The above portrait, circa 1937, is my Dad. He is clearly taunting the photographer with an imaginary gun. I imagine him chanting “Pew! Pew! Pew!” for twenty minutes straight.
The mischief glistening in Dad’s eyes shines two generations later in my son. Grandma must have tried every trick she knew to settle him down for annual photographs. Heh.
I can also imagine my five year old father, overwhelmed by the long trip and fuss at the studio. Disregulated, he hosted the spirit of tomfoolery to escape the photo shoot.
Either that or he thought his antics were hilarious, which, 75 years later, they are.
At eight, my father found himself advanced to fifth grade. Although his academic skills were off the charts, he struggled with his teachers. Messy handwriting plagued him. The above teacher almost failed him in mathematics. She did not believe he could solve math problems in his head.
My father struggled socially. He thought differently, he acted differently and he behaved differently. Although he likely had the highest IQ in the state of Tennessee, scorn rained down from all sides. Adults, peers and teachers treated him shamefully.
I will not recount such ugliness.
I will celebrate my father’s post high school triumph:
The fellow up front, beaming and wearing a beret is my dad. At seventeen he taught organic chemistry lab at the local college. A few years ago one of his students tracked Dad down and sent this picture. At the university, my dad found his place. No one belittled my enthusiastic, spirited father. He was roundly adored and respected.
I could write pages about my father’s exciting Hemmingway-esque life. I leave you with this instead:
My Father is an Aspie Patriarch. He struggled against an ignorant, sometimes cruel world. He wielded his strengths to move forward and provide for his family. No matter his hardship, he retained a soul-deep sweetness and sincerity, endearing him to students, co-workers and friends.
I love you Dad. I am super-proud of all your hard work and good cheer. Carry on!
Digital elements: Christina Renee, Creashens, Beth Rimmer, family archives.