Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Good Man

Roger M Watt - April 8, 1914 - March 27, 1981

My father was a good man.  He was born in Oklahoma 98 years ago today.  He grew up during the First World War and the economic boom of the 20s.  When the bust happened, he moved to Los Angeles with his family.  In 1934, he met my mother at a Halloween Party.  He was 20, she was 15, and he was in love for life.  The raven haired, dark eyed beauty won his heart and his devotion. When my mother became bedridden with tuberculosis, he visited her every day, bringing her books from the library and news of the world.  They married on Father's Day in 1939. 
During the final years of the Second World War, my father was drafted into military service and left my mother with her parents - pregnant with their third child and my brother Jim and sister Judie.  He contracted malaria in the Philippines and spent most of his service in a hospital in Hawaii. 
On March 27, 1946 my parents and their three children moved to Grants Pass, Oregon.  This is where I was born, the youngest of their seven children, where we would all grow up and go to school and church, stay or leave or come back again. 
I was living in Portland when my father died.  It should have been one of the happiest times in my life.  I was loving school.  I was young and beautiful.  I was a featured performer in a new play.  I was 21 years old and my heart was broken.
Even after all these years, it's hard for me to put into words what my father means to me.  He loved me unconditionally.  He loved everyone unconditionally.  He believed in service to his fellow man.  He was devoted to my mother and to each of his children.  He would rather lay on the floor surrounded by small children than have a serious philosophical discussion.  I never heard him say a bad word about anyone - save Richard Nixon.  He loved auto racing, football, and ABC's Wide World of Sports. 
As a little girl, I remember climbing up into his lap as he watched the evening news and leaning my head against his chest.  I felt safe and loved and happy.  Saturday afternoons meant going with him up to the church to prepare everything for the coming service day.  I loved slipping my hand into his and walking through the empty church, knowing God was there watching us.
I still remember how full that church was on the day I had to say good-bye.  So many people were touched by his simple life.  Everyone cried.  People came up to my mother weeping and wondering how they were going to get by without him. 
I know he's still with me, still with us.  I hear a certain honest laughter and he's there.  I hear a man jingling the change in his pocket and he's there.  Someone calls out "Grandpa" and runs to receive a big hug and he's there.  I slip my hand into his and walk through the streets of my day and know that he's there.
Rod Watt was a good man.  He wasn't rich or powerful or heroic - except he was.  Rich in friends and family, powerful in love and compassion, heroic in giving everything for anyone less fortunate than he.  I miss him every single day.  I love you Daddy.