Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dad And Amelia: Conclusion

Valuable time ticked by as Dad fiddled with the plane’s flight instruments. When he’d finished tapping and adjusting every device in the cockpit, he contacted the tower on the squawky radio and we were told to proceed to the runway. With my heart beating like a hummingbird’s, I looked over at Dad. He appeared fully in control as man and machine became one. I still think of him this way, Helios the sun god. And I was to accompany him in his flaming chariot on a journey across the sky. The moment burned into my memory.

Dad cracked a window and shouted, “All clear!”

I didn’t know who he was shouting at; there were only the two of us around.

“All clear!” The checklist must have said to shout it twice.

I was about to escape the confines of the earth.

Dad revved the engine and advanced the throttle. I had seen war movies like Twelve O‘Clock High and was fantasizing that we were about to make a strafing run over Germany when I noticed the plane seemed to pause, as if confused. Then it lurched forward and began to cut a path in the gravel, a path in the shape of a perfect circle. After all Dad’s careful planning, after all that attention to detail, he had forgotten to do something so obvious it wasn’t even listed on the checklist. He had forgotten to untie the rope securing the right wheel to the tarmac.

We didn’t break the confines of the earth. Instead, we remained on the ground and raced madly around in perfect circles as Dad slowly down-throttled. When the engine finally died, he was worried we’d damaged the plane. We never got off the ground, and after that day we never spoke of this incident, although we did fly together in the future.

As we climbed into the old Packard for the drive home, Dad seemed embarrassed and vulnerable. I knew what I needed to do. I looked my father in the eyes and said, “Dad?”

“Yes, son?”

“I want to ask you something.”

“Go ahead.”

“Can I have a German Shepherd?”

With a tired sigh, he shook his head.

Dad has been gone now four years and I miss him more than I could have imagined. Dad always thought of himself as an ordinary guy, but that didn’t prevent me from thinking he was special, and he did have an amazing gift that set him apart from everyone else I’ve ever known, a magical ability he shared with his beloved Amelia Earhart. Like Amelia, Dad had the ability to vanish. Like a great magician, he executed his trick so skillfully that you didn’t notice how he accomplished it.

Back in grade school I’d learned that nature gives every creature the ability to survive: the snow bunny turns white in winter to blend with the snow, and the rock fish is camouflaged to match the ocean floor so predators can’t see it. Dad had similar protection…from my mother.

She wore the pants in the family, and he was constantly subjected to her diatribes—she had an opinion on everything. She spent hours answering questions nobody asked. Why the country was going to ruin was a particular favorite. She alone knew how to set things right, and she described at length historical parallels to support her political and sociological positions.

During many of these long, unwanted conversations Dad used what I came to think of as The Gift. Mother would be lecturing on how the country was, “…going to hell in a hand basket,” and at some point she would say, “Leroy, speak up. What are your views on this subject? Are you or are you not a person of your own mind?”

This was another of my mother’s favorite statements. To my knowledge, only Frankenstein was not a person of his own mind. And Dad made it clear on numerous occasions that he preferred to be addressed as Lee—he detested being called Leroy. But it didn’t matter much because by the time my mother reluctantly asked his opinion, both Lee and Leroy had vanished like poked soap bubbles.

In spite of this phenomenon, my mother would drone on uninterrupted. We would all be sitting around the table, David with his nose buried in a sports magazine and Dad appearing to be interested in all she was saying. Right at the moment when Dad would be required to say something—poof. He’d be gone.

Sometimes I’d ask David, “When did Dad leave?”

He’d look up. “Don’t know.”

“His chair is still warm. Did you see him leave?”


He’d simply vanished.

My mother didn’t go out of her way to make life unpleasant for Dad, but she often treated him like a marshmallow in a blender. I always wished he’d stand up to her. Sometimes he’d ask her to accompany him on a ride or to the movies. More often than not she’d say no. If Dad pressed her she’d stand in the middle of the room with her arms crossed and declare, “Am I or am I not the mistress of my own home?” (This exclamation always made me wonder if there was any point in being the “master” of one’s own home.) My mother would then proceed with a lengthy description of her rights of sovereignty, and at some point Dad would disappear like a fart in the wind.

I’ve yet to figure out how he did it, and I’ve always wondered where he went when he disappeared. Since he often seemed sad, I hoped it was a place that made him happy, perhaps a place he shared with his beloved Amelia.


  1. Was your dad dissociative? Or did he actually remove himself physically?
    There were many strong minded women around back then. I like some of your descriptions and it says so much that your mother called your father Leroy knowing he did not want to be called Leroy. It has been a joy to hear about Lee in your post. You were fortunate to have him as your father.

  2. A couple of great stories wrapped into one, Stephen. I laughed out loud (really) when you once again asked your dad for the German Shepherd. Surely he would have wanted you to have one but for "the mistress of the house", I suspect.

  3. My dad told me a story of a pilot flying from Florida to the Bahammas complaining of exessive drag. When he landed he realized he forgot to untie the rear from a 10 lb block.

  4. Love the plane story. I would have been embarrassed too. I love your mother. I love strong women. There's just something about her that makes me go girl. I wish your dad would have stood up to her too. It would have been far more interesting.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  5. Dr. X is dissasociative. I'd love to know where he goes when he dissociates. He would also just leave the house, go get a Starbucks or something, and not even say hello, goodbye, or kiss my ass. I'd be wandering around the house looking for him, but he was gone. I guess he's dissociative and has bad manners. Aanyway, that's a great post, and you know your dad is definitely with Amelia now -- and my dad. Also, I'm the mistress of my own house, but the dogs and I live alone. Oh, how silly of me. I forgot the dogs are in charge. I won't be a mistress unless I become the kept woman of a wealthy married man. Any volunteers?


  6. I chuckled at the image of you and your Dad going around in circles. I'm sorry that it hindered your attempt to "escape the confines of earth." heh heh

    Regarding your Mom and Dad. Hmm. I think your Dad had a very special heart knowing what he had to do to deal with the belittling from your Mother. And who knows what happened in her life that made her that way.

    You just never know.

    We all have issues and life is messy even at its best.

  7. You have an amazing style of story telling.
    Love this story.

  8. As always, Chatterbox, a great story. Everyone one has a few embarrassing moments but when you are fresh in the middle of one it is unsettling. I think it is wonderful that your dad was composed. Mine would have been angry and rageful. Anything unsettling came out in anger.

    I find marital relationships interesting. Who knows why people get together, stay together...why they act like they do. No one knows what goes on in a relationship really, unless of course, you are the person involved. I hope, that overall, your dad was content with his life.

    My parents were very unhappy..miserable is an understatment. They divorced early and did outrageous things to each other. Actually so far above outrageous I couldn't begin to touch on it in a comment but the result left my brother and I to live with numerous relatives and other families that would take us in.

    I love that your dad kept his family intact and you have such wonderful memories. I hope he and your mom were for the most part "happy".

  9. Oh my, so sorry for your Dad going around in a circle like that. And perhaps your Mom had reasons from her childhood to have to be in so much control? It's good that your Dad could take it and disappear when needed. It was good for you in the sense that it made you very observant so you can tell your stories.

  10. It's always interesting to hear the dynamics of a relationship described with such skill and sincerity.

    The roles were reversed in my case; my father ruled the roost. And usually he disappeared to the pub.

  11. At least you got to fly with him at some point. Though I was hoping you and your dad were going to find Amelia Earhart.

  12. This post is full of so many different emotions. I loved it! I too, laughed right out loud--guffawed even--when you asked for a German Shepherd. Way to keep your eye on the prize. I'm sure that with persistence and dedication like you showed, that it was very hard for him to say no. :)

    Reading your thoughts and observations about your parents reminds me that my own children, like all children, are so aware and soak up so very much that goes on in the home. I'll use this reminder to increase my efforts in making sure it's a happy one.

  13. It is obvious from both stories that you admired your father . I wish I'd had just a tiny bit of admiration for my Father. Yours was to be admired. He accomplished things. The best one being his disappearing act. I love your asking for the German Shepherd.
    Love your writing style, glad that I found your blog. Oma Linda

  14. Loved the vision of the plane traveling in circles on the tarmac! Sounds like your Mom and Dad were really unique. I'm glad you have such fond memories of him.

  15. You never know...some catastrophe might have been averted by that forgotten tether.

  16. LOL - I admire your timing in asking for a German Shepherd! It sounds like your Dad's disappearing skills were the perfect match for your Mom's domineering skills.

  17. A great story shared by a great stroyteller. Nice Steve! And if you ever discover how your dad vanished like he did, patent it. You'll get rich selling the secret to married men everywhere. ;)


  18. What an ending. And you have explained a lot about your parents in a few words, that's a gift.

  19. he was smarter than anyone realized.

  20. Wow, this is moving! Great story! Fitting too since my partner and I get in squabbles like this a little. He disappears into his "nothing box" but right in front of me - which means he says "I'm going to be in my nothing box" and just sits there thinking of absolutely nothing. Women like me have a hard time imagining how men can just think of nothing. I have anxiety and insomnia. This brain never turns off! I wish it did though ;)

  21. Neat description and tribute to your Dad.
    Interesting relationship these two had. I'm afraid that too often there are relationships like this. have you ever done a caractature ( and I don't know how to spell it)) of these two?

  22. Your dad sounds like a really neat man. And the disappearing act? That's something we. Should all perfect from time to time.

  23. A great story about a great man Stephen, I loved the circling story, the type of thing I would do if anyone ever trusted me to fly a plane. Your Dad was probably really excited about taking you up but didn´t show it and of course it is so easy to forget the simplest things when we are excited.!

  24. Doesnt it often make you wonder, looking back, how/why they married? I had an aunt and uncle your parents remind me of ... I wonder about them all the time

  25. Relationships are so interesting.

    I had a great chuckle over the rope and the German Shepherd. And I had no idea about cutting shirt tails.

    As an aside... whenever I'm at your blog, I find the page choppy and slow to load. And it seems to make my typing hesitate and lurch. I don't have a slow machine. Just wondered what that might be about.

  26. A fine honor to your Dad! Memories are so powerful, especially good ones. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Very similar in my family. Only my dad didn't physically disappear, he mentally disappeared. As my mother went on her tirades his tired line when prodded was, "Yes, Jane." It became a sibling joke. Whenever we didn't want to engage in a discussion or argument we'd just sigh and repeat in sing-song rote--"Yes, Jane." ;)