“John Leslie Richards – Dad”


A Series of Haiku

Old John Richards has

a flat-top now mostly skin

and the grin of a kid

hard man to like

why mom did a mystery

belied with aplomb

flew back-seat to war

coral sea, midway, ‘canal

and then more horror

shared few true stories

and worked each day to provide

‘pay his taxes’ pride!

his plane sat below

jimmy doolittle’s that day

“the galloping ghost”

happier he was

to sit his riding mower

he built to mow his own

he found his new home

flying hurricane hunters

in B-Twenty-Four

he said sanford’s lakes

brought minnesota mem’ries

without all that snow

hunter, fisher, wrench

he quit smoking to add cash

to his growing sons

he dropped over-drink

to stay out of jail – both jails:

one with bars, one mom’s

he beat me but twice

once rightly, both my own fault

and cried when recalled

when he found out how

much money his wife had saved

was floored: guilt and shame

had a game we played

a bunch of them, actually:

two stubborns and true

he ate like a pig

i europeaned fork-and-knife,

argued everything

and he’d wait for me

to go fish on our days off

both mid-week affairs

taught me how to hook

bait minnow through one eye

and skin a catfish

and i taught him how

to say ‘i love you’

just before he died

(June 8 would have been his 100th Birthday. Mom left us a number of years earlier. He was lost without his rocking-chair buddy and best friend, and of my two brothers I was the one privileged to come home to Sanford and spend mom’s last seven and dad’s last eleven years in daily contact. Much gets understood during those days. When dad asked me about mom’s savings – which floored him, he said to me: “why didn’t you ever tell me?” I replied to him: Dad, I never told mom about the deal we had: when I’d come home from Titusville I’d swap out those $100s I bring for all the $10s and $20s you got on your side jobs or from the allowance mom gave you each week. That was all he needed to know. Those two kept secrets from us boys; and now he learned they kept some secrets from each other. Once, when dad went to The Fleet Reserve (lounge and clubhouse in Sanford) he came back to her with a tale of being asked where Sally was. “Tied up to an orange tree out back,” he grinned to cronies. Mom heard about that and asked me to get her some big rope with a frayed end. I got a hawser – ’bout nine-inches in diameter – section at the marina in Titusville and brought it to her. She said to hide it behind the back of dad’s pickup’s seat. I later heard the story three times: his, hers, and a pal’s at The Fleet: Each was a hoot. “You go on ahead, John,” Sally said after they had pulled up into the bar’s parking lot. “I have something to do. Only take a minute.” Dad was into his “tied up out back” routine when mom burst through the front door to the lounge, the hawser looped around her neck and he holding the frayed end, semi-shouting: “John Richards, just what do you think you are doing.” Woulda paid money to be around them when “they” were courting each other in Manhattan and The Bronx when Dad met this hot little number who was working at her sister-in-law’s beauty shop above Battery Park. He never had a chance. And after a near dozen trips to Murmansk and Arkhangle in Russia flying enlisted crew chief from his escort carrier (CVE-11 Card), the invasion of Morocco in North Africa, and the invasion after D-Day of Southern France, he came home to Patuxent River, Maryland and the Navy’s Test Bed for aircraft and began flying hurricanes in a converted US Army Air Corps medium bomber…and got this hot little number to come down to Maryland and begin making babies. She had to have numerous operations just to do that – the results of childhood polio – infantile paralysis – and then more procedures as she was Rh Factor negative and he, positive. And their three boys didn’t let up in the excitement department.

Comments are closed.