From left to right: Dad, Dennis, Mark, Cousin Roger Dan.
Notice, how Mark doesn't seem to catch on. Story of my life.
If you live long enough, you’re going to reach several milestones. First bicycle, first computer, first Father’s Day gift, first root canal… Just last year I passed the age my father was when he died. A rather somber accomplishment.
Of course, I didn’t have as much to do with this milestone as Dad. He died rather early. All I did was manage to stay alive a bit longer. I did that by not smoking cigars or chewing tobacco or being the breadwinner for a family of nine. That last one would’ve gotten me long before the Mail Pouch did.
That was Dad’s chewing tobacco brand. Mail Pouch. If I were to see a pack of that stuff now, I’d probably start bawling. It’d remind me of my time with Dad. I can just see him pulling out a big gob of that wadded leaf and placing it inside his jaw. A nasty habit, but it was a part of what used to be my dad.
I still remember the smell of Dad. He had the smell of cigars, Mail Pouch and refinery. I believe I mentioned that I recently woke in the middle of the night to his smell and the feel of his chin stubble against my cheek. Just like he was passing by. I know it wasn’t Kay, because she quit chewing tobacco when we got married. I told her it was a deal breaker for me.
By the way, Dad passed away March 22, 1980. He had some chest pain and ended up in the ICU in a hospital in Pasadena. When you die of heart failure in a place with a dozen nurses monitoring every breath and heartbeat… well, God’s ready for you. Didn’t make Daddy’s leaving any less painful for us, but it did eliminate the sense of if-we’d-only-done-this-or-that.
Though I’m older than he was at his oldest, I still look like a kid next to Daddy… uh, in my mind’s eye, of course. With all the goings-on during Fathers Day, I’ve been thinking about what it’d be like to get to see him again and talk to him awhile. You know, like Kevin Costner did in the “Field of Dreams” movie. -- No, Costner didn’t talk to Faris Hayter. I realize that. Sheesh! Some of you are like talking to Dennis. He picks up on everything.
I do get to talk to Dad quite a bit in my dreams. One thing I want to tell him is that he’s supposed to be dead. It’s weird, but I’m always the only one in the family who realizes that. In the dreams I never find the courage to mention it to him, partly because I don’t want to spoil the moment, and partly because I’m afraid Dad will get mad at me for bringing it up.
Dad did have a tendency to get upset at the smallest of things. We’d be having a great time when all of sudden he’d focus on something said or done that touched a nerve. Massive mood shift. We just never knew which Daddy was going to show at any given moment.
I imagine part of Dad’s depression was due to all the stress he was under, but also because of my Grandmother Pearl. If you analyze a part of our family’s DNA, you’re gonna find some bad Pearl. I’m not sure she was depressed, but my dad’s mom had some serious issues. And, that’s all I’ve got to say about that. (Forest Gump – 1994)
But, even without Pearl’s hand-me-down genes, Dad would’ve had fair reason to be depressed. He was the sole provider for the nine of us Hayters. I’m not sure there was ever a time that we didn’t owe the finance company money. My part of the loan went for stuff like gym fees, Keds, Lee Rider blue jeans, Grape Nut Flakes, one toothbrush and a bar of Dial Soap.
Yeah, I never cost the family much in soap or toothbrushes. If I remember right, I used the same toothbrush from first grade through twelfth. A lot of accumulated toothpaste beneath the surface of those deranged bristles. -- By the way, when I typed “twelfth,” the spelling looked really odd. Does that ever happen to you? Mind mysteries like that are common among those of us in our 40s. That’d be today’s 60s.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, depression. People didn’t talk much about depression when I was a kid, except for The Great Depression. The word anti-depressant wasn’t used until 1983. Maybe. Before that, people used the word “Valium.” It was quite common.
Dad did take Valium one time, after a bad experience at the plant. It didn’t make him feel any better; it just made him not care. “Daddy? Dennis and I are playing army; can we dig a couple of foxholes in the front yard?” -- “Hey, you can pretend you’re fighting in WWI and dig a trench for all I care.” -- Fortunately, like I said, he took it during the one spell. I do so wonder, how he would’ve been had he had access to today’s antidepressants. Might’ve altered his moods. Brain chemistry can really mess a person up.
Truth be told, considering his own upbringing Faris was a great father,. He was an only son whose Mom ran off when he was just a kid. My Grandpa Ed raised him best he could, but Dad never picked up any tips on how to raise more than one kid. Grandpa Ed let him chew tobacco when he was nine. It was a milestone. – Happy Fathers Day, guys.