15 December 2020

100 Years Ago

Hard for me to believe it, but it was a hundred years ago today that my father, Stuart Maupin Weedon, was born: Dec. 15, 1920. I believe he was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, though his family lived in Richardsville, where both my parents grew up.

In this picture he is seen on the right with his younger brother, Edgar Jackson on the left. 

As I’ve said so many times before on the blog, he was such a quiet man and he died so young (back in 1980) that I think I can say quite truthfully: I never really got to know him, not the way adult children come to know their parents, if God gives them the grace to live that long.

He and my mom courted each other as WWII was just breaking out. He ended up enlisting and so was a WWII vet, and in fact one of my favorite pictures of him is this one in uniform, for the smile upon his face. Honestly, I never saw him that happy in all the years I knew him (and my sister said she thought the exact same thing). I have no idea who his friend was, but there’s nothing like wartime to make folks truly value each other.

He’s on the left there, in case you couldn’t tell. Lots of folks tell me that I look like him. I certainly inherited his eye color, his temper, his smallish stature. 

This man, through out all the years of my earliest memories, right up until he was struck by cancer, lived a quite routinized existence: Up every weekday morning by 5:30, to have his breakfast (which my mom faithfully fixed for him every day) and done by 6 or so. Usually it was the same meal: buckwheat pancakes, a fried egg (well done), and a side of sausage or bacon, and his coffee, which he drank sweet and with cream. (I learned to drink coffee by sipping the bit that fell onto the saucer in which his cup sat). He’d head off to work and then come home somewhere between 4 and 5 p.m. Invariably: he’d walk through the door and shout downstairs to mom, who was already busy with supper, “I’m home, Sister.” To which she invariably responded: “And what the h** do you expect me to do about it?” He’d get a silly grin on his face and go take a short nap in his recliner. Then to dinner, and either a little bit of TV, or sometimes (and I loved these occasions) we’d play some Rook, an old fashioned card game that was “allowed.” His and mom’s parents didn’t approve of face cards, because they thought it led to gambling! Only later I realized that daddy loved poker and played it in the military a bit. We watched lots of TV in the evenings, though. He enjoyed absolutely anything about WWII and especially anything on his beloved Patton; but also crime shows in general. We watched a lot of Hawaii 5-0, and the FBI show. He also enjoyed on the weekends HeeHaw and Lawrence Welk. “Wunnerful.”

He did sleep in most Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes staying abed till 9 or 10. He then loved to car shop (window shopping for cars is something I will NEVER understand). He went to Church whenever we went back home to Richardsville, where both he and mom were from. But in the Maryland suburbs, neither he nor mom ever found a church, nor ever had me nor Maupin baptized. 

I learned early (and painfully) not to sass him. He only spanked me once, but it was absolutely enough forever. He never said: “I love you” or ever hugged us or kissed me or any of my brothers or my sister (at least in my memory). Mom always said he hadn’t been shown much love as a little one and so didn’t know how to show it himself. There was certainly quite a bit of tension between him and his mom and I still remember a huge explosion when she came to stay with us for a while after his dad had died.

I remember, though, when I was a relatively young and (I know you will find this hard to believe) an exceedingly odd teen, I asked about getting a piano. And HE DID IT. He went out and bought me a piano! We selected it one Saturday afternoon and it was delivered the next week, and my mom, I think, was more than a little astounded. And then he paid for lessons for me, and took me to them, and sat outside in the car and waited for me, at least until I was old enough to drive myself (about three years). I had no idea, but at his funeral, one of his friends from work told me how he bragged on my piano playing. I was shocked. He never said a word to me about it. So that piano will always remain for me the most tangible memory of his  unspoken love. 

I remember attending with my sister a special event at his work where he was honored for his years of service (he was a refrigeration engineer for Marriott). Mom couldn’t generally go to such things because she couldn’t walk very well because of her bout of polio when she was little. But they did praise him up one side and down the other that day, which was wonderful to hear. We were very proud of him, and he was embarrassed by the attention. Below’s a pic from the article they wrote about him. I remember Mom being so aggravated that they did it late in the day when he’d wrinkled his pants! She was a stickler on his clothes being ironed and starched. She had special hangers she used with his green work uniforms to stretch the legs taut.

It was in August of 1979 that we realized something was wrong. I remember bugging and bugging him to help me rewire an old torchere lamp they had kept in their bedroom (it’s now in my daughter’s house in Effingham IL!). He tried to get out of it, pleading a massive headache. But I was the youngest and knew how to wheedle him to get my way. And so he gave in and we got it done. I felt horrible after he went to the Dr. for his headache and one Dr. led to another, only to find out it was an inoperable brain tumor. I wonder now if it were a glioblastoma. It proceeded rather along those lines. He was done with work; radiation and chemo filled our days. I am so thankful my brothers and sister were local, and all together we helped mom. But I still remember one very awful day when Sis and I were sitting with him after he had gone way down hill. We had to change his diaper and neither of us were very good with dealing with that sort of thing. I felt for him, and for us; it was dreadfully embarrassing, but we got it done. 

The day of his death was January 5, 1980. We were all home, we knew it was close. The others gathered downstairs for some breakfast and I sat with him. He held out his hand to me, and I didn’t take it. I’ll never forget that. I read to him from the Scriptures, but I wouldn’t take his hand. He finally drew it back. Why not take it? A refusal to say goodbye? Anger at him dying and leaving us? Anger at him never having touched us when we were little? Or just fear of what it meant? I’ll not know till God discloses the secrets of the heart. But I didn’t take it and I regret it to this day.

When the others came back, I went to the piano in the living room and began working on two of Bach’s two part inventions. And finally my brother Joe poked his head around the corner and said: “If you want to say goodbye, Billy, you better come now.” And so with his wife and all his children around him, he left this world, barely 59 years after he entered it. The snow was falling. He had wanted to see snow again and he got to. He died a scarce 10 years after his father, and six years after his mother, and his middle son, the Joe I just mentioned, would follow in five years. 

It may sound silly but every single Christmas I imagine would it would be like to welcome him and mom (she died a long time ago too) to our home. Daddy did get to meet Cindi (we were dating already when he died), but obviously he never got to meet my children. My son is named both for Cindi’s dad, Dave, and for him: David Stuart Weedon. Years after daddy died, my son happened to be attending a Weedon family reunion with a bunch of folks he had NEVER met. He literally walked in, and my father’s cousin Larkin Weedon, looking at him as he walked up the stairs, said: “And THAT’s a Weedon.” Daddy and Larkin had always looked a little bit alike. 

Rest in peace, daddy! Forgive me for not being a better son! And I look forward to the opportunity to actually get to really know you! May the Lord grant it, in His infinite mercy and love for mankind. 

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