A Memory For Fathers’ Day

I remember how my dad took his children to Schroeder’s, despite a lack of ready cash. Screen door slamming; tall, work-slim body striding across the yard, he yelled to any of us within hearing, “If you want to go, climb aboard. I’m on my way.”

Word spread, “He might be going to Schroeder’s.” Deserting chores, we scrambled into our dilapidated jeep, jockeying for position. Dad gunned the engine, shot away and, singing that he’d take Kathleen home again, paid no mind to his passengers caught in mid-scramble.

A fast five miles of irrigated farmland flashed by, dotted by an occasional house hunched beneath massive outbuildings. The finger-smeared windows through which we peered softened the countryside and gentled farmyard clutter. Dad, more interested in his vibrato than our battles, bounced the jeep along rough roads in tempo to his tune, until, gravel flying, he executed his usual abrupt stop. “Whoa there, old boy, whoa there,” he shouted to our great amusement as he flamboyantly pulled back on the wheel and stomped on the brakes at Schroeder’s Auto Repair.

The single, rusted-out gas pump reflecting long departed prices isn’t tempt us; nor did the garage’s shadowed interior with its thick air smelling of rubber and oil. We didn’t stop to examine Schroeder’s grease-begrimed tools or the fly spotted glass case holding PayDay bars, Juicy Fruit gum, and hide-a–key containers. Instead, clutching unfamiliar dimes Dad distributed from a near-empty wallet — an act our money-worried mother wouldn’t approve — we ran to the rectangular soda machine sitting like a dusty treasure chest in a far corner, burbling moistly to itself.

While Dad discussed man things — lay-offs, unemployment checks, failed crops — with big-voiced, thoroughly dirty Schroeder, we circled the red machine and argued best flavors: orange and strawberry being top contenders. Then, decisions made, we clinked our dimes into the coin slot. The machine’s scratched red lid sighed reluctantly as we lifted it, exhaling cold air that washed over our peering faces.

Inside the rectangular chest, icy water bathed cold bottles that we slowly worked along notched metal rows until we could each lift our choice clear, remove its crimped cap with the built-in opener, and take the first sweetly stinging swallow.

Carolyn, a teenager, assumed a pose of nonchalance and sophistication, drinking as though it was almost more than she could manage. Bob threw his head back and drank like the rowdy boy he was, pausing only to burp. I sipped, savoring and saving. Barbara, who had yet to grasp the science of swallowing, let orange liquid flow down her throat in an uninterrupted stream, plugging it with her tongue when she needed to breathe.

As we drank and laughed, Dad looked over at us and grinned.

If the total of a man is made of small acts, our dad was a giant.

This post was adapted from my book, A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns

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81 thoughts on “A Memory For Fathers’ Day

      • That is sooooo true!!! Both Tucker and Tyree still laugh at the stories that Grandpa told. They also laugh when they think of mom’s reaction to Grandpa’s actions!!! PRICELESS!!!

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      • Good to hear from you, Kathleen.I enjoyed hearing that Dad had an impact on his great grandchildren as well. And I, too, used to get a kick out of your mom’s reactions to him. I think seeing others react motivated him to continue his shenanigans.

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  1. A very sweet memory of your father, Janet. All fathers should be so much fun. Thank you for sharing your treasure. By the way, I had forgotten those pop treasure chests. It’s fun to be reminded of the way we did things so long ago.

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    • He was fun, Laurel, and when he discovered something that amused his children, he remembered to repeat it; and we remembered to laugh. I don’t think a soft drink has ever tasted as good as when it was pulled from the icy bath of those machines.

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  2. What great childhood memories Janet. I can picture the entire scene, even to perhaps hot dry weather and how nice it was to grab a cool drink. When I was 1 You0 we lived in an apartment above a store which had a box of sodas on the front porch where you could grab an occasional orange crush.You did your Dad proud. I hope I did as well.

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    • Weren’t those car trips, whether short or long, something, Shelley? I remember how my two youngest brothers crawled here and there, testing out the various laps. Though they preferred Mom’s, they were often willing to settle for mine.

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  3. I have never experienced such an ice chest dispenser, but am imaging the icy manipulations only heightened the experience as you each waited your turn. Loved the imagery of you all piling into the jeep, still hauling the doors shut as your dad took off. A precious memory.

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    • Dad never said no when we asked if we could go with him when he wasn’t going to work. Though once he shook his head woefully at me when Mom told him I went for a ride with him rather than completing my chores for her.

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    • I don’t know what it says about me that I remember Schroeder’s garage much better than the other small businesses where I was raised. I don’t think it was just the soda machine; I really liked how the entire murky place smelled.

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  4. Beautiful, Aunt Beulah. Totally, bewitchingly, fabulously beautiful.
    I was with you, like a silent unseen member of the gang, squidge into the space …. and with you at the machine… feeling all the feelings you described.
    A truly wonderful bit of writing which captured me and held me spellbound until the last word.

    Thank you for sharing the joy.
    love ~ Cobs. x

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    • I enjoy hearing that I have dropped into the lives of others with the things I write. Let me know if you get my book, and I’ll send you a personalized book plate of some such thing to put in it.

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  5. Indeed, the small things in life add up and make unforgettable memories. My fondest memories about my father are when he would come home from an overnight, wait for me to get ready for school and then escort me to the bus stop. Thank God for loving and caring fathers

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  6. The memory that you talked about is very easy for me to imagine, even though I don’t know what any of the faces there look like. It sounds like a great day and shows that the little things in life really do matter. It’s also got me thinking if I have any memories like this too.

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  7. Think our minds crossed as I just wrote about how good that icy cold pop tasted on a hot day from a real cooler- though not as well as you.I remember my dad taking me in the truck, buying me a huge horseshoe lollypop- rootbeer. Love the small stories, thank you Janet.

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    • My memory tells me the soda was much colder coming from the old-style coolers, but maybe that was just the cold water dripping from the bottle and running down my arm. I’m always happy when you drop by, Sheila.

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  8. Thank you for sharing such a treasured memory, Janet!
    I just love slipping into your past. Such tactile memories especially Barbara’s dress with orange sticky residue. Great descriptions and your Dad sounds a hero. ❤

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    • I like your feeling that you slip into my past. It is about the best thing you could say to a memoirist. I always viewed my dad as having the qualities of a hero, though all he did was work hard and take care of his family.

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  9. Once again, Janet, your evocative writing took me along with you on that summer outing to Schroeder’s. And right now, at almost 10:00 p.m., I’m salivating over all those wonderful old soda pop flavors.
    Oh, and BTW, I’m a “sipper” too!

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  10. “As we drank and laughed, Dad looked at us and grinned.” You must have felt so loved, Janet, knowing he delighted in his children’s happiness. Your words paint such a vivid picture of those old soda coolers that I felt I could be standing there swirling my hand in the icy water. The cold glass bottle made the soda taste bettter than a can ever could. My Dad kept an ice pick in the glove compartment and would punch a hole in the cap so we could sip as we rode in the car.. You again pulled wonderful memories from the past.

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    • I’m glad my words brought you a memory of your father, Mary. You are right about the cold glass bottles; never since have I tasted a soft drink as good. You are also right that I felt loved. I think I’ve told you that my dad never told me he loved me, but the fact of his love for me was a constant every minute of my life. I love hearing from you.

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