A Father’s Day Tribute ~ Outside the Margins with Hank Edwards

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Hank Edwards OtM

My posting day this month falls on Father’s Day, so I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about my father.

I am the youngest of his three children and his only son. When I was born, he quit smoking, mostly to save money since he now had three children. He may have resented me just a little bit for that. My two sisters were eight and six years older than me, so I spent a lot of time with my Mom before starting school and so I learned how to entertain myself. My mother taught me to read in the basement of our first house just south of 8 Mile Road on the very edge of Detroit. I can still remember sitting pressed against her side on the big, scratchy sleeper sofa in the basement as the washing machine and dryer did their thing, looking at Dick and Jane and Dr. Seuss books. I was reading before I got to kindergarten, and I was surprised other kids weren’t able to read. My Mom did a great job of teaching me to read.

I may be digressing, but had to add some back story so you’d understand that I 1) learned to read early on; and 2) entertained myself a lot.

My imagination was unstoppable. I loved movies and would use my stuffed animals to reenact my favorites. I also started writing sequels of favorite movies and took to reading more and more adult books. My parents tried to get me to be a “normal” little boy and enrolled me in tee ball, ice skating lessons, swimming lessons, and even tennis lessons. I struck out at tee ball (seriously, who does that?!), flipped over the rope marking off our lesson area on the ice rink during skating lessons and cracked my head (again, how does this happen?!), and I hated tennis. Swimming, however, I took to like a fish. I think it’s because I was born under the sign of Cancer, a water sign. Anyway, all through these trail and errors, my Dad patiently suggested activities and let me drop out once I proved to be slightly inept at them. I did join Cub Scouts, and Dad helped me build my Pinewood Derby car (it’s kind of a rite of passage thing in scouts), and I think we both were surprised to see that other Dads did not follow the build guidelines and really stylized their cars. The car Dad and I built looked like the diagram and I had asked for it to be painted orange (later on in life, I would own and orange car … apparently I love that color). I lost my race, but I still remember the two of us standing looking at the mini Batmobiles and drag racers I was to go up against and we might have even shared a thought: That wasn’t how it was supposed to look!

In 1977, it was my Dad who took me and my friends to see Star Wars, and that movie expanded my imagination to infinite proportions. He endured my craving for all things Star Wars after that: action figures, toys, pajamas, bed sheets, and all the Star Wars “spin-offs” I wrote and drew afterwards. He read my comic strips and stories and gave me praise as he pointed out spelling mistakes (Dad was a great speller). He encouraged me to read, but to also balance that out with being outdoors.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts arrived not long after I saw Star Wars: a Super 8 movie camera and projector. I. Was. Ecstatic. Literally over the moon excited. I know it was probably all my Mom’s idea, but, get this: my Dad agreed to play Obi-Wan Kenobi in my version of Star Wars. Yes, he did. I played Darth Vader, and we had a light saber duel that was epic. I got the film back and spent hours editing it together and using a pin to scratch laser blasts into each frame—which most likely explains my poor vision today.

My Dad supported all of my crazy obsessions as I grew up. He even read some of my early short stories and called them “really good.” He paid for me to attend college, and even leased me a Chevette to get me there and back safely. My Mom would send me letters (this was way before Internet and email and mobile phones) and include books of stamps, and every now and then I would receive a box of cookies or brownies. I didn’t talk to my Dad very often, but Mom always wrote that he had said “Hello,” and that he loved me. And when I was home for a weekend or break, he encouraged me to make friends, to look people in the eye and smile and to have a firm handshake, all things I do today when I’m out in public or at my day job. I remember, though, that I could always count on him to have a pack of Juicy Fruit gum in the top drawer of his dresser. He chewed it a lot, maybe to hide the smell of beer from a work lunch, or a cigarette he might have snuck on the way home, or just to help with agitation over job stress. Whatever the reason, he always had Juicy Fruit gum, and to this day the smell of it immediately makes me think of him.

Dad suffered a minor heart attack when I was a sophomore in college. It was over Easter weekend, so I was home at the time, and we took him to the hospital. A lot of health issues happened after that, including a triple bypass, internal bleeding during which my Mom and oldest sister thought we were going to lose him as the doctors called a minister for last rites, and several other surgeries, including having his gall bladder removed. Through it all, Dad persevered with quiet dignity, never complaining, never snapping at others, and always saying “Please,” and “Thank you,” to the nurses and doctors. He was every nurse’s favorite patient. When he recovered, Mom and Dad traveled a lot. They drove around the country seeing the sites and sending back postcards. They spent summers at our family cabin on a lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They threw a big party to celebrate 50 years of marriage together.

In 2007 Dad suffered a stroke. It affected his entire left side. They were away from home when it happened, so he spent a summer in mid-Michigan at a nursing home/rehabilitation center. My mother stayed with my sister who lived in that area and I made a trip over every other weekend. Finally, my mother decided enough was enough, and she wanted him back home. So we managed to get him in their van and I drove them back to the house where I had grown up, just 2 miles from where I live today.

For three years my mother cared for Dad on her own. Insurance covered some in home care, but my Mom did most of the work. I helped out, a lot, as did my sisters. It was difficult to watch Dad deteriorate. He tried to build up his leg muscles to be able to walk again, he worked hard at it, but the stroke had just done too much damage. His mind was still sharp and his dry as dust sense of humor was still intact. It was rewarding during that time to be able to get the familiar chuckle out of him we all loved. That is one thing I truly miss: Dad’s laugh. It was hearty and resonated throughout his whole, skinny frame, and when he really got going he would squint his dark brown eyes and tip back in his chair. We watched the movie Porky’s one night years ago on cable TV and he and I were hit with long bouts of laughter at the ridiculousness on screen. It’s a great memory, a simple but a cherished one.

During those three years I would go over to their house at least once a week in the evening to give Mom a night off. I would talk with Dad, and usually give him a shower and help him use the bathroom. It was quite the role reversal, and one I’d seen played out in movies and books over the years, but when it’s the man who raised you, it tends to hit home pretty hard. It was great to finally have time to talk with Dad, but sad in a way, too. When I had been growing up, he was always on the go, always fixing something around the house, putzing at his workbench in the basement (an old door laid across two sawhorses, a setup I have mimicked in my own basement), or cleaning something up or out working in the yard. He had never been one to just sit and talk very often. After his stroke, he never got to do downstairs to his workbench again, and he never got to work out in the yard. During my visits, we talked about a lot of things, but there are still hours of conversations I wished I’d thought to start with him. Hindsight is, indeed, 20/20.

A series of mini-strokes took his ability to communicate effectively just before Father’s Day in 2010. He could only manage some coherent words, the rest was garbled sounds, and it was heartbreaking. He had always been so well-spoken, it seemed especially cruel for Fate or Destiny or whatever rules the cosmos to take that away from him.

When he lost his ability to communicate, he also refused to eat and drink. We still aren’t sure if this was a conscious choice he made to end his own suffering, or if that instinctual need to eat and drink was affected by the strokes. Whichever it was, we waited with him for nine days, talking to him, comforting him as best we could until, finally, he took his last breath just after midnight on June 24, 2010. My mother, one of my sisters, and I were with him when he died. It was raining hard that night, a fierce thunderstorm that delayed the hospice nurse for a hour or more. Because he died at home, they had to have a police come in and check to make sure his body did not show signs of abuse. By 3:30 AM the funeral home attendants had taken him away and left an artificial rose on his pillow. My mother still has that rose in a vase on her dresser.

On my 45th birthday, I eulogized my father and we buried him in a nearby cemetery. After the obligatory lunch in the church basement, my sister invited us over to her house and surprised me with a cake and some presents, one of which was a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. It was a bittersweet birthday, of course.

This year, I will be 50. I have published a novel titled Repossession is 9/10ths of the Law, and the main character’s father, Everly, is partially based on my father. I used a few of his more infamous quirks and sayings, and embellished others to give Everly the snap and sizzle he required. I recently gave a copy to my mother, and she enjoyed it, recognized quite a few of my Dad’s idiosyncrasies, and told me he’d be proud.

So today, on Father’s Day, I’d like to honor my father by telling all of you what a good and gentle man he was, and how he helped me become the man I am today. I was very fortunate to have two loving parents, I know many people were not so lucky. It’s been five years that he’s been gone, and I like to think he’s earned whatever a truly good and kind final reward.

Happy Father’s Day to all of you, not just those who are fathers, but all who nurture and love someone else. Embrace that side of you today, and give yourself some kind of gift, even a small one. Maybe a larger size coffee from your favorite takeout place; another 10 minutes in bed; another chapter of that new book you’re reading. Whatever it is, enjoy it, and thank you for putting that kindness and love out into the world.

~Hank Edwards

Repossession_finalcvr

Title: Repossession is 9/10ths of the Law
Author: Hank Edwards
Publisher: Wilde City
Publication Date: 08/27/2014
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Genre: Gay Fiction, Mystery

Blurb:

Alan Baxter barely scrapes by working as a deejay in suburban Detroit. To make ends meet, he takes a job as an automobile repossession agent, and discovers his very first assignment is a car owned by his drug dealer ex-boyfriend. On top of that, a body is discovered in the trunk…by a cop. Soon Alan’s life is completely upturned as he is pulled into a mystery involving more bodies, a highly lethal new street drug, a mysterious man with a top hat and cane, raging dwarves, a house fire, a cranky police detective, and his crankier cat!

Excerpt

Now, I follow my dad up and down aisles until he has moved all his coupons for this store from one mysterious section of his binder to another. We get in line behind a group of old men wearing three-piece suits, and my father strikes up a conversation with them, introducing me. I shake hands with each of the men, careful not to squeeze too hard and grind their arthritic joints together.

“What a good son you are,” one of them says. “What does your wife think of you taking your father shopping?”

“Oh, he’s not married,” my father jumps in, and I feel my cheeks start to burn.

“Dad …” I say in a low, warning tone.

“Alan isn’t allowed to marry whom he wishes to, because he’s gay.”

The men in their suits blink at him for a moment then blink at me before they turn their backs on us and murmur to each other in thick, wet whispers.

I sigh and glare at him. “Why do you insist on doing that?”

“What? I should be ashamed of you and hide it? Love is love.”

“Not that, the fact that you have to blurt it out every time you introduce me,” I reply. “It’s embarrassing.”

He points a finger at me, his expression suddenly so serious I pull back my head as if about to be struck. “Don’t ever be embarrassed about who you are. You are a great man, and I want everyone to know that.”

“Bully for you,” the woman in the next lane snarls. “Nobody cares.”

My father waves her off and smiles at me. It is an unnerving smile, a shark’s smile. “You should never be ashamed to be who you want to be. The hell with the rest of them.”

“Yeah, that’s nice and all, but you don’t have to shove it in people’s faces, Dad,” I say as we shuffle forward in line. The men in front of us fumble their goods onto the conveyor belt, and my father watches their antics with a smile.

“Ah, the more they hear about it and see it, the more accepted it becomes,” he replies.

“I don’t want to see none of that gay sex,” one of the suited men says. “It’s not natural. Marriage is one man and one woman.”

“Oh God,” I moan and rest my forehead on the cart handle, wishing I could fade away.

“Tell that to the Mormons,” my father snaps. He continues to pontificate to the men who pontificate back, and soon seniors from other checkout lanes join in the debate until the manager comes up and asks my father to please keep quiet. I shrug at the manager, someone we now know by first name as this has happened several times before, and he shakes his head as he walks off, leaving the chastised senior shoppers grumbling quietly behind him.

Links

Repossession is 9/10ths of the Law on Goodreads
Wilde City
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

About Hank Edwards

Hank Edwards is a curious mix of practical realist and feral dreamer, with over a dozen books published. His body of work covers a host of genres from gay romance to humor, paranormal to suspense, and mystery to time travel romance.

He is also a member of the Story Orgy group (www.facebook.com/SOGroup), a clan of writers who post free gay romance reads to their blogs every Monday morning and self-publish steamy stories based on writing prompts. Find his posts atwww.hankedwardsbooks.com/hankerings.

Like his Facebook pages (www.facebook.com/hankedwardsbooks or www.facebook.com/venomvalleyseries), favorite his Amazon page (www.amazon.com/author/hankedwards), and follow him on Twitter (@hanksbooks) to become a true “Hankie.” You may also visit his website at www.hankedwardsbooks.com or send along an email to hankedwardsbooks@gmail.com.
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Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
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6 thoughts on “A Father’s Day Tribute ~ Outside the Margins with Hank Edwards

  1. What a lovely tribute to your dad. Mine has been gone 29 years and I still miss him every day. Beautiful memories help though 🙂

  2. Tears and hugs. I can relate to every word, from the SW movie-going to the reading and the gum… except mine is mom, gone a year and a half ago, and her gum of choice in the early years was Black Jack. 😉
    Thank you for sharing this and I’m betting your family will love reading this, too.

  3. A beautiful post, Hank, not only for you father but your mom as well. I’m happy you’ve had such a close, loving relationship with both of them. Good memories. Thank you for sharing them with us.

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