Remembering My Dad

Remembering My Dad

A reader comments: “JJ, your Dad’s stories are so interesting. It’s exhausting just reading how much he had crammed into his life. The Dewey’s were always moving house! He was so clever and had come up with so many inventions, plus wrote poetry as well. I laughed at his poem called A Little Bit Mixed Up, and I loved his Old Age poem as well, they are priceless. He was a great character, very interesting and so much fun.

“Thank you for sharing his life with us.”

JJ: Thanks for your comments. I thought I’d just share a few additional memories of my Dad. Perhaps nothing sums up my Dad’s outlook on life more than an encounter he had with an old friend in his old age.

The friend was named Mel, and was my friend Wayne’s stepdad. He used to live the wild life with my Dad in his youth but later he changed his ways and lived a more stable life and started going to church.

He owned the Letha Store, and one day my Dad stopped by to pay a visit. After a few niceties the conversation went something like this:

Mel said, “Well, Ted, I think you ought to look at the difference between you and me. Look at me. I cleaned up my life and am going to church. I own the local grocery store and other property. I am in real estate and have made some good investments. I have a stable family and have established roots.

“Now look at you. You are single and the only possessions you have is that little trailer you pull around and your typewriter. What have you got to show for your life?”

My Dad looked him in the eye and gave a knowing smile. Then he replied, “Yes, I agree you have all those things but I have something no one can ever take away.

Then he paused and said: “I’ve had a good time!”

This left Mel a little speechless, and he had no reply as my Dad turned and walked away.

My Dad was always the life of the party and loved to buy other people drinks and tell them jokes and stories. The true ones were as difficult to believe as the made-up ones were.

Sometimes he would take me on mining trips when I was a kid, and whenever he entered a bar, even far from home, there was always someone who recognized him and welcomed him with open arms.

He was very concerned about me when I started going to church, about the age of thirteen, and told me that there was just a hair’s worth of difference between a religious fanatic and a full-fledged criminal. He said he hoped I wouldn’t go over the edge and become a fanatic.

This is kind of humorous on hindsight because all my friends’ parents wanted them to go to church, but my Dad wanted me to stay away.

Then at age 19 I told him I was going on a two-year mission to England for the Mormon church. This really alarmed him and he asked me to go to his favorite bar and have a drink with him before I took off.

I told him I would go to the bar with him, but I’d have to drink soda. We went in the early afternoon and there was just us two and the bartender. We had a good conversation and he showed me one of his favorite card tricks. Then as the bartender was filling up his glass he looked at him in exasperation and said something like this.

“You wouldn’t believe what my life is coming to. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve what is happening to me. My ex-wife has got religion and is going to church. Not only that but the church has got a hold on all three of my daughters. Then my boy here got religion and to top it all off he’s going on a damn mission!”

He took a drink and looked back at the bartender and exclaimed: “Now I’ve got to do all the lying, cheating, drinking and swearing for the whole family. I’ve got to go to hell for the whole bunch of them!”

The bartender and I both gave a hearty laugh. Somehow, I felt that my Dad was just too likeable for God to send to hell.

My older Brother Bill was the only family member who didn’t take a turn as an active church member. When he started getting interested in dating my Mom asked my Dad to have a private talk with him about the facts of life and give him a little guidance.

My Dad took him aside and said something like this.

“Bill, my boy, I do have some advice for you. Don’t get tied down to an old lady the way I did. Go out into the world and have a good time and sow your wild oats. Make the best of every moment and don’t let anything tie you down.”

My mom apparently heard this through the door and was aghast. As I grew up she never asked my Dad to give me advice on anything and tried to steer me away from him.

Most of my extended family are quite religious and were pretty sure he was going to hell, but I never bought into this even when I was active in the church. He had his faults, but it seemed that heaven would just have a little additional spice if it made room for him.

A reader who had read my Dad’s biography noted that my Dad seemed close to his brother Del, but not so much with brother Ray and wanted me to comment on Ray.

Yes, my Dad and his brother Del were very close. They were always planning to make a million or conquer the world together. Later in life Del had a mine cave in on him that lead to his death and that really took the wind out of my Dad’s sense of adventure. From that time on his adventures were in his stories instead of real life.

I spent a reasonable amount of time with both of them when I was young. Del always seemed to have more money than my Dad for some reason and always bought a new Oldsmobile every year. My Dad told me that Del sometimes used questionable methods to get money that he did not go along with — like some shady deals with gold my Dad did not explain.

Sometimes my Dad would be gone up to a year at a time and we would not hear a word from him and we had to fend for ourselves. One time when he was in Nicaragua, we received word that he had died. That’s all. We had no way of verifying this and we figured we would never find out what happened.

Then one day he showed up as if nothing had happened. I told him that we heard he was dead and asked him where that came from.

He said he came close to death several times one being that when he came out of a bar he was hit over the head and woke up with only his underwear on. He said he was robbed of everything. Losing his money and clothes did not bother him nearly as much as his false teeth. The robbers had even taken them and he could not get them replaced until he got back to the states.

My Dad had some bad blood with Ray because of the real estate double-crossing from their father in Ray’s favor when he was young. Ray was very active in the church and known far and wide as a great speaker with a huge selection of inspirational stories. He was a little pious and my Dad could not stand anyone who was pious.

Ray had his faults but I liked him. He died a year or two ago.

My Dad died about 18 years ago (written 2008).

“Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.” — Mae West (1892 – 1980), “Klondike Annie” (1936 film)

Aug 8, 2008

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