Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day is 100 Years Old: Imagine 100 Thoughts About Your Dad

My dad died in mid-December, 2001, at age 78.  I remember a particular moment at his Masonic ceremony when the speaker approached my brother, Mike, and I saying, "You who are now fatherless..."  A new feeling came to me, openness to heaven or the hereafter, best describes it.  A thought of "we are next" went through my mind, also (but Mike is older,so it's probably supposed to be him?).  A closeness to God of a new sort started at that moment.  Thank you for focusing the moment, Masons.  I had a new freedom to see Dad so close to God that I knew how safe we all will be.  Dad was also free to be a larger meaning and memory for so many.  He was one of a kind.

At his 65th birthday party, I asked my Grandma what the day of his birth was like, in a house on Oak Street in Dayton, Ohio.  She replied,  "It was the worst day of my life." The doctor had a shocked, depressed look on his face as he did the home delivery (common in 1923) and immediately took the baby from the room without letting my grandma see him.  "Where is my baby?  What's wrong with my baby?", she asked. " There are problems with the baby and he's probably not going to live long, so it's best that you don't see him," was the reply.  Her mother and grandmother sat with her while the baby in the next room was ignored so he could die of multiple congenital anomalies of face, eyes and left upper extremity.  Since he lived til 2001, I guess you know that he made it.  What a heart ripping experience it was, though, for my grandma, until she got her baby and faced the uncertainty of raising an unusual child in a usual world.

He had crossed eyes, a facial droop, a stump where his left hand was supposed to be and a residual, but useless, dangling remnant of the beginnings of his left thumb.  He had eye surgery and they removed the thumb remnant.  He was left with no lateral gaze, resulting in lots of horizontal head movements, and the facial droop.  He opted throughout his life to reject getting a prosthetic left hand.  I remember, as a child, holding onto his stump while we walked to church.  It worked fine.

His parents decided to move to the country where he would be safe and have room to play.  They thought he was going to be "retarded", but were pleasantly surprised.  His deformities didn't escape the medical myth mill in the neighborhood of his birth.  Young pregnant women in that small area of Dayton were advised to avoid certain behaviors, such as twiddling their thumbs (per my grandma), lest their baby turn out like "Baby Arthur".  He most likely was affected by a first trimester intrauterine virus, not aberrant maternal habits.

He played and laughed and taught the adults how to function with a hand missing.  In school, he played sports, including basketball and baseball.  My aunt noted that, if his gym shoe came to be untied, the visiting fans would stare in amazement at him while he quickly retied the strings, enhancing their appreciation of someone with a disability.  He had buddies and played pranks with them.  When World War II came around, all his buddies signed up to serve in the military.  Dad tried to sign up for both Army and Navy (that's all America had at the time) but was rejected.  He felt disappointed and missed his friends.  He went to college for a semester at Miami of Ohio, but felt out of place to the extent that he withdrew.

He got a job working for Monarch Marking Systems, Inc. doing janitorial and "odd job" work.  He played on their softball and basketball teams.  As they noticed his skills, he got promoted.  He worked loyally for "The Monarch" for 43 years, retiring as their Safety Director.

As a father, he showed intense loyalty.  He attended everything we ever did in church, school, sports,  moving (me to Hershey, PA and Mike from FL to Denver to FL to OH or something like that).  He watched TV nightly with us.  He had a great, contagious laugh, which he used liberally watching "The Three Stooges", "Our Gang", "I Love Lucy", Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Red Skelton, and Jackie Gleason on our black and white TV.  He played church softball and bowled on two town teams.  He later took up golf, which he played until he couldn't walk without a cane.

We had a family vacation yearly at a lake front cottage owned by "The Monarch", swimming, reading comic books, playing cards and occasionally fishing.  He taught us to fish (with worms on a hook) and to row a boat at the lake. We fought over who had to sit in the left rear seat on those trips, since Dad had a habit of spitting out the driver's window.  When you heard him snort a couple times, you'd best be rolling up that left rear window as fast as possible (No, we didn't have air conditioning).

He assisted with the boy scouts and explorer scouts at times, going on the longer camp outs with us.  He had an annual fishing trip with his dad and father-in law (one of whom lived next door to us and the other lived across the street- grandchildren were a bit spoiled) and a neighbor or Uncle Jerry.  They went to Canada and caught tons of fish, which I never ate at that time.  They played Euchre on the trips and at neighborhood gatherings.

Dad was a volunteer fire fighter, as were all the men in Liberty, the town of 75-100 people (counting dogs and cats) where we lived.  Every few years the local fireworks plant would have an explosion and the men would go to protect the other buildings while the explosions continued.  (this was before women became firefighters).  The wives would drink coffee together and wait.  Us kids would stand in the back yard and marvel at the free fireworks show.

Dad was a proud father of our accomplishments and forgiving of our shortcomings, sometimes after an angry comment.  He did have some anger, but he had a big heart for helping others. He helped several people in town get jobs at "The Monarch".  He became a great grandfather for Mike's 3 sons and my 3 sons, who turned out to be the only ones left with the last name Jonas.  He helped to raise his great grandson, who lived across the street in Liberty for a while.  The boy who was almost discarded carried through the family name.

Dad became the Lay Leader in Liberty United Methodist Church until he was too ill to do it.  A large group from the family, the church, the Monarch, Jefferson HS, Liberty, the Masons and folks he had helped or befriended attended his viewing or funeral.  He was my Dad.  I actually feel very Fatherful instead of Fatherless.  The memories and meanings are forever.


  1. What a wonderful tribute. Your father sounds like a terrific man.

  2. I had the great honor to know "Scud" for over 50 years. I only regret we never played golf together. I did enjoy the card ganmes we had, some in Uncle Atr's house and others at the Jonas reunion. I can say that the entire Jonas' Family was VERY proud of Scud"s accomplishments in life.

  3. I sure hope you write a book in your spare time...beautiful story.