Monday, June 17, 2013

My Dad: A Father's Day Reverie

My Dad: A Father's Day Reverie

My Dad, Leo Michael Jackson, and Me.
  My dad,
He carried me on his shoulders.  While we sang God Bless America like Kate Smith.

He won thirteen turtles at the Cathedral Chapel Church Bazaar with a special spin he put on the ping pong ball that plopped them right into the fish bowl. These were magic turtles. They spent a year hiding in the bushes when I took them out for a walk and I found them the following Spring.

My dad loved flowers especially roses. He created a flower garden on the lot next to our house. We were poor then but that garden was my fairyland. Belle of Portugal roses grew on the vine that sheltered the rest of the yard from the prying eyes of cars on Rimpau Blvd. 

Once my dad brought home a surprise. A kite. We both loved flying kites. But this was no ordinary kite. This was a weather kite and it was big enough to carry me off. However in Los Angeles we never had a wind big enough to take it airborne. He was so hurt when I told him we couldn’t fly it. He was a very sensitive guy so I always had to watch myself.


My dad had a dark somber side. He loved the music of Wagner, Mahler, Verdi and Beethoven. He loved Verdi’s Aide, and Wagner’s Die Fleidermaus. His music would sap my energy. It felt as though my veins were filled with molasses instead of blood. I would beg him to turn it off; it filled me with sadness.

My dad was generous. When I told him that the high school needed a new organ, that cost $500. He wrote a check and handed it to me to give to Mother Eucharia.

My dad loved Mary, God’s mother. He always told my mother, “When you go to heaven you’ll be thanking St. Anthony, St. Joseph, St. Jude. while I’ll just go straight to Mary’s throne and say, ‘Thank you My Lady”.

My dad was a hard worker. He started with Hancock Dental Supplies as a stock boy around 1930. A salesman in the 40’s; and in 1950ish the company was renamed Hancock and Jackson and he became a full partner. 

My dad was honest. When Mister Hancock changed his will on his death bed leaving the business to his sister and the Mormon Church, my dad did not tear up the new will even though he was the only one who knew about it. He went to court and got the business fair and square.  

Sister Maria Ancilla, My mother's cousin.
When I went in the convent, My dad wrote me a love letter. He said that his heart was filled with love for his daughter. He always told me that when I came of age, he would go out and get drunk because is work was done. His world revolved around his only daughter and her mother. 

I entered the convent in 1959, and my dad wept as he said good bye at the convent gate. And every visiting Sunday he wept again. Yet, He was so proud the day I became a novice. That day he felt as though his work on earth was finished. So he wrote a letter to Sister Maria Ancilla, my mother’s cousin saying as much. 

It was a cold day in January I was in a music lesson with my dear mentor, Sister Mathias Martin. We were preparing for Sunday High Mass. I was in ecstasy when there was a knock on the music room door and a nun, white as a ghost summoned me to the Office of the Mistress of Novices. I thought I was in big trouble…. Again. I wasn’t in trouble, “Your father suddenly died of a heart attack.” Hit me in the face as though I had run into a brick wall. He hadn’t dropped dead he simply squatted down to admire the trim on the sliding door he had just installed on the back porch,  rolled over onto his side and died of a broken heart. Earth shattering was a term my father used a lot. And, his death shattered my world. 

I slammed the door shut for years. I didn’t sing, I could barely remember him. It was just too painful. Fueled by my grief, I set out to change the world. The civil rights movement, anti-war movement, I joined the Chicago Anti-Imperialist Collective, The Chicago Latin American Movement, The Medical Committee for Human Rights, the Anti-Nuclear Movement, The Women’s Movement. The Anti-War movement again, the Women’s movement again, and most recently the Equal Rights Movement.

My dad always wanted me to go to Stanford since Notre Dame didn’t take girls. So I got a BA, a BS, an MS, and a Phd instead and became a nurse and an anthropologist.

I taught, I nursed, I fought the Church and tried to figure out what I believed about God, Mary and the Saints.I returned to my Celtic/Catholic heritage honoring the Divine Feminine but not in the traditional church. 

Now I’m retired. I’m singing again, and I’ve begun to remember how much I loved my father and how much he loved me. 

My father was a caring man. I am so grateful for the life he shared with me, and for his contribution to my being who I am for indeed, I am my father’s daughter.

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