This week's writing prompt is "Favorite Photo". When I read this, my first thought was oh my god...how could I ever pick a favorite photo...I have so many amazing family photos! Then I narrowed it down to one. This beautiful photo of my Grandmother. Truly, my very favorite family photo.
But I wrote about my Grandmother and included that photo in last week's challenge post. Time to think a bit outside the box. My final choice...this photo of my father.
Bobby Michael Reeder. Photo taken in Vietnam.
Now, as I said, this is certainly not my favorite family photo. And my father was certainly not my favorite person. But this IS my favorite photograph of him. Let me tell you why.
My father was a crappy Dad. At least to me. I can't speak for my half siblings that were raised by him and their mother. I can only speak for me, from my own experiences.
For the first twelve years of my life, my father was known to me as "Uncle Bob". A long time friend of the family.
When I was very little, I enjoyed his visits. He played the guitar and sang. Sometimes my Aunt would join in. My older sister, my cousins, and I were a captive audience. He would sit on a tall stool with his guitar, and we would sit at his feet...mesmerized. As I got older, his visits dwindled down to once a year or so. And to be honest, I was glad. Sitting on the lap of "Uncle Bob" just seemed strange, especially since he didn't show any interest at all in my older sister. He was never inappropriate, it just made me wonder.
There was another thing about his visits that bothered me. He was always drunk. I don't think he visited once sober.
He was a happy drunk, a very nice guy, had a great sense of humor, and was a very talented singer and guitar player. But there was something very wrong with the whole situation. When I was twelve years old, I demanded to know the truth. That's when I found out that "Uncle Bob" was actually my father. This explained a lot.
Now I understood why he always wanted me to sit on his lap. Why he was always telling me how pretty I was. And why he didn't treat my sister the same way. She and I had different fathers. More news to me.
My father was born August 11, 1942, in the tiny town of Olive Hill, in Carter County, Kentucky. He was the 9th of 12 children born to Clifton Pierce Reeder and Margaret Lenora Blevins Reeder. At some point, my grandfather moved his family to Cleveland, Ohio.
My Dad as a "little guy"
They landed in the same neighborhood that my maternal grandfather relocated his family to from Erie, Pennsylvania. My two grandmothers became friends, and the children of both families knew each other well. In fact, my father and my Aunt Betty ...my Mom's sister, were even high school sweethearts. Weird, I know. Not sure why that relationship ended, but knowing my father, there were probably other girls involved. He was quite the ladies man. Even if you never knew him, you could guess that by the fact that I have a half brother only three months younger than myself.
My father and my Aunt Betty ~ High School Grads
Needless to say, my parents were never married. Don't worry about me, I turned out fine despite the disfunction. But we can conclude that ole' Bob was indeed, a pretty crappy boyfriend, father, and husband. BUT, lucky for him, that's not his entire story.
I've asked his siblings to tell me about my father. I was amazed to listen to their stories. Like the one my Aunt Wava told me:
"We were small children living at 4509 Douse Ave. in Cleveland, Ohio. There was a rail road track and box cars nearby. Bobby would let me play with him and his friends. Of course we were not allowed to play on the rail road tracks, which made them more appealing. We went in the box cars. My father found out that children were playing on the tracks, he questioned us. Bobby took the blame and did not tell that I was with him. He got beat with switches from a bush. My Dad rarely hit or punished his children, but he was so scared of the rail road tracks, he wanted to make sure we never did it again. I took away a lot from this experience: My brother was loyal and the love he showed for me withstood all of our lives."
Bobby and his sister Wava
Or this one shared with me by my Aunt Margie:
"Bobby was always quick to help out if you were ever in need. George and I bought a car with a bad transmission. Bobby replaced the transmission in our car. This was a huge job. It took him at least two days to Finish. He did it voluntarily with a smile on his sweet face. We didn't ask for help. It was his idea."
These stories are a testament to the complexities of this man. His parents adored him, and he was a great son to them. His siblings speak of him so highly, and for very good reason. From the memories they've shared with me, I can only wish I had a brother like him. Even though he was never a parent to me, and the only things that I ever received from him was a $6.00 shirt on my 13th birthday (and he complained about the price), and a pretty serious case of Multiple Sclerosis that I deal with every day, I have no hatred for this man. A huge part of me even feels a tremendous sense of pride. He served our country well during the Vietnam War.
I can only imagine what he went through. he didn't speak about his time there to anyone. At least not to his children. I do know that during his service there he was exposed to Agent Orange which most likely had everything to do with his Multiple Sclerosis and finally his cancer which ultimately took his life. Imagine being killed in a war and taking 40 years to die.
So the final take away here is this. This photo...My FAVORITE photo of my Dad...
will forever remind me that no one is all bad. Even in the perceived "worst" of men, good can be found. And sometimes there are explanations for things that we aren't meant to understand.
And it is not my place, nor will it ever be my place to judge.
Pretty valuable lessons I learned from my father.