Today it has been two years since my father passed away. It feels funny even using the word father because he was a “daddy” in the truest sense of the word. Even my mom referred to him as Daddy. I’ve been wanting to write about him for some time, but where do I begin?
I could tell you he was a war hero. He served in World War II as a Marine in the South Pacific. He was a disabled veteran. He was proud of this fact. He was proud of America’s role in freeing the Jews from Nazi oppression and torture. He was proud of avenging the attack on Pearl Harbor and protecting America from invaders and defending freedom, in general. He was idealistic in his views of freedom for all, and I’ll always remember this about him, but this was not the main thing about him to me.
To me, he was so much more than that. Again, where do I begin? He loved guns, boxing, and reading about war, which is so ironic because he was the most peaceful, gentle man I’ve ever known. He was loving, kind, peaceable, forgiving, accepting, friendly, engaging, and intelligent. He was a friend, a confidante, a sage giver of advice, a comedian, a protector, and a role model.
A lot of people are afraid of their dads—if not fear of punishment, then fear of disappointing them. I never was. My dad was not much of a disciplinarian, but we knew how he felt about things, particularly about being kind and honest. And it’s not that I didn’t care if he was disappointed in me, but he was so understanding that it was really hard to feel his disappointment. He expected us to make mistakes. I mean this in a good way. He just knew we were human. I did feel his pride, however, throughout my entire life.
I think what I respected most about him were his morals. My dad had high standards of morality for things that mattered. He believed in fairness, justice, but also kindness and mercy. He hated bullying, and he told us stories of standing up to adults, especially teachers, in defense of someone who was the target of unfairness or cruelty, particularly those who were weak or poor. He did not tolerate unkindness or cruelty in anyone, and I grew up with a strong sense of standing up for right even when the odds were against me. Rooting for the underdog is also something that I got from my dad.
My dad was a family man. He devoted his life to being there for his wife and children. He enjoyed family life, and he liked to teach us things, do things with us, and just talk to us. He loved antiquing, and he would take anyone who would go with him, but he especially liked to go with my sister-in-law, Lisa, because she shared his love of wandering through antique shops. He was the best father-in-law anyone could ask for because he accepted every one into the family and loved them like they were his own.
He really loved his children. He was so proud of my brother, Larry, for his natural intelligence and the way he could take anything apart and fix it. My dad encouraged each of us to pursue our passions, and he introduced Larry to one of his—ham radios. Larry was his firstborn, and he was so proud of him, his career, and his family.
When I was a teenager, my brother, Dave, moved to Colorado and stayed with us for a while. My dad loved this. He loved target shooting with my brothers, and when Dave was around, they did a lot of this. He and Dave were like best friends, doing everything together, including having a small moving business for a short time. They were so close that my dad was the best man at Dave’s wedding.
He loved teasing and joking with everyone, but especially my sister, Patricia. He’d get the biggest rise out of her, and thus, the most pleasure. Toward the end of his life, he came to depend on her the most as she and her husband, Bruce, were always there to pick up what he and my mom needed at the store or to do anything else they needed done, including taking them to appointments or visiting every day. He told me how much he loved and appreciated his sweet girl.
My dad was super-proud of my sister, Connie too. He always talked about her with such admiration because she’s a scientist, and basically good at whatever she does. Connie was also always there for my mom and dad, seeing to their daily needs and just being company for them in their old age. My dad was not an educated man, but he was smart, and he respected that in my sister and admired all her accomplishments. He bragged about her to everyone he knew. She was his first little girl, and he loved to tell everyone how she grew up to be a brilliant scientist and worked at a university.
As for me, I probably put my parents through the most of any of their children, but my dad always acted like I was everything he wanted in a daughter. No matter what, he would always talk to me, tell me stories, discuss politics and social issues. Most teenagers don’t really like to talk to their parents that much, but I loved to talk to my dad, and his advice was always wise and realistic. I will always think of him as one of the wisest people I ever knew. I was the baby of the family, and I think to him, I was the baby, no matter how old I got.
My dad absolutely loved dogs, especially our family dog, Inky. He was so crazy about this dog that I don’t think he ever got over losing him. Even in his old age, he would reminisce and tell funny stories about his beloved friend and get a tear in his eye. He also told us stories about his childhood dog, Ol’ Blue. Blue was loyal till the end, and my dad was loyal to him, recounting his adventures for the next 70 years. I can see why my dad loved dogs so much. They share a lot in common. Dogs are noble creatures, loving, loyal, dependable, and congenial, just like him. I inherited the same love for dogs.
My dad loved kids, which explains why he was such a good father. Every time I saw him as an adult, he would ask me about my life and about my kids. He loved all his grandkids, and his grandkids always loved to play with him. He could always make them laugh so hard, especially when he would chase them through the house with his dentures half out of his mouth. He was always hilarious and joking around. At least when he wasn’t telling us stories.
He loved to talk about the war, but never the bad part. He never talked about death or killing. He talked about the way he and his platoon joked around and the fun they had. He’d tell us about the places he’d been, but not the horror he’d seen. But that’s what he always did. He focused on the good; he had fun, and so did everyone else who spent time with him.
The only time my dad would ever get really mad was when someone was picking on someone else. Like I said, he hated bullies. One of my fondest memories of him was when I was in the first grade. I had a really sadistic teacher, and she used to call me to the front to work out math problems on the board because she knew I didn’t understand them. We did not have a lot of money, and I was the only one in the class who brought my lunch in a brown paper bag. In fact, I reused the bag until it was soft and wrinkled and practically falling apart while my classmates had metal lunch boxes depicting the latest popular TV shows. Well, one day my teacher made fun of me in front of the whole class about my worn out lunch bag and its contents, which unlike my classmates, contained no pre-packaged Doritos or Twinkies, but modest homemade food. I denied it was mine, and when we were released for recess, I ran home and told my dad that we got out early. A short time later, the teacher called home and told my dad I’d left without permission. I told my dad how she made fun of me, and he was very angry at her. He told her that I would not be returning to school that afternoon because he was not going to subject me to her anymore that day. He made me my favorite lunch, and we sat side-by-side on the couch watching cartoons the rest of the afternoon.
That’s the kind of person he was in a nutshell. The kind of person who cared about people’s feelings, who stood up for those who’d fallen, who made everyone feel better, who made everyone know that they were special and valued, just for being themselves. I never knew a more kind and loving man.
He loved my mother. And my mom was wild about him. My dad was a pretty laid-back kind of guy, but when anything was wrong with my mom, he worried. If my mom was sick, my dad could think of nothing else until she was well again. When my parents were old and living in a nursing home, my dad’s health would plummet every time my mom would have a health issue, just from concern.
He was a man of faith, a Christian, and he looked forward to being done with the pains of old age. He was ready to go long before my mom would let him. My brothers and sisters and I are convinced that he lived only because she needed him. He hung on for her—because she told him to. And when she finally gave him permission to go, he did, entrusting her to us for just a little while. My mom passed away in November of 2014.
So that’s who he was, and if you didn’t know him, thank you for reading all about him. You would’ve liked him, and most likely, he would have liked you, unless you are a bully, of course.
I got the best of who I am from him, and I am so grateful to have had the pleasure of being raised by him—my dad, Harold R. Pitman (August 7, 1925-April 17, 2013). I love you, Daddy.—Christina Knowles