Sunday, May 27, 2012
A Memorial - My Dad
The excerpt is from "The Palisade," published by MLR Press.
Possessing the attributes of a grizzly bear, my father’s church was his job. Wrapped in the trappings of his job as a cop, he wavered not far from the essential mean-tempered hulk the job demanded.
Texas born, Oklahoma bred, raised by the switch and the harsh austerity of the Church of God in Christ, my father’s meanness sprouted early.
I would sit in my uncle’s living room in northwest Oklahoma City,
almost twenty years after the good priest had revealed the first of many seeds I would eventually embrace, and listened to stories about my father, his youth. My father had already died by then. His brother, then nearing eighty and whose longevity he attributed to cigarettes and bourbon, told the story of my father leaving Oklahoma City in the earliest hours of a summer morning.
“He was nineteen,” he began, his voice tinged with a drawl smoothed by a lifetime of slow living, as thick as Oklahoma wet-hot summers. “He graduated high school the year before. Anyhow, seems the town constable took him to task for some damn thing. Don’t remember exactly what it was. But he, your daddy, was mad as hell about it. Goddamn mad! Hah! So, one night, just days after his run-in with the constable, he gets liquored up and goes over to the constable’s house and knocks on the door. Constable opens the door, and your daddy yanks him out into the front yard and beats the holy hell out of him. Leaves the constable bleeding and moaning on the ground. Justice be done, you know.
“Well, your daddy climbs in the window of the bedroom we shared, packs some clothes, tells me to tell Mamma and Daddy that he’ll write, and he climbs back out the window. Goes to Texas. Starts working as a roughneck on oil rigs. He hops around Texas from one oil rig to another, then he heads for Los Angeles and does a little roughnecking there, too. Eventually ends up working in a delicatessen in Watts, California. Wasn’t all niggers living in Watts back then, you know.
“Then the war comes along in ‘41, and he joins up about the first day he could. Was a helluva thing, though, him beating the daylights outta that constable. Helluva thing.
“Had a good mind, though. They sent him off to officer’s candidate school at no less than Yale University. Imagine that! He ended up in Denver. Lowry Field, if I’m remembering correctly. War ended and he came back home for a while. Then he headed back to Denver, married, and then got a job on the police force. That was probably, oh, ‘46. He surely was one tough son of a bitch, though. Goddamn! None tougher! Hah!”