Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day and I'm paying tribute to the man I call Daddy. Robert Leroy McNally. Born and raised in Lincoln, IL during the depression, the youngest, the baby of the family. His mother and my namesake, Brenda Turner McNally, as a single mom, raised her kids with the help of her parents during the Great Depression. Dad's family was poor, dirt poor....but then, so were most of the people in the Midwest during the 1930's. His older brother and sisters looked out for him and to hear Daddy tell it, they had a great life. Looking on the bright side is one of the characteristics Daddy has passed onto me. It's a lot more fun than always complaining about the things you cannot have.

His older siblings left home and married and early in his teens tragedy struck. An automobile accident took the lives of his mother, grandmother and grandfather. Dad doesn't talk much about it, but he moved to the tiny town of Bement, Illinois to live with his older married sister and family. Bement is now larger than it was in those days.....1800 residents and that's counting the surrounding farms. It looks much as it did so very many years ago....a central square with a memorial to those who have fought in every war since the Civil War...Dad's name is right there under World War II. He lied about his age in order to join up when his country needed him. We've never heard much about the War, but Dad flew over Europe and along with so many of his young counterparts, saved the world from a Mad Man and it is because of them we are able to live in this great land. I don't think my generation will ever appreciate that fully.

After the War, he followed family members to California, the land of jobs and opportunities. He met my mom, Marcella Pontious and shortly thereafter they married. A picture of them taken at the time shows them grinning at my grandparent's home in Mentone, CA. Mom was 32 and Dad was 26. A year and a half later I came along. I don't know if Dad ever worried about being a great father.....after all, he didn't have a role model to follow. His Dad had never been in the picture. But Daddy was and is the best Father I could have had. I was the first born and the only girl. I was a princess! I could wrap him around my little finger (probably still can!). Daddy was there for all my school events, my Camp Fire Girl programs, praised me when I got good grades and pushed me to achieve better things when I slacked off. I wanted him to be proud of me, but I also knew without a shadow of a doubt he loved me exactly as I was.

Daddy and I shared a love for musical theatre. I remember him taking me to see My Fair Lady, South Pacific and more. He'd ask me for a date and we'd go to Chinatown in LA for dinner and then to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to see a musical. He took us camping and taught me how to fish and clean a trout. He was THERE for me. I could ask him anything. He sang silly songs and had a million stock phrases ("Tired of walking? Let's run awhile!"). He prepared me to become an adult by slowly giving me privileges as I grew. He wasn't prepared for me to fall in love so young and marry at 20, but he gave me away anyway. We both shed a few tears as we walked down the aisle.

And then I moved with my new husband 850 miles away. I probably broke his heart. But we kept up with weekly phone calls and letters. He was visiting without my Mom when Bill and I first shared the news that we were expecting a baby. I'll never forget his face. He was so proud! His baby was having a baby. As each of the girls were born, Daddy held them, loved them and gave them a nickname. Despite the distance Daddy has kept a close relationship with the girls.

When I told Dad about the store I was going to open he became one of my biggest cheerleaders. Wherever he travels he's quick to tell people that HIS daughter owns Scottie Dog Quilts. His years in business have provided me with a wealth of wisdom. His example of unselfish giving of one's time and talents to the community at large has been one that has been embraced by both his children and grandchildren.

Daddy and Mom were married 50 years. The last couple of years Mom was alive he continued to honor her with all the love and devotion a man can give a woman. Their life was full, their marriage one to emulate. Those last years, Dad learned how to do laundry, cook for himself and clean up. When Mom passed, a light went out of Dad. I wondered if we'd ever see a spark again. Then I got a call.....Dad said he had been spending time with an old friend from Bement. Some one he'd known in high school. And so Willa Mae Maderas McNally came into our lives. We could trust Dad to find a lovely woman the 2nd time around and he has. Willie is perfect for Dad in his golden years. And golden they are! They are still traveling the country, enjoying friends and family. Dad still has so much wisdom, wit and humor to give.

Thanks Daddy, for all you've given me. I am who I am because of you. I love you. I"m so very proud to be your daughter. Happy Father's Day.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a fitting tribute to a great guy! I love your dad...he's got such a fun sense of humor and it's obvious that his legacy has passed on to you and your daughters because you are wonderful women too! (Ok, I think Bill gets a little credit there too!)/Bev

jen duncan said...

Brenda--That was hands down THE best dad post. Ever. What a gift for your dad to read!

Carol E. said...

Great tribute and a very interesting history! I had a great dad, too. I miss him and can't believe he has been gone 6&1/2 years!

The Hachés said...

I love your dad!!!!!!!!!!! (and not just because he's my gramps!)
That was beautiful mom!
-beks