We were raised in a poor neighborhood, living in the basement of a lady's house. My dad was a steel hunky - yes, that's what they called them. Mom quit school at fifth grade. Dad actually finished high school and went to business college. Mom was a tiny little woman who was used to being dominated. Dad was a very violent man thoroughly displeased and disappointed with how his life turned out. I watched my dad hit my mom, slam her into the wall, and throw her across the room. Daddy was six feet five inches tall. Mom was five feet and three inches tall.
She could sing and she played the piano by ear. Dad was a lyrical baritone and wrote music. He knew all the operas: the composers, the stories, and the opera singers. He had been a little theater star in various towns in Texas. He always played the villain – a handsome villain. He could have doubled for Rudolph Valentino. I often wondered what happened to so destroy this mountain of talent.
I used to hate my childhood. I hated the violence. I hated that every holiday ended with the cops coming to our house. I hated seeing my mom cry. I was afraid of my dad. He would backhand me and ask questions later. I was beaten with a belt for things I didn’t do.
Yet, there were moments of singing with him around the piano. There was the time when the old tube-style TV quit working. He pulled the insides out and got down on his all fours and with his face shining through the glass screen, recited a portion from the Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" and also "Death Takes a Holiday." I was captivated. He was a magnificent ballroom dancer and one of my favorite memories is dancing on Daddy’s shoes. As I grew taller, he taught me to waltz and foxtrot.
If I had the opportunity today, I would thank my dad. He’s gone now. But his love of fine arts, his knowledge of music, and even his story telling have greatly shaped my life and my personality. It was his encouragement in music that allowed me to become a vocalist and use that talent for additional income when I became a single mom. It was his love of dance, that gave me confidence to go to the Officers’ Club to dance after my daughter’s father left me. It was his love of books and reading that created my love for words and language.
So, thanks, Dad. I’m still singing. I’m still dancing. I’m still acting, and I’m still writing. I love you.