire. They turned out better than their parents. PMA



We named the dog Lucky because the wife wouldn’t put up with what I wanted to call him: Road Kill. He was really lucky because when we found him laying by the side of the road (the wife made me stop) and took him to the vet, he managed to live even though he still has a limp and some scars.
And brain damage. Maybe not. Maybe he was always that stupid. Probly why he got hit with a car in the first place. I’ve had a lot of pets in my life and they all die on you, so I don’t let myself get personally involved any more. But the kids love him even if he can’t do a trick or obey any command except the call to dinner. He’s about four years old, they tell us, a golden cocker who’s going to fat because almost all he does is limp from one comfortable spot to another—unless he sees a plane.
I mean, he gets excited at planes, if you can believe it. He’ll follow one barking until he gets stopped at the fence. Then he keeps on barking until he can’t hear it anymore. Then he looks around with this satisfied look like he’s saved us all and finds a place to lay down. You can see him thinking he’s earned his living.
I mean, this big, dumb spaniel who’s always getting burrs in his ears thinks planes are buzzards, I guess. The kids always praise him a lot when he does it and the way that little stubby tail goes is real funny as he manages to look humble and proud at the same time. Must work. Nobody’s been snatched by a buzzard yet.
The other day, I had the gate open and old Lucky started following a plane. Right out into the road he went without looking to see if it was safe (I said he was dumb) and a motorcycle came barreling down the street so fast I thought sure the dog had had it. The cycle skidded and barely missed him.
Well, that old dog don’t mean nothing to me personally, but my heart was pounding . . . . I felt like slugging the guy for going so fast, but it was just a kid and his face was all white and scared. So I said, “Go ahead. Run over him. He’s used to it.”



Not being one to exercise unrighteous dominion, when Mother, Fawnelle, Raydawn, and Mahonri all wanted to paint the house green and only me, Nephi, and Janeen wanted it white, we got a green house. The three of us get outvoted regularly on one thing or another, up against Mother’s solid bloc of four.

In fairness, I have to say that I remember at least two times Raydawn and Mahonri voted with us. Once we even had a tie. It’s not so bad when we celebrate Pioneer Day their way by going to the parade instead of to the mountains. On Labor Day we go to Henrieville to visit Mother’s folks because that’s what they like to do. Even on vacation we go to some historical monument they want to see instead of fishing at Strawberry Reservoir, our choice.

And it’s getting worse. When the old pickup died for good, we went to Morris’s used car lot. They all liked the blue Ford, so we bought a Ford truck. It worked out all right—good enough—but the rest of us were ticked because we wanted the red Dodge.
I don’t mind being outvoted on the little things, but this time they’ve gone too far. This time the three of us want to build a new shed. The old one’s leaning heavily and come snow, she’s going to founder. But we’re up against Mother and the rest of them for a new stove, which we need sure enough, but the shed’s real urgent.

Uncle Jake says I ought to assert my authority, but he’s not married to Mother. It’s got to be a real problem. At first, after the other children died, it was touching the way Mother said they were part of our eternal family, so included them in our plans and projects. But the rest of us are getting damn tired of being outnumbered!



Eyes drawn by the screech of hawks, he watched a hunting pair swoop over the valley, tails glowing red in the dawnlight. Silently stepping on the grassy game trail he was following, he saw a large eared head come up. Unalarmed the deer moved away. His homemade backpack sat light. He’d rolled his woolen blankets in a canvas tarp/poncho. He’d slept cold, but he liked that, as he liked the feel of the rocks under his homemade elkskin moccasins.
He turned aside at rustling in a thicket above him, hoping to see the bears reportedly in this area, but the sound moved off too quickly. A squirrel skittered up a tree and fussed at his rudeness. Farther on, a loud splatting guided him to watch a beaver play, diving, then carving a v with his nose in a glassy pond . He’d stood in this place last fall to watch a young bull moose with ridiculous, hand sized antlers like false eyelashes browse in the rushes, scratching its neck with a long and gangly leg.
Later, near timberline, melting snowbanks sparkled in rivulets through bright green foliage, golden yellow buttercups and glacier lilies. Everywhere the sound of trickling water and the spongy feel of water charged earth. He caught a scent of rotting flesh and found in a pine copse the body of a young buck. Probably shot last fall and ran up here to die, he thought sorrowfully. Though it would do more good nourishing the trees than thrown away from plates of people who didn’t like the gamey flavor or just thrown away.
He turned back down, walking along a stream where clumps of larkspur shot purple blue through the grasses. An area reddened by hundreds of skyrocket gilia gladdened his eyes. He noted early columbine and bent over a hairy maroon vase plant.
Followed by the chain saw drone of a deerfly and the whine of mosquitos he moved down until the hills split apart and he could see over shimmering quakies into Liahona where large trees hid his own house. He hoped his mother wouldn’t find out about Jed’s not being able to make it. She’d have a fit if she knew he’d come alone. But alone meant silence. Alone meant not even the smoke of a cooking fire.
Far behind its noise, a jet’s contrail incised the sky. At his feet a beer can. He sighed. He would never forgive heaven for putting him on earth a hundred and fifty years too late!

The Wedding

Sister Kimball found the girl crying in the bride’s room. It was both more and less serious than bridal jitters: The dress she had borrowed from an aunt in Price before driving here didn’t fit at the top. No amount of zipping and pinching could get the girl’s shoulders and bust into it, though the bottom was all right.
Where was the girl’s mother? Where was a friend to have insisted she have a wedding dress that fit? But the pair was alone, come down here because she said that even though she had had no showers and would have no reception or open house, at least she could be married where she wanted to.
Of course, they found a top to cover the bodice and the gap in the bride’s dress.
The Kimballs conferred and made some phone calls. They enlisted some willing strangers as witnesses. before Brother Kimball sealed the couple.
Afterwards, Sister Kimball got out a veil that had for no reason been lingering in the closet and it was perfect. Brother Kimball took photos and videos of the bridal couple on the stairs and lawns and sent them to the groom’s e-mail. They waved the two of them off with hugs and kisses to a wedding breakfast for two they’d reserved at the inn at the bottom of the hill.
“I’m afraid it won’t last,” said Brother Kimball. “If they had strong LDS parents they’d just live together to rebel, but with the reverse, parents who don’t care, they rebel by eloping to the temple and marrying where their parents can’t go.”
“You may be right and I hope you’re wrong,” Sister Kimball smiled through her tears. “But every bride ought to have a fuss made over her.”

High Cards


“But Daddy always gets his way when you buy a car!” Louise complained. “The politics of marriage! You would think this time you would have a right to say what kind of car you get. It isn’t as if you couldn’t afford just about any car you wanted. Besides, you’ll be doing most of the driving since you’ve got two more years before you retire!”
Anna laughed. “Well, I’d like to drive a little red sports car—Buick’s got an adorable Skyhawk—but your father really wants that Lincoln. Men seem to identify with their car more than women do.”
“Let him identify with the station wagon. I’m not saying you should turn that in. You need something to carry loads of peat or groceries in. So why does Daddy need another big car?”
“I don’t know, dear. We’re in the process of arguing about it daily, but since he can’t say it’s foreign or costs too much he’s going to lose this one. I’m not going to give in. I have just as much right to a little Buick sportscar as he does to the other. This time it’s my turn to choose.”
“Don’t let him argue you out of it, Mom! Stand by your choice! Strike a blow for women’s lib!” Anna was laughing, but something serious was in her mind. She was feeling her own sense of the inequities of marriage. Glen sat down to read the newspaper every night while she fixed dinner, though they worked the same number of hours. If she asked for help around the house, he said he didn’t know how, his tactical ineptitude enough to absolve him of labor because she was always too tired to teach him. Her mother was so much her model that if she could break their pattern, maybe Louisa could find permission to expect something different for herself.
But the next time her parents drove up, they were in a shiny new silver Lincoln. Anna could hardly wait to get her mother alone. “I thought you said you were going to stand by your guns!”
“Well, he came up with an unanswerable argument,” she laughed. Was she blushing? “He said the sports car was too small to make love in!”



“This is a good place to show you,” Tom said as he pulled the car over on a very wide shoulder. The traffic lifted a fine mist from the wet pavement, and the car shook slightly as each passed. The windows began to steam. “We can’t see from in here. We’ll have to get out.”
Tommy and Beverly emerged, but Carrie complained, “I can’t get my hair wet or it will go all frizzy! Honestly, Grampa! I can see from inside.”
He pointed at the stream of cars sweeping around the curve, headlights making momentary beacons in the rain. “See that? Even fog won’t slow them down much. Look at the sloping. No hydroplaning. The water sheets off perfectly; the curve is safe at all speeds. This may be the most perfect piece of highway in the whole US of A!”
“You mean they gave you a medal or something for working on this highway?” Bev visibly shivered, inching towards shelter. He waved them into the car, opening the windows an inch or two to combat fogging.
Tommy said, “But Gramps, you weren’t the engineer on the project. You just followed the plans you were given.”
Tom countered, “Hey, somebody else writes the music, but when a rock star performs it, he gets the applause.”
“Did you get a raise?” Carrie’s voice showed some interest.
“No, it’s not about money.” He struggled to lay his thought as smoothly as he could lay concrete. “They opened it up with speeches in front of about 50 microphones. TV cameras going as the Governor cut the ribbon. Mine was one of the first cars to drive through.”
“Were you on TV?” Bev asked, stifling a yawn.
“They don’t put guys like me on TV, Doll. I just wanted you to see this highway. It’s real important to the city. It links the airport with the downtown interchange. People from out of town swoop right in.”
“Now can we go home?” Tommy’s hand went to his phone and the light went on.
Tom gave it one more try. “Look, you kids. I got to thinking about my grandpa, how, because I was one of the youngest, I thought of him as just a gardener and fix-it man. But he’d worked forty years for the railroad. Had a gold watch that said so! He’d tell me about the old days, but it was just stories to me.
“So I’m showing you. I went to work every day to build highways like this. Our crew got this highway in on budget and on time. I’ve walked every square foot of this road.”
“Yay, Grampa!” came a bored little voice from Carrie’s corner.
“Look at that sweep of concrete!” But they couldn’t see.

Getting Away




When the children had all married and moved out, my wife and I purchased a small travel trailer, a fifth wheel we could pull with the pickup.  Well, we pulled it once.  We went to Arches National Park and had a wonderful time.  We had been alone on vacation so seldom, we were a little nervous about the confined space, wondering if we would stay friends.  But it was great, another honeymoon.  We could hardly wait for the next weekend, intending to go to Lava Hot Springs.


But our daughter Geraldine had taken on a monstrous home project, stuffing envelopes with ads, when two of her kids came down with chicken pox. So Meg and I ended up helping her stuff the envelopes that weekend.  The next weekend we  tended Eric and Donna’s kids, as we’d promised, but we planned to go the next.


We were hitching the trailer up, food and clothes packed, when Meg’s phone rang. It was Harriet telling Meg that her baby sitter just came down with flu. Unless Meg could come sit with the baby, the tailoring class she was in the middle of was off, and they had just gotten to bound buttonholes.  Naturally, Harriet couldn’t help it that the sitter was sick, so that weekend fizzled and the next and the next with similar problems coming up.


By that time, summer was running full course, and neither of us wanted to leave the garden that long.  We were installing a drip irrigation system that was following Murphy’s Law and taking twice as much time and money as we’d thought it would.  So we promised ourselves that when the system was in, the garden could take care of itself for a few days.


We planned to go fishing at Mirror Lake that August weekend.  We told my Mother and all the kids that we were really going.  I came home a little early from work that Friday, and again we packed and hitched up.  When her phone rang, I told Meg not to answer. They’d have to have their emergencies without us, but she can’t do that.  It was Sally and Bill, long-time friends, in town and wanting to come over for the evening.  So we decided to leave Saturday morning.


But her phone woke us Saturday morning.  It was Gerry.  She was sorry, she said, but she was desperate.  Could Meg come over and take care of things while she took David to the emergency room?  She thought his arm was broken.  So, of course Meg jumped in the car and hurried over there.  The arm was bruised, not broken, but it took until noon to find that out.


“I’m afraid it’s too late to go,” Meg said. “By the time we drive to the mountains, we’ll be spending an awful lot of money on gas for less than a twenty-four-hour stay! I’m starting to think that buying that trailer was the worst idea you ever had!” 


“If we could just get away from our phones.  When you start to carp at me, it means you’re overwhelmed. I’m getting more and more pressure at work.  I really need  to get away. And don’t tell me to go without you!”





Meg looked around at the oak cupboards and attractive décor. “The air conditioning here in the trailer is better than the swamp cooler in our house.  With the refrigerator, microwave, and bathroom, it feels like playing house, only this is newer and more luxurious than the house.  One of the best parts is that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t spend more than an hour cleaning it.”


We spent the evening peacefully, I with my papers, she with her cross-stitch while we listened to the stereo.  The following long, lazy morning, Meg made my favorite blueberry-nut hotcakes. 


We got in just in time to get ready for church at one. Three messages were on my phone, two from Danny last night.  He wanted us to call him because he and Rose had a chance to go to the baseball game, but their regular sitter couldn’t come.  The third was from Abby’s girl Suzie just saying hi.  A call on Meg’s was from Abby herself, last night, saying she needed to make homemade ice cream and could she come by and get some frozen raspberries because she was all out and didn’t want to go to the store on Sunday.


The telephone rang and it was Abby again, miffed because Meg hadn’t called her back.  She had her phone on speaker so I heard Abby say, “I’m sure I don’t know why you didn’t call me back!  I went by your house on the way to the store late last night and on the way back I saw the truck and trailer in the driveway, so I know you didn’t go anywhere!”



Double Drowning


“I hate that teacher!”
Mrs. Polemane sighed. “Daniel, she says you’re late every single day and it’s getting worse.”
“Well, every time I come in, she stops everything and makes fun of me in front of all the other kids!”
“You’re telling me you’re late because she embarrasses you so much you put off going in.”
His black hair didn’t stir at his nod.
“Well, what can we do? She doesn’t like your being late, so she tries to make it so unpleasant for you that you’ll come on time. On the other hand, instead of taking the hint, you just come later because you know you’re going to have a bad experience.” Was he getting all this? She wondered how Miss Mays would have treated a blue-eyed boy who was late.
“I hate her! She hates me back!”
“Oh, Daniel, she doesn’t hate you. It’s just that she gets annoyed because she has to make a special effort for one student every morning, just when she’s gotten everybody else at work. You can understand that, can’t you?”
“Yeah, but she’s mean. She got no call to make fun of my clothes and tell everybody I take charity lunch!”
So it was that bad. Mrs. Polemane sighed again wondering if she could communicate to Miss Mays the feeling that it was a miracle Daniel came to school at all, considering the mess at home. If she’d ever had his older brother or sisters, she’d give a cheer whenever he showed up. “Daniel, I can see to it that your teacher doesn’t make fun of you any more, but you’ve got to get to school on time. I’ll have a talk with your mother about helping you.” Lies. She knew his mother wouldn’t be conscious enough to help him. She knew the persecution would just get more subtle. All she could do was suppress some of the symptoms. Nothing she could do would cure bone deep anger pitted against unconscious prejudice.


Ted and Me

Potted-Poinsettia-Plant-I’ve gotten to admire Ted a lot since I married his wife last year. Don’t get me wrong. She was a good wife to him and she’s a good wife to me. She’s made me feel almost young again.
But sometimes I wonder. See, she’s still married to Ted in a way. It was only a year after he died that we were married, and she’s had a hard time getting used to it. Things like writing her new married name—she still forgets. And she’ll call me Ted. After all, they were together for forty-three years.
We’ve both had a hard time. When I moved in, I couldn’t find a thing in any drawer or cupboard without asking her. So I fixed things up a little, and sure enough the other day, she told me she couldn’t find a thing without asking me where it is! Adjustments. But we’re making ’em.
The other day was her and Ted’s anniversary. They’d been married on December 19th, so she said she wanted to take a pot of poinsettias for his grave. We’d had fresh snow that morning, but did that stop her? No, we couldn’t put it off.
Trouble was, I wouldn’t let her ruin her health tramping about in a foot of snow in those little heeled boots she wears and I didn’t know exactly where the grave was. So there I was at the top of the rise trying to find Ted’s marker, one of those flat ones they can mow over. She was shouting directions to me from the road. I’d stomp in one direction and kick the snow away then plow through more snow, trying to find the right one. Finally, sneezing and afraid I’d catch my death, I left the flowers at the next wrong marker I uncovered, saying “Forgive me, Ted, but you’ve known her longer than I have. I know you’ll understand.”