Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I Learned From Ollie

(Originally written 1/31/2012.  Updated 1/31/2016)
Today marks the 99th year since my father, James Oliver Hughes, was born.  I'm not sure where his surname originated. Up until recent months, I knew nothing of my Hughes family past my paternal grandmother.  I do know that the middle name Oliver was given to my dad in honor of the country doctor who had travelled across the mountains and up a holler near Skyles, West Virginia on a cold wintry day in January, 1913 to deliver a baby boy to my Grandma Viola.  Dad was known as Jim to his co-workers, but to his family and friends, he always was and still is remembered as Ollie. (*1/13/2016 - After researching our family genealogy, I see that just about every family member I ever knew was known by his/her middle name). 

My dad was 41 years old when I was born.  Dad had had his eye on the yongest Davis girl, but he was ten years older than she was and had to wait for her to grow up.  By the time I was born in 1954, he had survived the greatest war of our nation's history, married Nell Davis and fathered a son, worked in the West Virginia coal mines, moved his family out of the mountains after experiencing a mine cave-in, and was building blimps for Goodyear Aerospace in Akron, Ohio. 

My dad holding my cousin, Glenn, and me.

 When I think of my life, . . the things I love, the way I am, . . I see pieces of both my parents in me.  As everyone does, we are molded by the example of others . . some by good example and some by bad.  More things are caught than taught, they say.   Dad could be harsh at times, but I don't think he wanted to be that way.  So, here I am, a product of my parents . . . my dad (whom I will get to in a minute, and my mom, who is like Sherri Easter's song, Handful of Weeds,  . . "She's the one who told me about Jesus.  She's the one who taught me to sing." (and SEW!).  I hope my children will do the same as I have, emulate the good and learn from the bad.

Being the baby of the family, I was not privy to all the family issues and goings on like my older brother was.  I knew our life was hard.  Dad had been laid off from Goodyear and worked out his remaining work years as a school custodian.  I didn't know it then, but we were dirt poor.  My grandma stayed with us off and on for years in our tiny little house.  When she wasn't with us, we were travelling to Pennsylvania sometimes every week-end or every other one when she was very ill.  When I was eleven years old, my world changed.  My big brother graduated and enlisted in the US Army. 

I'm not sure why, but I know my dad went into a dark place when Bob left for the Army.  Maybe it was fear of losing his only son during the Vietnam War, maybe it was a trigger of memories of the horrendous things he had experienced in war, maybe it was the huge weight and responsibilities that were on his shoulders during that time. . . probably a combination of all.  The next 7-8 years are not ones that I remember fondly, nor do I wish to write about.  What I can say is that my dad later came to a place where he accepted by faith the true gift of salvation and experienced forgiveness through his Savior.  He was a changed man.  Not perfect, but changed. 

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Things I Learned From Ollie:

1.  He taught me to be a hard worker.  My dad could be found on top of a roof or in the top of a tree doing the Ollie trim job until he was 80 years old.  He always put out a garden.  He always did anything for anyone.  My parents had to work to survive.  I'm glad I developed a good work ethic from both my mom and dad.

(I think Dad was starting me out young.  Looks like I was mowing the yard in this old photo). 

2.  He taught me to love the woods and the mountains.  I said to my mom this morning, "Dad would have loved to have a day like this for his birthday, wouldn't he?  Mom:  "Yes, he'da been out diggin' something."  It didn't matter . . . hunting squirrels, fishing for bluegill, digging Ginseng, Dad loved the woods.  They were solace to him, and they are to me.

3.  He taught me to love the simple things.  Brown beans and cornbread or a bowl of corn mush and milk were as much appreciated as a steak dinner . . . which by the way, we never had.  We lived off the garden for the most part, with some chicken or Spam.  I swore I'd never live that like.  How stupid my young self was.  Now I pay good money to antique stores and auctions to re-capture the things of my simple, poor childhood.

4.  He taught me to love auctions and pickin'.   I was just telling my husband last night, "How would I have known all those years ago that I would still love to go through someone else's junk to find a treasure?"  I think it is because Dad would go to the Auction House on S. Arlington Street on Friday nights.  I was too little to stay up that late, but Saturday mornings always came with a treat, some treasure that Dad had bought for me at the auction.  Today, going to an auction or a tag sale or better yet, if possible, going through an abandoned building looking for treasures, equals FUN. 

5.  He taught me to love animals.  We always had a dog.  And cats.  He brought me home a baby squirrel that became my pet for awhile.  He even let me bring home a banty rooster all the way from West Virginia one time.  He always swore he'd never have another one after the death of a favorite dog . . . but eventually we did.

Our beloved TIPPY. The mayor of Molly Drive.  He was getting older here as you can see by the white snout.  I think this picture was taken shortly before he was hit by a car and killed. 

6.  He taught me to fix things.  My dad could fix anything.  He wasn't a carpenter, but he built the house my mother still lives in 56 years later.  He taught my boys to pound nails into a piece of wood.  It the nails bent, Dad taught them how to straighten them.  One day he told my middle son, Steve.  "Stevie, you just might make a pretty good carpenter someday."  I think he would be proud of my barn-building son today. . . on many levels.
Dad had a solution for everything.  My first-born son, Brian, was having a terrible time teething, One night, Dad sneaked and gave me a little bottle of whiskey to take home.  He said, "And if things get really bad, you can rub some on his gums."

7.  He taught me to laugh.  My dad was . . . putting it mildly . . . ORNERY (as seen in #6).  How many of  the grandkids were fooled time and time again by his request, "Here, pull my finger."  Hopefully not as crude, but I have inherited a bit of my dad in that respect.  I have known to be ornery a few times.  ;-p

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So, . . . this is how I choose to remember my dad on what would have been his 99th birthday. 

#1 Young, strong, healthy and handsome.

 #2 Oops, Dad, your eyes are closed!  Accident, probably. . . but that grin . . oh, that grin says a 1,000 words and makes me laugh out loud just seeing it. 

#3 Older, on the brink of the battle with cancer that would take him.  A man who proved his love for his family, not in words but in deeds.



Michele said...

Such wonderful memories and such a beautiful tribute to your father.

I am crying as I read this, Donna. It sounds as if we both had the same kind of dad and such similar experiences, it amazes me!

I thank God every day for blessing me with the parents that I had and I am sure you feel the same.

Happy Birthday, Ollie. Rest in peace.

Mommy Yoak said...

Thank you Grandpa Hughes for giving to me your daughter, who loves her grandbabies and her family with all her heart, and who gave to me the most wonderful Godly friend and husband I could have imagined or dreamed. Until we meet:)
Love your granddaughter-in-law Melissa

heather said...

I miss him so much. We will dance again grandpa!!

CindyKay said...

You've been my friend for 30+yrs and I regret that I never knew your Dad . But ,I do now . Thank you for your thoughts , and your writings of such a wonderful Man (much like my own dad ) I so wish they had known each other .
I love you my bff and Happy 99th Birthday Ollie ♥

maryannie said...

As I read this I could feel it coming from the heart. Good memories are kept forever and is proven in this dedication for your father Donna. The description of your tribute I have seen in you, and that my dear friend is why I love you !!

Mary Ann McMillen/Haller