By: Carol Rood
I was the second of three children in my family. The only girl. I had one brother two years older, and one brother 4 years younger than me. My older brother was popular, handsome, tall, strong, and smart. He was on the football team, and played the trumpet. Well. My younger brother was small and cute. He was smart and could fix anything. My mother was a homemaker who worked part time outside the home sometimes, and my father was a commuter. We lived in Fairfield Connecticut, and every day, Monday through Friday, my dad would board a train at 6:00 am and ride it into New York City to work at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. My mom would go to the train station to pick my dad up at 6:00 pm every weeknight. She usually had dinner ready before she would go and we would eat together as a family around the dinner table at 6:30 every night.
My point is that we were a pretty average family. We had our ups and downs. My brothers and I fought as all siblings do. My parents had disagreements also. We misbehaved and were disciplined. We were the average functional (at times dysfunctional) family.
However, when I read that The Next Family theme this month was Fathers, I began thinking more about my dad. My dad was a complex, yet loving man. He was a bit of an enigma to me growing up because he was at work 12 hours every day, and we only had a couple of hours together in the evenings before I had to go to bed. He liked Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. He liked John Denver and the Ray Coniff singers. He liked to watch World War II shows on television and LOVED old war movies. He liked to read and he liked to fish. He was pretty quiet, but boy could he yell when my brothers and I were naughty.
I didn’t really get to know my dad as a man until after I left home to join the Navy. My dad was proud of me being in the military. He told me that. More than once. One time I came home to visit and my father wanted to take me to his Masonic Lodge for a Military Appreciation event. He was a Scottish Rite Mason and he truly enjoyed it. He asked me to wear my uniform to the event. I don’t remember much of the ceremony, but I do remember that as we were walking back to the car, an incident occurred that changed the way I viewed my father.
It was in the early 90’s and the Gulf War was winding down. My parents lived in Valparaiso, Indiana at the time, and my dad and I were walking down Main Street back to our car. A young man walked toward us. He was in his early 20’s (the same age I was at the time), and he identified himself as a student at the local University. He started berating me for being in the military and participating in a war that was about oil, and power, and why were we there?, etc. Typical anti-war propaganda. My father calmly stepped between the young man and me, and politely told the man he should be ashamed of himself. That the reason he even had the freedom to be able to go to the (expensive, private) school that he did was probably because of opportunities his family had that were afforded him by the freedom and financial prosperity they enjoyed in this country. He went on to say that it was people like me serving in the military that made it possible for him and his family to enjoy that freedom. He said he was proud of me, and the young man should be, too. My father was not a terribly imposing man, but right then he looked about 7 feet tall. The young man meekly apologized, and went on his way.
My dad truly became my hero that day, and he remained my hero for the rest of his life. We made a “cross country” drive together when I was stationed in San Diego, Ca, and had to move from Fayetteville, Arkansas. During that trip I learned more about my dad than I thought possible. I learned he had been a race car driver, worked for the CIA (making spy gadgets), and worked at a TV station to put himself through college. My dad was an amazing man, and whenever I tell his stories I honor him.
My father died on Christmas Day 2010. It was sudden, and unexpected. He had a stroke in the afternoon. Although technically his body lived until December 26th, his brain (and the man who was my father), died on December 25th, so that is the day I say he passed on. He lived a great life, and I miss him. I think of him often, and always with love and joy. I am lucky that I am Harry Kaufman’s daughter. I do my best to honor him by living my life to be the best I can be and always strive to do better.