Happy Jack

Some called my dad, “Happy Jack”.

And a happy fellow he was.

But he wasn’t quite like the other dads on the block.

Putting a hammer or fishing pole in his hands would surely put you at risk.

Dad’s passions ran more towards community, family, and friends.

Always a people person even though I knew he was a little shy.

Dad’s jobs in advertising and public relations gave him unique opportunities that his kids thought were pretty cool.

Like organizing ping pong drops by helicopters at shopping malls for promotion purposes. Each little ball caught by eager tiny hands below would win the toy or book neatly stamped on it.

And dad’s volunteer work in the community gave us the chance to meet personalities with names we’d only heard about on radio or TV.

Like politicians and actors who came to town to appear in festivals and ride in parades. I was taught early to play hostess to my favorite childhood stars like Captain Kangaroo when Dad was busy.

The Captain, played by Bob Keeshan, was on network television in the ’50s to the early ’90s.

Looking back, it’s no surprise that the we spent so much of our time together with other people.

Like visiting with my piano playing grandmother, staff, and the other residents in the memory unit of her care facility every Saturday morning.

He’d charm each and every one.

And also those sweet ladies generously giving out free samples to us at the grocery store afterwards.

He’d bring smiles to their faces, too.

Mom always seemed to wonder what took us so long.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Dad this week, ever since driving by Grandma’s old care facility on my way to an art class.

And again when I met up with two pleasant Wisconsin restauranteurs giving free samples at the same grocery store where I used to shop with Dad every week.

On their sample menu were wild Swedish lingonberries on pancakes.

My dad sure loved his ritual of weekend pancakes.

And his loving Scandinavian wife.

One of the restauranteurs went on to tell me their restaurant keeps goats on the grass roof in the summer to graze and amaze visitors. And they have for years.

The restaurant even has a goat cam and the lucky animals enjoy a summer parade.

Now those are the kind of promotions Dad would have adored.

I bought myself one big jar of those wild berries.

So this Father’s Day in honor of both my folks, and their kids (who are now old goats themselves), I’ll be enjoying delicious lingonberries on pancakes.

And this goat ‘Wacky Jackie’, Happy Jack’s namesake, will surely be promoting smiles to the heavens with every last bite.

Angel food

Grandma’s infamous ‘Angel Pie’ recipe fell off my bulletin board in the kitchen this morning.

Picking it off the floor, it seemed like an invitation to a party of memories.

And just the perfect one, flying my direction on Father’s Day.

In my seasoned life, more family members have departed than remain. Yet remembrances are rich and still full of life.

And every June, I imagine these special family members having their own holiday picnic in Grandma’s backyard. I see Grandpa, Dad, and my husband smiling as the main meal is brought out. Soon they’re devouring crispy fried chicken and fresh butter slathered sweet corn on Grandma’s signature blue and white tablecloths.

And there I am, watching every bite from the swing.

It’s about to turn even sweeter as Mom starts serving strawberries laced with sugar laden whip cream on Angel Food Cake.

And then the back porch screen door bangs in the breeze as Grandma proudly presents her mile high Angel Pie to the fathers on their sacred day.

She slices one big piece for a Grandpa who built a second swing inside the garage for his granddaughter. He knew as his health further deteriorated, he could still watch that granddaughter swing from his kitchen chair.

And Grandma slices another for a Dad who played an active role in raising his daughter, in an era when it wasn’t the norm.

And then a third, for a husband who was passionate about adopting a non English speaking 12 year. His unconditional love would prove to shine the brightest in the toughest of those teen years.

After the feast, I watch the women shake the tablecloths clean to tuck them away for the next holiday.

The three wise and loving men in front of me pat their full bellies, looking content.

And it seems the granddaughter, daughter and wife is content as well looking up at the majestic clouds in the sky

But she is also hungry.

Soon the woman takes a journey to the bakery in search of her own slice of Angel Pie.

She’s found there is nothing like a little food for the soul.

Jokester Jack

There’s always been something disturbing and wrong with this picture.

I’m not in it.

A few minutes before I’d dashed into the bedroom for cover, diving deep below heavy blankets.

I was terrified of the crazed looking stranger who had entered the the living room, unannounced.

Just what had this horrible person done to dear old dad, who’d disappeared?

And why wasn’t Mom crying?

Or my sister or brother, either?

Shaking, I thought I heard laughter.

The man slowly plodded down the hall in heavy boots splattered with blood red paint, then abruptly opened the door knob to my room.

Quickly stripping his disguise, the crazy man yelled “Happy Halloween” and convinced me that he was just ‘Jokester Jack’.

A.K.A. my father.

Dad’s always been known for his sharp wit.

There wasn’t one ounce of stoic Norwegian hemoglobin in that man’s blood.

Growing up in my family the ‘wait till you father gets home’ lines never worked as they sharply spewed off Mom’s tongue.

We knew Dad was just one smiling pussycat.

He was much more likely to fill the sugar bowl with salt on April Fool’s Day, then ever yell at us for spilling it over.

So with his humor it was no wonder Dad found his way into a career into advertising and public relations, playing the role in a used, but sparking black Thunderbird.

Until he realized he couldn’t comfortably squeeze us into it.

And we were his pride and joy, not his image.

Looking back I’m amazed at the resilience of Dad’s humor and zest after a tough childhood and the atrocities seen while serving in the Army in World War II.

Yet maybe those life skills grew over the years because of both experiences.

Even during Dad’s final days with Alzheimer’s, he still often wore a smile and had a twinkle in his eye.

I hope I’m just as lucky.

I’ve heard it was my parents’ intention when I was born that I be named after my father.

But life surprised them with a ‘Jackie’ instead of a ‘Jack, Jr’.

Though they did add one creative twist of their own.

I was christened with the nickname of ‘Wacky Jackie’.

I know I have a long way to go to live up to Dad’s sense of humor.

So in honor of Dad this Father’s Day, I’ll be adding wacky humor to my bucket list.

Father’s Day: It was going so well…

I was doing well with it being Father’s Day. My Dad’s been gone a while now and this isn’t the first year my husband’s been in a late stage with his dementia. I’d had a good morning. But then I made the mistake of going into a town near here.

I drove by a lake with a restaurant that’s very popular on special occasions and particularly on beautiful days. My husband and I used to go there with my Mom and Dad. This afternoon the loss of my parents and my husband’s condition just hit me all of a sudden, right there in the middle of an intersection.

I saw so many families going out to lunch with their kids, crossing the street to the restaurant. It could have been my family except for the SUVs and fancy boats driving up, instead of Dad’s old white Oldsmobile.

It didn’t help that I spent the afternoon doing laundry, yard work, tracking down a notary on a Sunday, and convincing my corgi to drop a field mouse before bringing it into the house.

I’m taking a walk now and tracking down a chocolate chip ice cream cone. That should help.

For my daughter on Father’s Day

Although our daughter has been with us in the U.S for eleven years, more than half of those years my husband has been suffering with dementia. She’s learned much about him in that short time. But I thought, on this special day, I’d also share with her the initial reactions when Dad was first introduced to some special family members. It will be something to add to her memory book.

-Your Great Grandma Esther liked Dad because he was “so smart”.
-Your Great Grandma Hazel liked Dad because he was “so cute”.
-Your Grandpa and Grandma liked Dad because he so was so nice to me.
-Your Mom liked Dad because he was so funny.

And when Dad first met you, he adored the spunky, sweet girl who immediately put a smile on his face. I know you still do, which is the best Father’s Day present you can possibly give him.


All the rain lately is making everybody a little blue. But during a break between storms this afternoon, a walk in the gardens showed how beautiful the blooms have become.

I’m happy to report my sump pump is still running, and that we’ll see the sun tomorrow for all the fathers on their special day.