My Dad’s Fork in the Road

I was well into my adult life before I heard the story about my dad and his blue Jaguar, and I think there’s no better time than Father’s Day than to share it with you.

My father is the second oldest of six children who were born and raised in Missouri and Kentucky. Their mom, my grandma, raised them pretty much on her own, while their dad worked away from home with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Though Grandma and Grandpa provided their six kids with most of what they needed during the Depression, my dad has told me many stories of growing up in those lean years. Stories of when he and his brothers used to go to nearby corn fields and gather corn that had dropped to the ground during harvest. Stories of Grandma sewing clothes out of potato sacks.

So, you can imagine how my dad must have felt when he graduated from Air Force Cadet Training and headed to his first assignment in Hawaii to be an Air Force Pilot.

On that magical, mystical island, he bought a blue Jaguar.

Dad and his new "baby," Hawaii, 1957

Dad and his new “baby,” Hawaii, 1957

Now, just imagine being young and on your own with a job, making good money, owning a shiny new convertible . . . and in Hawaii, with beautiful girls all around. Imagine the freedom you’d feel. The hope for your future.

Mom, 1957

Mom, 1957

One of those beautiful girls he met was my mom. And the shortened version of the story goes, the young lovers were swept up in a whirlwind romance, enjoying Hawaii, that convertible, each other, until two words brought them crashing back to reality:

“I’m pregnant.”

Well, the result of that whirlwind romance was marriage and me, and I often think about how each of them must have felt back then. That surely must have been the end of many hopes and dreams. You already know the path my father was walking. Well, my mom had just starred in her first movie, Jungle Heat, and I’m sure she had dreams of continuing her acting and singing career.

jungle heat

There have been times when I’ve thought, “I spoiled it all.”

But this past Christmas, I gave my dad two gifts. One was a canvas print of him with his Jaguar. The other was a photo of our family–his children and grandchildren. When I looked at those two pictures together, I thought about the fork in the road my father faced more than fifty years ago, and I wondered how he feels about it today.

2012

2012

He had two choices. The blue Jaguar or my mom (and me). Needless to say, he said goodbye to the blue Jaguar and all it represented. There were many challenges in our lives over the next decades. I understand them much better looking back on them as an adult than I did looking upon them as a child.

My dad’s Air Force career kept him away from home much of my childhood, just as his father’s job kept him away from home for much of my dad’s childhood. That’s just the way things work sometimes. And though my dad knows he didn’t have much choice, I know he regrets the time he missed in our growing up.

But, to me, my life with my dad is a fine example of quality vs. quantity. Sure, I wish he’d been around more, and when he’d leave for another trip, I’d count the days until his return, because the times he was home were quality times. He taught me valuable lessons, such as the one I talked about here, in my blog post titled “Past Influences.” He was perhaps my first example of “show, don’t tell,” because heย showed me patience, gentleness, integrity and love by his example.

This year, Dad turned 80, though you’d never know it to look at him. He can still ride a bike up a hill a whole lot better than I can. And, I’m so grateful that we’ve had so many years now to catch up on the time we missed in my childhood. Best of all? Now, I’ve got quality and quantity time with my dad.

dad and jan

Dad, thank you for your love, your sacrifices and your lessons. I love you!

Happy Father’s Day!

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22 Responses to My Dad’s Fork in the Road

  1. LOOK at that last picture in this post. Your dad and mom both have been blessed a million times for their choices. They traded material ashes for pure gold.

  2. Erinleary says:

    Thanks for sharing, Jan. Beautiful story. My dad was stationed in Hawaii, too, but his mode of transportation at the tender age of 17 was a jeep.

  3. Jan Morrill says:

    Reblogged this on The Red Kimono and commented:

    Here’s a little story about how my two cultures came together.

  4. Jan, that was a gorgeous car but the faces in that picture make it seem as a bit of dust. Your dad (and mom) made a choice and stuck with it, something much too often not done anymore. And they did more than just get through it, they made it work. Happy Father’s Day to your dad and to all the dads out there who are taking on their responsibilities.

    janet

  5. Linda Apple says:

    A beautiful tribute to your Dad. New cars become old cars when something better comes along. But there is no way anything or anybody could have replaced you. More children came and it didn’t diminish your dad’s capacity to love, it only increased it!

    Besides, you are so easy to love. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Linda, that’s one thing I remember being amazed at when I had my own children. When I was pregnant with my second child, I remember worrying that there might not be enough room in my heart to love another child as much as I loved my first. But, I sure did, and that’s the miracle of love.

  6. Beautiful story, Jan. Beautiful family.

  7. What a lovely tribute to your dad, and what a lovely family you have.

  8. Your father understood what really matters in this world. It is not things we accumulate with money. It is the people we love and those who love us.

  9. Staci Troilo says:

    Lovely post, Jan, and great pictures to go with your words. You and your dad look great together. It’s wonderful that you have the time to spend together now. Those are memories you’ll always treasure.

  10. rgayer55 says:

    What a wonderful post and a nice tribute to your father. I sure miss mine. My kids and grandkids were over yesterday afternoon and we had a wonderful meal and nice time together. It was a great Father’s Day.

  11. Yvonne Henderson says:

    Beautifully written Jan! While we all often think about the paths not chosen, I can’t imagine your Dad regretting his choice when viewing at the beautiful legacy he has created. What a beautiful and poignant gift you chose.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Jan. Your story touched me deeply, and leaves me with such a warm and wonderful feeling.

  13. Mustang.Koji says:

    What a wonderful story, Jan. Some of the feelings you presented were piercing to say the least but overall, you are part of a happy family. I was surprised to read your mother had been an actress and singer! I should have had you sing a few bars for us in Little Tokyo. ๐Ÿ™‚

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