Today, we celebrate Father’s Day. My dad died in 1992, but there are few days that I don’t think about him and the impact he had on my life. He was not what most people would consider a well-educated man, but his knowledge was boundless.
I was born when my dad was 44. These days, no one would blink at that, but in 1951, my dad was considered to be almost a geriatric father. He used to joke that he would be one of the few dads eligible for Social Security when his daughter was in kindergarten. He had three sons from his first marriage and one of them had two daughters before I was born, so, I was born an aunt. Being the only daughter, I of course was the princess.
My dad worked for the telephone company, but his vocation was photography. He had a way of seeing things in a way that others would simply ignore. I always knew when he was about to make magic with his camera. He would suddenly stop and say, “This has real possibilities.” He would set up his camera (long before the digital age), would get out his light meter, and took pictures that told a story.
I, of course, was one of the most photographed children outside royalty. One picture of me sitting in a high chair with an oversized pajama top and an upside down book won photographic competitions all over the world. It was then transposed into a painting by a well-known artist and hung in my parents home until the house was sold. It now hangs in my living room.
My dad loved to travel and explore. It was during our yearly vacations that I learned so much about the world outside my own realm. We traveled to the South when I was 12 where I, for the first time in my life, witnessed segregation. We went to Indian reservations in New Mexico where I learned about the real Native Americans. When I was 16, we went to Europe where my view of the world expanded even further. Dad was a true renaissance man in that he had the ability to build almost anything. He loved the challenges of the world and surrounded himself with friends of all professions.
My godfather was a professor at the University of Illinois. We received wonderful Christmas cards every year from Myrtle Walgreen who used to love going into her drug stores and be a secret shopper.
I am blessed with a second wonderful father in my life. He’s the amazing step-father to my son and the father to his own three boys. He and my dad would have shared so many interests in travel, creating, and even the love of their children. Sadly, they never met, but on this Sunday I will honor the two very special fathers of different generations who have graced my life: John S. Reynolds and Eugene H. Gruender.