Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dr. Jekyll (The "Good" Dad) Makes Some Appearances

This blogging project has prompted a flood of memories and I realize, reviewing my posts, that I have focused on much of the more negative aspects of my childhood.  It wasn't a constant war zone, it was just volatile and unpredictable, but there were happy times, and I feel that it would be only fair to share some of them.

Budding musician, age 8
Copyright © 2013 Linda O'Donnell All Rights Reserved
 My father loved music, especially anything played on the organ.  As the first born, and being a girl, I was a prime candidate for learning to play the organ.  Dad played, but he could not read music.  He had an especially good ear, and after hearing a song he liked, he could sit down and play a bit of it on his own, just from memory.  He insisted that I take lessons, which I started when I was about 8. I don't remember loving it, especially since I had to practice so much, but apparently I had a natural ability and I progressed fairly quickly.  I gave it up by the time I reached high school, but I'm grateful for having had those lessons.  I learned so much--not only about the structure of music--but I also gained a love for music of almost all genres (I still hate rap) and knowledge of old songs.  It was also something that was shared between just me and my father, and that was special to me.  I remember waking up on Sunday mornings to the stereo being on, and old music soundtracks were one of the favorites.  I am blessed to have the love of music within me, and I owe that to my dad.

My daughter getting lessons from her grandpa, cir. 1991
Copyright © 2013 Linda O'Donnell All Rights Reserved
My father loved his Chicago sports.  In the 60's and 70's, our NFL team, the Bears, pretty much sucked.  As a result, the games were not always sold out, so the game would not be broadcast on the local Chicago station on those Sundays.  Ever the die-hard fan, my dad would climb up on the roof and adjust the TV antenna until he could pick up even the slightest signal from Milwaukee, so we could watch the game.  Now that's dedication! It may have been a snowy, fuzzy picture, but we were watching the game. It cracks me up, even to this day, to recall the memory of my dad working on that antenna for a team that was lousy.

As much as Dad loved the Bears, he was an even bigger Blackhawks fan (hockey).  He wanted my brother to play, and enrolled Tommy into pee-wee leagues in the area.  We spent many a weekend at local rinks so Tommy could practice skating, and of course watch the games he played in.  Dad built an ice rink in our backyard every winter, using lumber, heavy plastic sheeting and edging to that we had the daily ability to skate.  It was a labor of love and though I never ended up being much of a skater, it was a pretty cool thing to have your own personal ice rink.  I also remember going to a Blackhawks game, during the playoffs.  Bobby Hull, a prolific Hawks player from the 1960's, had scored a hat trick (3 goals).  Joining the crowd in a customary response, my dad threw his hat down towards the ice.  This was not just a ball cap.  It was a nice, formal wool hat.  Miraculously, someone threw it back in our direction.  I grabbed it and held on to it tightly, because I didn't want my mother to be mad that my dad lost a perfectly good hat.  He wanted to throw it again, though, and I had to hold on tightly so he wouldn't be able to do it.  That memory makes me smile.

Among other good things my dad did for me:

1) Helped me get my first stereo
2) Co-signed on my first car loan
3) Helped me make a replica of the Washington Monument for an art project
4) Took me to see the Ice Capades
5) Taught me how to change the oil and spark plugs in my car
6) Helped me get my first job
7) Taught me morals, a strong work ethic and a love for my country
8) Walked me down the aisle at both of my weddings

Living with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde as a parent is a difficult experience, and I would have to say Dad usually presented himself more frequently as Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll (bad Dad vs. good Dad).  But there were glimpses of what I would describe as the "real" Dad, the one who was funny, kind and loving, and I absolutely treasure every experience I had with that Dad.  It's just too bad that that his demons and inability to cope with life's struggles brought out the other version of my dad so often.

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