Monday, November 19, 2007

My Dad

It's another memorial stone in the picture. This time I'd like to honor my dad who died 31 years ago yesterday. His name was Mark Louis Scobey. He was born on the south side of Chicago in June of 1902. His dad was Mark Clayton Scobey, born in Springville, NY in 1868 and his mom was Agnes Fleming. She was born of Irish descent in Liverpool, England in 1869 and came across the ocean at age 19. Somehow their paths crossed and marriage followed. Agnes gave birth to ten children in the next fifteen years and Dad was fourth last in the line. There were six girls and four boys. Dad's stories of the family always fascinated me and it was fun to think of my aunts and uncles as the children dad spoke of. As with so many of the large families of yesteryear, there was childhood mortality and sadly, three of the siblings died along the way. An older brother, Lawrence died at two days old. A brother who was two years younger, Paul, died at age two when dad was four and the sister, Mary, who was only three years younger than dad died at age 19. I saw a picture of Mary and she was a dark eyed, dark haired beauty and dad described her as an angel who played the violin beautifully. Dad's dad was a caretaker for a cemetery and that whole family lived in an abandoned railroad station on the cemetery grounds. In the winter they scavenged for coal along the railroad tracks and all the kids when they were grown talked of their mama with the utmost respect as they told of her baking and cooking and keeping the kids in line. They hopped rides on the streetcar to get to school and kept a cow for a while but had to peddle the milk after a while because it was too much dairy for just their family. When dad was 15, he was told by his parents to quit school and get a job. He found a job with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and he worked there for the next fifty years. Dad met my mom who was a typist for that railroad and they married at age 29 - pretty old by that day's standard. They suffered through a lot of miscarriages but then fortunately, Mark, Paul and I arrived by the time they hit their forties. Most of my memories of being with dad revolved around the supper table, holiday celebrations and always relished vacations. I didn't realize it at the time but Dad commuted on the train about an hour to and from work each day and worked an eight hour day so that filled his days and left most of the parenting up to mother. I know, though that he was the one who laid down the law and it was only after his retirement that I saw him as mellowing out. It was fun to get to know him after we had our boys. Somehow, the whole world of parenting opens up vast realizations of what a parent means and a realization that your parents were young fools at one time too, not just people who set down the rules. Dad really liked Bing and they liked to have long conversations whenever we visited. I was happy just to listen and learn. My mom never made it to retirement age and dad was a widower for ten years. He told me once that he was really happy to have lasted long enough to get some of his pension - I was happy too because fifty years was a heck of a long time to persevere with any job. Dad really loved reading - Charles Dickens and Mark Twain were his favorite authors, playing contract and duplicate bridge, Perry Mason TV shows, poetry of his dad, the Chicago Cubs and a Manhatten or two. When our second son, Danny, was born, Dad came up and watched Bernie while I was in the hospital and Bing was working. He did a fine job and now that I'm 65 and I look back on that, I see that he was quite courageous at age 70 to come and care for a 20 month old - I guess he must have liked it because he never said a word about not handling it. In the last six years of his life, we visited Milwaukee with our three boys a few times a year, alternating staying with dad and staying with Bing's folks. Dad would come up and stay with us a few days at a time a couple times a year also. One time, Dad said that we Rhinelanderites lived most like his mom and dad's family than any of the other children or grandchildren. He meant because of our baking bread and canning and raising chickens and generally living off the land. I was proud because he seemed to like it. At the end of October of 1976, dad came up to visit without telling us. He had never surprised us with a visit before and we were delighted. I remember as clear as a bell looking out the side window and seeing Tony who was two at the time. spot his grandpa and come running across the yard as fast as his little legs could carry him with his arms spread wide to be picked up by grandpa. My insides melted as I witnessed love, simply and purely. And I knew that that one gesture was enough to make dad's whole trip worthwhile. Within three weeks of that visit, Dad was dead. He entered St. Michael's Hospital with pain, had an operation, was told the cancer had spread all over and died in the hospital of kidney failure. Our boys were 2, 4, and 6 and that was their second grandpa to die in two years. Thanks, Dad, for living a life of integrity, love, self sacrifice and faith in God. You'd be real proud of what nice people all ten of your grandchildren are.

1 comment:

Bernie said...

Jamie and I just read your story about Grandpa Scobey, thanks. We enjoyed it. I read aloud until the part about Tony running across the yard, then I got choked-up, then Jamie read the rest aloud. He's a good reader.