My Complicated Father

Would-be engineer, commercial artist, heart breaker

(L. to R.) Younger brother H.J. almost 5 Years old with my father August 1962. Photograph by Aikya Param

With his six-foot-three-inch height, gentlemanlike
Manner and nearly perfect crewcut, he was
A ladies’ man, never at a loss
For romance, and my mom’s rant and rage.
He saw himself a perfect look-alike
For Gregory Peck and minus his receding
Dimpled chin, he almost fit the bill.

He was a pilot in the Pacific
In World War II and told me stories.
How the “people of the islands” sat,
How gentle they were, what they ate,
And he fried bananas just as they did.

I was nearly 40, and Dad was gone
When I realized the islands were
The Phillippines that Dad had helped to free.
Always like family to me, those people!
My father loved them and his stories of them
Raised me up.

If mother hadn’t caught my father
And brought me into the world,
He would have been an engineer
But he had a family to support.
He went to the Art Student’s League
On the GI Bill, a shorter course,
And thrived as a commercial artist.
His artistic skill and gentlemanly charm
Attracted generously paying clients
And prosperity for us, his family.
The crowning joy of his art and science passion
Was knowing the mission to space
And the built craft someday to fly.

He loved to teach me and encouraged
My artwork, finding me excellent nearby teachers
He said I was a better portraitist
At thirteen, and it was true.

He was easier for me to be with than
My mother. How devious and undermining
He was, how his unfaithfulness and gambling
Caused her raging, depression and suicide attempt
All that I did not know for many years.

My father in the Poconos, 1956 or 1957. Photogaph by Aikya

Aikya Param is a licensed minister, a visual artist, and writer.

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