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My father was in overalls, and sometimes in hot water

Since this is the month to honor fathers, I decided to introduce you to mine. His name was Andrew but the only living soul to call him that was Hazel, my mother. Everyone else referred to him as Andy because that seemed a better fit for such a smiley, easy-going type of guy. He was the kind of person who, when anyone needed a ride or help of any kind, seemed only too happy to oblige. My mother, however, felt people were taking advantage of him and she didn’t refrain from telling him so.

My parents were definitely cut from different bolts of fabric. If they’d lived in today’s computer age and signed up on Match.com, they’d never have been paired up with each other. Somehow, however, they figured out how to make it work, and it lasted for over 40 years.

Andy’s whole work career was spent in overalls, or jeans as we call them today. He didn’t wear them, he made them. He worked his way up from being the cutter of all that denim, to the plant manager, and the workers all loved having him for a boss. The fact that all these workers were women, however, caused my mother to go through a brief but intense period of jealousy. She thought surely that all those “factory hussies” were pursuing her Andrew. Well, I visited the factory on numerous occasions and believe me, those poor women (who were paid on a piece-work basis) sweated and toiled so hard over those whirring sewing machines all day that by nighttime they were in no shape to be having affairs with my father.

He prided himself on never missing a single day of work throughout his career—that is, until the famous weekend of the Annual Legion Clambake. It seems he had one drink too many and injured his leg in a fall, thus missing an entire week at the factory. That really hurt his pride, and as you might imagine, it didn’t set well with Hazel either.

Yes, my father enjoyed his libations. After work, he would do the grocery shopping at the A&P, then head for the Legion Home where he would enjoy a few beers with his pals. When he’d finally get home, my mother would be waiting for him at the door, arms folded and in a mood as cold as the dinner that she’d planned to serve hot an hour earlier. I used to give him the benefit of the doubt, however, and credit him for at least remembering to do the grocery shopping. Not many fathers did that back then.

As far as I know, the only other love of Andy’s life (besides Hazel) was his garden. We’re not talking beans and squash here, we are talking about rows and rows of beautiful gladioli, as far as the eye could see. Beyond planting and feeding them, he cross-bred them, creating new shades and textures. He was a self-taught master gardener, and even when some of his varieties would win Blue Ribbons at the prestigious Boston Flower Show, the family didn’t make much of it. I guess we figured that all fathers devoted themselves to such endeavors.

Although fairly strict with my older siblings, Andy mellowed by the time I came along. I was spoiled, with hardly any rules to follow at all. So few, in fact, that one night when I was a high school senior heading out the door for a party I turned to my father and said, “My friends all have curfews – they have rules about when to get home. You’ve never given me any.” He looked at me a minute, then with that big grin of his he said, “OK. How about 11 o’clock?” “Fine,” I replied, and off I went, smiling.

I suppose there is no such thing as a perfect father, any more than there is a perfect anything. They come with their own gifts and shortcomings like the rest of us and we love them just the same. Even Hazel would have to agree with that — overalls, gardens, late dinners and all.

Happy Father’s Day!

Joann Snow Duncanson, former Peterborough resident now living in Greenland, is the author of “Who Gets the Yellow Bananas?,” co-author of “Breakfast in the Bathtub” and author of her latest book, “Eight Crayons - Poems and Stories by an Almost Sane Woman.” She can be reached via her website www.jsnowduncanson. com or email ourbooks@ worldpath.net.

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