Monday, March 26, 2012

Memories of My Father 1

One of the things that saddens me about a death is the loss of memory for those who remain. I often tried to remember the details of my father's life, but my cursed memory has forgotten much. I believe my sister Sharon did some videoing of my father's reminiscences in recent years.  But I thought I would record some of my memories of his memories, and memories of my own as well.

My Dad was born in Thorntown, Indiana on October 24, 1924 to a preacher/church planter in the Pilgrim Holiness Church, Dorsey Schenck.  His mom was Esther Elma Miller Schenck, who was of Dunker descent (we always said "DUNKERDS," but I've never seen it spelled that way). My cousin Tim recently discovered a 1930 census indicating that Dorsey's grandfather had been born in Holland and thus that my grandfather's family was Dutch.

It explained the pronunciation "SKANK." If we had been German, it surely would have been "SHANK." Ironically, I suppose my grandmother was the one who was actually German.

My Dad had shared memories of his childhood from time to time. His father's father, Samuel Schenck, died when he was only 8 of a ruptured appendix.  Actually died in the hospital that my youngest children Tom and Sophie were born in--St. Joseph's Hospital on the northwest side of Kokomo. My dad had some basic memory of his farm north of Frankfort. We actually tried to find it once but he wasn't totally sure. Both Samuel and his wife Pearl Dorsey are buried in the Hope Cemetery of the United Methodist Church out in the country north of Frankfort.

My Dad loved to visit his mother's family, I think in Camden, Indiana.  They were Dunkers who wore black suits with straps and long beards. They had black and white cars by the time I was born. His grandfather on that side was Amsy Miller and grandmother Salome Wise Miller. I remember his saying how much he and his cousins (e.g., the Mohlers) liked running around the house. I got the impression it had twists and turns that made it a child's dream.

I also got the impression that the Miller side of the family liked to play practical jokes, and it has always been my impression that the Dunkers had a wry sense of humor. One event I remembering him mentioning was how they would say, "Think fast," and throw a jar of molasses across to the other. At least on one occasion, it broke all over the place.

My Dad was a funny guy, I always thought. In my youth he would regularly embarrass me at restaurants by his comments to waitresses. "Was everything all right?" she might say.  "There is a problem," he might respond. "It's all gone." More than one waitress looked at him gravely, not getting it.

While I'm on the subject, it was almost impossible to pay for your own meal with him, let alone his. Some of my brother-in-laws became somewhat successful, but I rarely was able. When I was in school he would say, "I'll let you pay when you have a job."  But the day never came.

In fact, it was almost a fault that he could hardly accept a gift.  He would say, "Don't be too proud to accept a little help."  Generosity is certainly one of the first adjectives I think of when I think of him. He didn't have much to give, but he would give away almost everything he had, especially to his children.

He did have a strict side.  He could hardly not have had one growing up Pilgrim Holiness. I remember a story about one day in Ft. Lauderdale when he was working on A1A as an insurance adjuster for MIC (Motors Insurance Corporation, which eventually became GMAC). A man who had clearly had a little too much to drink came into the office off the street and asked my Dad for money.

"What you need is to sober up!" my Dad responded righteously.

"Thank you for those kind words," the man answered back.  It made my Dad feel awful. I don't remember if he took the man to get something to eat after that...

No comments: