Thursday, March 29, 2012
Memories of My Father 6
I want to say a few things about my Dad's work. He worked for General Motors for thirty years, first for Motors Insurance Corporation (MIC) and then at the end for GMAC which absorbed it. It was a pay cut from Tasty Bread at first, but it had promise of a future. My Dad excelled at whatever he put his hand to do and GM was no different. If WW2 had not come up, he had a scholarship to go to school to become a draftsman. But instead he became an insurance adjuster.
My Dad was good with numbers. We used to race when we would eat out at Morrison's Cafeteria in Fort Lauderdale to see who could add up the individual tickets they gave to each person as they came through the cafeteria line. It was a fun game to see if we came up with the same number the cashier came up with when it was time to pay.
I've mentioned that he was District Treasurer for thirty years. When I went to college, I quickly gave up keeping as finely balanced a checkbook as he kept. He was on the board of Wesleyan Investment Foundation for several years, and when he was active on the Southern Wesleyan University Board of Trustees, he was on the finance committee.
Even when he became an emeritus, he was quite keen to continue going to the SWU board meetings, in part as a sense of duty. I wonder if it also in part was so that he didn't feel like he was becoming useless. He had great rituals. The garage has a good stock of towels, toilet paper, and plates. He loved to take that paltry coupon on paper towels to get a few cents off. And he loved Staples.
He loved pens. Although I now carry pad and pen almost everywhere I go, at one point he repeatedly would shake his head at me and say something like, "I don't understand how an educated person like you doesn't carry a pen around."
He loved watches. He always kept me in good supply. The watch he was wearing when he died had a special hand that he kept on California time where my sister Juanita lives. Of course he used the stop watch on his digital watches constantly to see how long trips took.
He carried around a "Pocket Secretary" for as long as I remember. It had all the usual accouterments of a calendar, addresses, phone numbers, a pad of paper, and of course a pocket for coupons. He always wore a suit to church as a matter of duty, and the Pocket Secretary was bound to be in his coat pocket.
I always wanted to be as organized as he was, but it's only been in the digital age that I've begun to move in that direction. You have to find your own way on these sorts of things. What works for one person doesn't always work for another.
Both in Indiana and then in Florida, my Dad spent a lot of time on the road driving from place to place as an adjuster. He used to have a Polaroid camera in the trunk of his company car to take pictures of car damage. Those company cars were nice too. We always had one nice car because of his job.
Sometimes there would be a hurricane or flooding that would take Dad to New Orleans or somewhere they needed larger numbers of adjusters to assess damage. I remember that it was always a financial treat because of the overtime. Even then, my father would not work on Sunday. I was just understood.
My Mom wondered if he might have moved up the ladder more if he had participated more in the social life of GM. My Dad obviously didn't drink and wouldn't have blended in well at a corporate party. Still, after I went off to college they were flying him up to Atlanta to work during the week and flying him home for the weekends. Sometimes my Mom would go with him.
I have only memories of having memories of the move to Florida. I know about where the hotel was on A1A where they initially put us up. I know that someone, I think my oldest sister Patricia, got horribly sun burned on a preparatory visit before moving.
The two story house we finally moved into was in Wilton Manors and my Dad only paid 25,000 for it at the time. It's now worth probably a half a million. It initially had a wrap around screened porch but my Dad had half the porch filled in so he could have an office, I think. I remember him working well into the evening on paper work from his day.
We used to joke about the old song, "When you coming home Dad, I don't know when." As a father now, I know my Dad was incredibly faithful to make time for me. We did play catch. He did come to all my games. It was always in good fun that I joked about him not having a lot of extra time to play.
Then of course when I went off to college he would joke, "When you coming home son..." Even last week he hinted at the line on the phone. You can't beat yourself up about these things. I knew I needed to see him soon, and we got within a week of making it happen. I'm just thankful for being able to talk with him briefly on the phone nearly every day these last three weeks. He was cheerful and optimistic, and exactly as I'll always remember him.