Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Dads

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a great Dad. I was lucky; I had two.

My first Dad, I have talked about before, here and here and here. My other Dad came to my mind this morning when I made peanut butter toast for breakfast. Butchie, as we called him, introduced me to peanut butter toast as a breakfast option and I've been a fan ever since.

Butchie was the father of our oldest friends, the Davenport clan, a family of four children roughly our ages whom we met when I was in a crib. My Dad and Butchie were Navy test pilots together back in the late '40s and retained a lifelong friendship, close as brothers. Their respect for each other was profound and their senses of humor meshed delightfully. I have wonderful photos of the two of them together, deep in conversation or laughing out loud with heads thrown back.

Their wives also formed a strong friendship, babysitting each other's kids, helping each other out during dinner parties, having on-going arguments about the proper way to do things, taking vacations together and sharing stories about the trouble their progeny got into.

We grew up together although our family stayed in the Navy and the Davenports left it to settle in Michigan. When we lived somewhere interesting, they would come and experience it with us in the summer. When we lived in less fascinating places, we'd go to Michigan and wallow in the wonderful sameness of living in one place. In many ways, their house was the only real home base I knew during my childhood, the only place that was constant and unchanging in the wide array of places where we hung our hats.

And one of the very best things about being in Michigan was Butchie. When we were little children, he'd pile five or six of us into a big bed and sit on the edge, singing us to sleep with lullabys such as "On Top of Old Smokey," his signature song. He bored us silly with his lectures at the dinner table but chuckled with self-deprecating glee when he caught us making faces during his endless speeches.

He liked to pretend he was hard up for cash, always giving us a pained expression as eloquent as Jack Benny when he doled out money for ice cream, or lipstick, or a movie. He gave all us girls a standing offer - he promised bus tickets to the honeymoon destination and a transistor radio if only we'd elope; he even offered to hold the ladder for our swains. It was a continuing sorrow to him that none of us took him up on the offer.

As I grew up, he taught me all kinds of things - to swing a hammer, to grill chicken livers on a barbecue, to appreciate smoked oysters and sardines from a can, to keep a promise and to be careful of others' feelings. He taught me the value of hard work - he always arose before dawn and went in to his office before the workers at his small manufacturing plant arrived. I learned the simple warmth of a casual arm thrown around my shoulders and the art of power napping - he was so good at it that nothing woke him except easing his shoes off and tickling his toes.

Butchie maintained his pilot's license long after he left the Navy and, later, I learned that he had been a fighter ace in WWII. He didn't tell me; I just happened to read a book about his squadron, the Jolly Rogers, that had his name in it. Once or twice, he flew in to pick me up and take me to Michigan for visits with his family. At that time, he owned a Piper Comanche, tail number 6216PAPA, a piece of trivia I have never forgotten. First, Butchie would go carefully around his plane, inspecting all the outward systems and checking the fuel tanks. Then, he'd carefully do the pre-flight check in the cockpit, making sure all was safe. When we took off, I never felt any fear - I knew I was flying with the best. Flying in a small aircraft is completely different than commercial jets - the light lift as you leave the ground, the little dips and sways that remind you that you are truly airborne, and the excitement of watching for other nearby aircraft made me feel that I was truly a part of the crew.

Nothing I can write now will describe the warmth in my heart when I think about Butchie. In a time when we hear increasingly about the horrors that grown men impose on helpless children, I look back with gratitude on a second Dad who wouldn't have dreamed of doing such things and would have taken a horsewhip to anyone who tried.

Butchie died many years ago - I saw him last in the hospital where he made light of his illness and reminded me instead of how important I and my family were in his life. My last memory of Butchie is of him coaxing his three year old granddaughter up onto his hospital bed for a little hug; stinging tears still come whenever I remember how gentle he was with a child who was very uncertain about what was going on. Even then, it wasn't all about him.

So now you know why peanut butter toast is a favorite with me. I don't need honey on mine - it comes with a load of sweet memories.


Labels:

17 Comments:

Anonymous jann said...

Sweet, not saccharine. Wonderful memories. Peanut butter, hold the honey. Nice!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011  
Blogger Kitt said...

What a lovely tribute.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011  
Blogger namastenancy said...

A lovely and loving tribute to two great guys- how wonderful for you to have them in your life and to remember them with such grace and love.
NOW - you didn't know about PB on toast? That's a standby at Chez Nancy and if it's not PB, it's a more exotic variation like Almond butter or Soy nut butter. I don't eat honey all that much because of pre-diabetes but I have used Algave which is equally delicious.

Thursday, June 16, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Jann, he was a sweet man, as well as a lover of peanut butter.

Kitt, thanks, it was easy to write.

Nancy, well, I learned about PB on toast from Butchie back when I was a sprout, so I have known about it for some time, just didn't write about it until now.

I got a frame for your watercolor today and hope to hang it tonight. Thanks again!

Thursday, June 16, 2011  
Blogger Greg said...

Nice post. Food memories are the best.

Friday, June 17, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, thanks, as I said, it was easy to write as he was so special.

Friday, June 17, 2011  
Blogger Chilebrown said...

I think you need to swing a hammer and build us some chicken coops you wordsmith.

Friday, June 17, 2011  
Blogger namastenancy said...

It was my pleasure to sell you the piece; in fact, I'm tickled pink to know that you own an "original." Maybe one of these days it will be worth something.
Plus, I hope that you are saving these columns because they are wonderful, regardless of when you ACTUALLY learned about PB on toast.

Friday, June 17, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Chilebrown, I am always tempted to keep chickens - such interesting (and productive) little critters. But, what to do with them when one is on vacation? I've never heard of a chicken sitter and Cassie tells me that she and her hubs haven't gone anywhere in a long time for just that reason...

Nancy, it's up in a relatively light-sheltered place and makes me smile each time I see it. Thanks for the compliment about the writing. I do love compliments.

Saturday, June 18, 2011  
Blogger Chilebrown said...

Zoomie, I was reading her blog and all you have to do is find a dead kangaroo and hang it from a tree. The maggots will fall to the ground providing food for the chickens. It should last several weeks while you go on vacation.

Saturday, June 18, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Chilebrown, I wonder if some other, more accessible, animal would do - like perhaps a pig? On the other hand, I'd hate to waste the bacon... :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2011  
Blogger katiez said...

What wonderful memories! He must have been very special. Oh, and I love peanut butter toast for breakfast - with butter ;-)

Saturday, June 18, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

KatieZ, another peanut butter toast lover heard from! I used to use butter, too, but recently gave it up in favor of just peanut butter and I like it even better this way - the peanut butter gets all melty and soft except for the chunks, which I love.

Saturday, June 18, 2011  
Anonymous Janie said...

You painted a very sweet portrait of Butchie.

Saturday, June 18, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Janie, thanks. He was a dear man.

Saturday, June 18, 2011  
Blogger Kinda Like a Chef said...

Aw, man, this one definitely made me cry. You are lucky to have had two great dads in your life.

Sunday, June 19, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kinda, thanks for the kind words, and for your tears.

Sunday, June 19, 2011  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home