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Father's Day

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 17 June 2012 in Uncategorized

They say in Maine that the black flies will last from Mother's Day to Father's day...in other words, mid-May to mid-June...and that generally holds pretty true. The dragonflies are everywhere now, swooping and hovering like little helicopters, and the biting flies are gone. It's is Father's Day once again, a day on which I remember my own father, who lived to be 92.

He was the son of Norwegian immigrants. Here is a picture of my grandfather, whom I never knew...he died when Dad was in high school...with his stern and taciturn looking brothers.


He is the one seated on the right; his name had been Carl Augustus Hammersberg...from Oslo...but he Americanized his first name to Charles. The brothers were Andreas, Oliver, Christ, and Thorvald, if I remember correctly; and the suits and ties were not their usual dress. They were blue-collar workers...my dad's father on the railroad. After his father's premature death, the railroad pension helped Dad get through college and dental school.

Dad entered the US Army at the height of the Depression, when a newly-licensed dentist couldn't make a living by opening a practice. My sister was born when he was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia, and three years later I was born in Honolulu.

Dad was a photography nut and he always had the best cameras and film equipment...I remember him teaching me to edit and splice movie film when I was eight or nine. He took this picture of himself on December 7, 1941, with his Leica on a tripod with a timer.

In 1942, when Mother was pregnant with my younger brother, Dad went off to the Pacific, to the war. When I remember my elementary school years, back in my grandparents' home town in Pennsylvania, I always have a feeling of something missing. My friends and cousins had fathers. Mine was gone.

I realize that in many books that I have written, there is a strong father figure...starting with my very first book, A SUMMER TO DIE, in which a young girl is mentored by an elderly widowed neighbor. The book AUTUMN STREET is autobigraphical fiction and the young protaganist, whom I called Elizabeth, grapples with trying to understand what war is and why it has taken her beloved father away.

Much later, THE GIVER portrays an aging man and the young boy who learns from and loves him.

Dad made the army his career and as a result of that I grew up with a love of travel and a sense of geography and adventure. We moved to Tokyo afer WW II, where it was Dad's job to set up the dental services for the American Occupation (and to take care of the dental needs of General MacArthur and his wife and son Arthur, who was my age)...then later to New York, where I attended high school, and then to Washington DC, where Dad was the Chief of Dental Services at Walter Reed. The house we lived in in Hawaii is still there, or at least it was when I saw it fifteen years ago. My house in Tokyo is gone; a park is in the location now; my memories were razed and bulldozed and covered with grass. The house where I lived on Governors Island at the tip of Manhattan is still there but empty; the military headquarters had been abandoned and the island is now part of the National Park Service. You can take a boat over to the island; I did so two summers ago and stood on my old front porch and peered into the windows of the place I had once happily llived. Recently Walter Reed Hospital was closed down and so that part of my past, too, is gone.

But my memories of my dad are still strong. He let me use his typewriter when I was a little girl and I taught myself to type on that old Royal; then, for my 13th birthday, he gave me a Smith-Corona...still the best gift I have ever received. When he grew older and his eyesight was failing, he gave me all of his old Leicas; I was studying photography in graduate school, and my professors were astounded at...and I think covetous of...those old M-2 and M-3 cameras with their Leitz lenses.

 

Happy Father's Day to dads everywhere.

 

 

 

 

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