Friday, October 12, 2012

James Clyde Branch

My dad.

Today is the 50th anniversary of his death.  Fifty years.

October 12th has been a day of remembrance since I was 8 years old. 

It's so weird to feel such a connection to someone that I barely remember.  And I do barely remember him.  Most adults have lots of memories of their childhood, beginning at about age 3.  I'm sure I would, too, if I hadn't experienced the trauma of losing my dad at age 8.

Trauma can kind of wipe things cleanNo...... that sounds too positive.  It's usually good to have things wiped clean.

Trauma can kind of wipe things ... gone.  The good memories go away along with the bad.  Or at least that's how it's been for me.

These are things that I actually consciously remember:
* Riding a train with my dad.
* My dad waking me up in the middle of the night when he got home from work to give me a little
   tiny pocket knife that he had found.
* Standing up next to my dad in a moving car (I must have been really short and children's car seats
   were not invented).  He slammed on the brakes and I hit the dashboard and broke a tooth.  He then
   took me to a drugstore in Knox City for a milk shake. 
* Walking down University Avenue to a pizza joint with my dad.
* My dad showing me a spider web on our front porch - explaining to me about the "spider's home".
* Walking in on my dad in the bathroom and him getting mad.
* Watching my dad build a boat in our carport.
* Ice skating with my dad on a pond in McKenzie Park.
* Standing on a bridge with my dad, fishing.  Feeling a fish tug at my line.  Squealing and dropping
   the pole into the water.  (And getting into trouble.)
* Standing at my back door while he took pictures of me (that he later used for a painting).
* Riding in a small convertible with my dad.
* My dad trying to pull my tooth and me running out the back door into the alley with him chasing
   me, yelling "let's get that tooth pulled before your mother gets home!"
* Watching my dad paint a picture for my Aunt Annie.  I can remember how the oil paint smelled.
* Watching my dad order a root beer for me, ask for the closest doctor, and fall backwards off
   the cafe stool, dead.
* My final memory of him is a fleeting glance of him laying on the restaurant floor.

In the hour that I've sat here, those are the only actual memories that I can dredge up.

It's sad.  I think of the countless times in the last 26 years that I've done something for or with one of my children and have thought "this is going to be such a great memory".   I've made a conscious effort to try to give my children good memories of me.

*Disclaimer:  That does not mean that I haven't horribly screwed up at times and inadvertently given them memories of my rage and ugliness.

I have a feeling that my dad made a conscious effort to give me good memories.

And, for the most part, I've lost them.

Here are some things that I KNOW, but I don't have conscious memory of:
* I was a "daddy's little girl".
* My dad spent HOURS building me the most perfect backyard playhouse - with real    
   windows and a mailbox.  It was perfect!  He built that playhouse when I was 5 and we lived in
   Knox City.  We moved it to Lubbock when I was 6.  When my mom died when I was 36, I moved
   the playhouse to New Mexico so my own kids could play in it.  I lost the playhouse when I got
   divorced at 47.  I wish I still had it. 
* My dad wanted me to experience all kinds of travel - train, plane, boat, bus, taxi.  The short train
   trip he took me on (from Lubbock to Slaton) was just to give me the experience of riding a train.
   We took a taxi back to Lubbock. 
* His dream was to own a small town weekly newspaper in Oregon or Washington.  Living in
   Lubbock was just a temporary stop on the way to his dream.
* My dad told my mom that I didn't have to go to school if I didn't want to and he spent the
   whole morning of my first day of first grade in the classroom with me because I was crying.
* My dad took my mom and me on a long vacation in a camper.  I think we visited the Pacific
   Northwest.    Probably in search of his dream.

I know these things about my dad because people have told me:
1.  He was quiet.
2.  He loved fishing and hunting.  I think especially fishing.
3.  He was an amateur artist, primarily painting in oils.
4.  He loved the small town newspaper business.

I believe that these things are some of my dad's legacy:
1.  My forehead.
2.  The number of people in my family who are, or have been, in the newspaper business.  Uncle Charles, Mary Nelle, J.Tom, Jean Carol - they all got their start working for my dad.  And they influenced Doak and Little Jay.  I still have relatives who own, or work at, small Texas town newspapers.  And I think that started with my dad.
3.  My cousin, Marc, is an artist.  I have some amazing paintings of my dad that he did from photographs.  I think that my dad's artistic abilities were passed down to Marc.  (They sure missed me!)

A few years ago, I was given a wonderful gift (that I think I've already blogged about).  A family friend found an old reel to reel audio tape that was made in Ruidoso in 1960.  My dad and his friend are visiting on it.  I had no memory of his voice until I heard that tape.  His voice was low and calm and serious ..... and sounded just like his nephew, Lynn Royce.

I can't describe what the experience of hearing his voice was like.  I'll always be indebted to William Roy for giving me that gift.

My dad.  I wish I had known him better.

Jennifer Jean (he chose my name)

1 comment:

  1. This is a lovely memorial to your dad.

    I can definitely see your Tyler in him.

    Love you...