OK, this is a tough one to write. Just a couple of hours ago my father left this world for the next. Basically he started dying when he totaled out his beloved Caddy this Spring. He mostly stopped eating and drinking and he lost tons of weight he really did not have to spare and eventually just did not have the energy to live.
My father, John Delore Clary was born in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression. He had a checkered academic career through the ’40s and joined the Navy during the Korean War. He was assigned as a cargo handler in the Philippines then was moved through different MOS until he became a Communications Technician, Operations in the very early 1960s, becoming part of the Naval Communications Security Group, Supplementary Radio, keeping Navy Intelligence in communication with the Pentagon using the latest technology of the day. He stayed with SecGru for the rest of his military career retiring after 22 years in 1972.
Along the way while he as in the Navy he met and married my mother during the Suez Crisis of 1956, when most of the wedding party was confined to base at the beginning of the crisis. This put a slight damper on the event, as you can imagine. They managed to stay married until my Mom died in 2005.
After leaving the Navy in 1972 he initially took a teaching job as Assistant Naval Science Instructor at the NJROTC unit at Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City UT, where I went to school. After politics from his Navy career caught up to him he lost his teaching certificate and went to work for Lien Chemical servicing restrooms (and making more money than he did teaching). Eventually he got tired of the near-theocracy in Utah and moved to be closer to my Mom’s family in TN, finding a house in LaVergne, and a job not far away that he managed to keep until he retired in 1995. He enjoyed his retirement immensely until this year.
That was the chronology, the easy part. Now comes the hard part, the emotional part. What my Father meant to me. I can honestly write that the hardest thing that ever happened to me was watching my Dad decline so precipitously this year, from a man that could literally throw around a ton of cargo nearly bare-handed, to a frail shell that I could pick up with one arm. I spent hours trying to get him to eat, to take in water or other fluids, to just make the effort to survive. I managed for a while to keep him going, but eventually the battle must be lost, as nobody lives forever.
Dad taught me the meaning of the word “craftmanship”, as he taught me to work with tools and make things. For a while I actually thought I could do anything I wanted if I could just get the right tools to do the job because of what Dad taught me. He built an actual ocean-going boat with his own hands during the late ’40s that was still going as late as 1966 when I saw it. I don’t remember too much about it because of that being a rather busy time in my life but I do know I saw the boat in the water sometime in the fall of 1966, that my Dad had made with his own hands before joining the Navy in 1950. Inspired by his example, I have been making things my entire life.
About the only thing my Dad couldn’t do was cook on a stove. Those rare times when Mom wasn’t around to cook we had mostly TV dinners when Dad was in charge of the menu. He could grill the heck out of a steak, but had little clue when it came time to use pots and pans. Actually after I got the cooking merit badge in Scouts I did most of the cooking when Mom was away. This was another reason why I used to think I could make anything given the right tools and raw materials…
I learned much from Dad. How to be stern, when to be merciful, and when to be merciless. How to love. How to be a complete human being.
I will miss him, but thanks to my brain damage I don’t miss him very much. I think that is about the only “good” thing about brain damage.