Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Celebrating and Honoring my Dad on his birthday

Hi bloggers,

Today is December 6th and that means it's my Dad's 75th birthday.  Happy Birthday Dad. 

So first, let me share my card.  I am loving the PTI technique of layering sentiment stamps to make a background paper.  I did this one in masculine colors (Tim Holz distress inks) with my signature greetings set.  It's not my usual style but I like it for a masculine - clean and simple card.

So, let me tell you about my dad.  Growing up, everyone I knew called him Dick Leslie.  The only one in the 70's who called him Richard was his mother.   Once he met and married my step mother Marylu, she always called him Richard and from that point on, he became known as Richard - except to his oldest friends. Which is probably a good thing.
 What an adorable chubby face! 

Isn't he a handsome gentleman?

As I recall, my dad had two speeds; fully on or fully off.  He was always tinkering - in his basement shop, outside, in the garage.   If he wasn't busy doing something - he was probably napping.  He had many hobbies and pretty busy job.  Below is a photo of our family.  That's me in the pink dress and the short haircut.

He was an engineer by education - graduated from Clarkson College with a degree in Electrical Engineering and worked for L.K. Comstock - an electrical contracting company for most of his career.

When I was 'of age' I remember he was a manager and had some direct reports, a secretary and an office.  He managed projects from what I can remember, one of them being the re-electrification of the Erie-Lackawana railroad in PA.  He didn't travel for work but put in long hours at the office.  At first, his office was in downtown Manhattan.  As children, we would occasionally go into the city and meet dad for dinner.   One of our favorite restaurants in the city was Benihana's.  My sister and I LOVED that place.  They cooked the food in front of you on the table and they always gave my sister and I a little red rose sticker that we would put on our tops.  We also got umbrella drinks (of course - no alcohol.) We also love a steak house (I can't remember the name - something like the Stage Coach Inn...) They had a horse and carriage in front of the restaurant.  We would sometimes get to go on the horse and carriage ride before dinner.  We have a funny memory of that.  One time the driver had a few drinks in him.  He let my sister (very young at the time) take the reigns and drive the horse and carriage through times square rush hour traffic.  We survived and yes - it was a very different time and place in the 70's.

When he worked in NYC he would take the bus.  My sister, a neighbor girl Ann-Marie and I would go down the street to meet him at the bus drop off.  On the entrance to the neighborhood there were two stone walls on the sides of the road with pillars on the edge.  My sister and I would stand on the pillars and hold poses - pretending to be statues.  When the bus came we would wave and walk with my Dad to the house.

Later, the office moved to Connecticut.  My dad would always get me and my sister summer jobs at the office.  We would drive in with Dad and we would fill in for secretaries on vacation or do odd jobs in his dept.  He had a few interesting secretaries who filled my sister and I in on lots of 'grown up' things.   To give you an idea, he had one secretary - I think her name was Diane and she was a hoot.  She bought her work clothes at Frederick's of Hollywood and was a recent divorcee and into the nightclub scene.

A few 'Dadisms.'  First, I don't think there is anyone who is as bad a speller as my dad.  He would have been much better off being born in the 90's and benefiting from texting and spell-check.  Sadly, I inherited this trait as well.  He also was meticulous about his handwriting - not because he had great handwriting, but quite the opposite.  He didn't have good handwriting so he worked at it to make sure all his correspondence was legible.  He always took a ruler and pencil and drew lines to ensure his words on his cards and letters were straight.    Every birthday card I got from my dad had pencil lines for the parts he hand-wrote.  Love that about him!~    In my Dad's home office, he always had legal size paper pads with yellow paper.  He also always had red pencils.  I have no idea why, I just remember he always did.

As for hobbies, my dad had quite a few.  First, he had a side business with his best friend Dick Klien.  They had a business 'Richley Builders' and they built the house I grew up in, my grandfathers house, Dick Klien's house and several houses on Hanover street (near my Grandfathers house.) My grandfather helped out a lot.  That's my grandfather Milton Leslie in the photo above working on our CT house.    We would often go to the job site where they were building.  I used to love to wander around and collect scrap washers.  You know those little metal things?  I have no idea what they were used for, but there were always lots of them around.  I can still smell the fresh cut lumber for a house in progress.

My dad also liked to sail.  We had a few boats but the one I remember most was the Flying Scott we kept on Candlewood Lake.  We kept the boat at the Candlewood Yacht Club and every Sunday was race day.  We would drive 45 minutes from our house to the Lake and hoist the sales and set out to try to win the race.   My dad had my mom, my sister and I as his trusty crew.  I think we were pretty incompetent.  I had no love or gift of sailing.  My main role was to help hoist the spinnaker (that never seemed to go well) or stand in low wind and hold the main sail out so it didn't bounce around.  We had a lot of laughs and tears on that boat.  I have no idea how many races we won.  I know we have a few trophies at home, but my main memory is lying on the bow of the boat, working on my tan and thinking about when the race was done and which boys I would see at the docks.  Again, I had no love or gift for sailing!

Below is a photo at my wedding.  Candlewood lake is in the background.

Below is a birthday party - not sure who's.  Yup, that's me with the bald spot on my head and my Dad with a tea cup and saucer on his head.  No idea what was going on there, but my Aunt Barbara appears to be laughing her head off about it.

When my sister and I were younger - my Dad's hobby was race car driving.  We were infants and toddlers when my mom and Dad would participate in Gymkhana's.  I don't really know what that is, but I think it involved a sort of treasure hunt/race with clues.  I remember one of the clues was 'not easy Parcheesi' and the road they were to take was 'hard scrabble.'  In the winter we went to Icekhana's.  I think they just raced the cars around pylons on a frozen lake.  I remember spending hours in an Italian Restaurant playing with sugar packets or other stuff under the round tables.  One memory of those days was when my Dad flipped his car in the race.  Everyone laughed when Kathie and I didn't understand the danger.  Kathie asked the gasping crowd who was worried for my dad's safety 'does daddy get a re-run?'  My mom also participated in all these races.  She was pretty good.  She won the ladies tri-state champ for one of the races.  That was the best of NY/NJ/CT.  Pretty impressive.  I don't remember what fancy titles my dad won, but we had LOTS of trophies in our house from the car racing.

Another hobby of my dad's was skiing.  Every winter we would take a 1 week winter vacation to VT. Our favorite places to go were Killington and Mount Snow. Now that was a hobby I adored and was good at.   I loved to ski FAST and WILD.  My dad would sharpen our edges and wax our ski's for us and we would go out in ANY weather.  I remember a few times skiing in the rain with a garbage bag over my coat.  My mom wasn't a fan of skiing in any weather, but I loved it.  No lines for the lift and nice soft snow for carving.

As he retired, he started golfing and playing tennis.  Now he golfs 2-3 days a week and plays tennis as well.  That keeps him very fit and entertained.  My son and husband love to visit and golf with him.  He has a membership at a fabulous golf course in Tucson Arizona and always welcomes Bob and Eric to play with him.  He is still a little kid when it comes to activities.  When we go to the Jersey Shore, my dad still goes out with the teenagers to body surf the waves.

My dad was very devoted to his parents.  We lived in the same town as them all growing up and I remember that most Sunday's we would go to their house for a visit.  We would stop at the bakery and pick up Kaiser rolls and crumb cake to bring over.  I LOVED that NY crumb cake. After my dad built my grandparent's house on Hanover street, I was old enough to walk from our house to theirs.  It was about a mile on a quiet road and I would often go unannounced to spend time with them.  After my grandfather passed, my Dad was very devoted to visit my grandmother, even after he retired to Arizona and she remained in NY.  He would fly in 4-5 times a year to visit her.  He was disappointed that he could not convince her to move to Arizona where he could be closer to her, but my grandmother was very stubborn about that and she was not moving from NY - no matter what.

I have fond memories of my dad growing up.  I remember sitting in his lap and hearing the sound of his voice and laugh from his chest where my head rested.  I remember him inspecting my room and trying (not very successfully) to instill a sense of order and cleanliness in me.  Some things truly are a hopeless cause - ask my husband.   I remember Saturday work days where all of us would go out together to rake the leaves or other yard work.  As we got close to the end of the job he would let me go inside and he'd spend an extra 30 minutes or so cleaning up.

He and my Mom used to host dinner parties a lot.  The menu?  Whiskey sours, London broil, baked potatoes and flaming cherries jubilee for dessert - maybe a salad.  Remember, it was the 70's and no-one was talking about cholesterol. I loved getting a 'virgin' whiskey sour in a fancy glass and I was always impressed with the high flames they would get on the cherries jubilee by pouring brandy on top of the cherries and ice cream and then lighting it!  Yum... maybe we'll try that for our New Year's Dinner.

He always encouraged me in my education and paid for my full tuition and room and board to attend his Alma-mater Clarkson.  He encouraged me to get an education that would provide a specific skill - like business or engineering and not just an education for the love of learning.  I appreciate that because that was the right thing for me.  He instilled a strong work ethic and a positive attitude.  Growing up I felt I could do or be anything I wanted to be.  My dad taught me that hard work and persistent would help me achieve my goal.

Dad, I don't say it often enough, but I love you and appreciate everything you did for me growing up.  Have a great day.  Thanks for stopping by today and getting to know a little about my awesome dad.

1 comment:

Kimberly Gajewski said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Dad! Your birthday card for him is terrific! Love how you used all of the sentiments! Wonderfully done! :D