Happy Father’s Day to you living dads and happy daddy memories to those whose dads are no longer around. Today I’m thinking about my own dad, John Alexander Harrison, signed his checks JAH, August 23, 1911-December 7, 1989. He was born in Springfield, lived in Springfield all but 4 1/2 years of his life, and died of cardiac arrest on a bedroom floor here in our house, twenty-nine steps from where I’m typing this. I sat on the floor beside him with my left arm under his neck to support his head until the paramedics came. He lived a while after they set to work, but he was gone before they got him to the hospital. Corneas donated from Dad’s eyes gave partial sight to two others. He would have liked that.
Here’s my father when he was a little boy, standing between his parents. William and Anna Harrison. The Harrison clan migrated from England to Canada and from there to Bad Ax, Michigan. Dr. Harrison was a veterinarian as were his father and brothers. Women in the family were nurses. Why my grandfather moved to Missouri isn’t known but he found and married a young woman named Anna Webb. When my father was 12, his dad died and left him to become the man of the household to help support his mother and two sisters. He stayed in school until he finished high school but soon entered the world of the worker by taking a job with the Gas and Electric Company, later to become City Utilities. He never told me if he’d had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps. It didn’t come up.
I don’t remember ever hearing my father complain. He accepted whatever life brought him and dealt with it the best way he knew how. People respected the man he became. They trusted him to say and do the right thing. He was scrupulously honest. To me he was a wonderful father, not the kissy-huggy kind, but I always knew he loved me. He built snowmen for me, taught me to fish, and instilled many of the characteristics that he modeled so well.
My parents, John and Neva, were a happy couple. If they fussed (they surely had spats like anyone else), I never knew it. I remember that one was a Democrat, the other a Republican, sees like Mom was the Republican, but I don’t remember for sure. I remember them talking about the war and the world scene but they didn’t pay a lot of attention to the day to day vaudeville in Washington. We attended church at Grace Methodist (where I would one day be married to Sandy) but I don’t remember talking religion among my parents’ friends. Dad served youth by being involved in DeMolay for more than thirty-five years. He was proud of that. He was a generous man who took Mom and me (and my sister when she came along much later) on long trips to see the country. I never knew how much Dad earned until I joined him to take over managing his concrete block manufacturing company when I was 36 years old. It was far less than I had supposed.
Sandy and I put flowers on my parents’ graves in Maplewood Cemetery on Memorial Day, same as always. We also decorated the graves of Sandy’s parents Kennon, my grandparents Harrison, my grandmother Justice (my mother’s mother), and two sets of aunts and uncles. My sister Jule doesn’t have a marker yet but will have. So life and death go on. Now and then I think about my family members who have left us. Sandy’s father Ralph was another fine man and needs his own special tribute. I’ve written about him before and have committed his memory to poetry more than once. But today it’s my father who is on my mind.
Thanks for everything, Dad. I miss you.