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Honoring our fathers

For The Madera Tribune QuoVada and Ralph Hill, parents of Tami Jo Nix, dressed to the nines in the 1960s. If you have any information on where and when this photo was taken, please contact the columnist.


Today is Fathers Day. If you get to spend this day with your dad, you are blessed beyond words.

I lost my father, after a 10-year illness, on Feb. 23, 1993. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1926 and came to Madera by bus in 1947. He and a friend were fresh out of the Navy, with their entire lives in front of them. As the story goes, daddy lost his wallet to a pickpocket and had a $20 bill pinned in his underpants.

He got a job at Western Grain and Milling and began frequenting a coffee shop owned by Bob and Marie Brunolli. He caught the eye of a waitress who was a high school sophomore.

Mom always said the handsome stranger that became my father looked especially hungry and so he was served extra-large portions of the blue-plate special and an extra slice of pie.

They were married in July 3, 1948, between her junior and senior year of high school. My oldest brother, Rocky, was born in May of 1949, and she graduated with her class in June.

Mom always told me not to be in such a hurry to grow up because once you are an adult, you are an adult for a very long time. Advice that went in one ear and out the other.

Being a grownup and the mistress of one’s own destiny was my dream. I often wish I knew as much now as I did at age 14. This being an adult is not at all the way it looked in the brochure.

My dad came from a large family. He had three brothers and six sisters. He longed for a family of his own.

I was supposed to have a younger sibling. It would have been nice to have a sister. I’ve spent my life bonding with some amazing women who make up my sisterhood.

I remember my dad as larger than life. He was handsome, charismatic and a great salesman. He remembered the name and family details of everyone he ever met. Even after he had a stroke and was a resident at the convalescent hospital, if he happened to see someone he knew he would recall their name, the names of their children and the family dog. He was brilliant that way.

A very talented man, he played the piano and I would sing along. One favorite song was made popular by the great Al Jolson. The tune “Rock-a-bye your baby with a Dixie melody,” was a mainstay of our repertoire. Of course, “Tammy,” as sung by Debbie Reynolds, was another favorite. While I am terrible at remembering names, I have a long list of song lyrics in my memory.

After we were all grown, Daddy sold his piano to Quality Dairy co-worker Roy McCullough. About 20 years later I saw McCullough’s daughter Jolene Palacio at a friend’s funeral. I asked if her dad still had my dad’s piano. She said yes and I said if he ever wanted to get rid of it to let me know because I would love to have it.

Within a couple of days, I had my dad’s piano installed in my living room. I should mention I never learned to play piano. What I did have was a huge family keepsake belonging to my dad. The piano bench was like a time capsule, all his old sheet music was still inside.

It cost more to tune and repair the piano than I paid for it.

Moving is a lot of work, moving a piano is a major chore. By the time we moved from our house in Parkwood I was ready to part with my big heavy keepsake. Pianos aren’t easy to sell. I ran ads in the Tribune to get the job done. The price was “make an offer.”

I was at work when a family came to buy my piano. They already had one piano at home and a bunch of kids who were taking lessons. Fred said he wished I had been there to see them loading the instrument into the back of a pickup truck. As they drove away the kids were playing music and having a grand old time, he said.

It is great to know the piano is being played and doing more than collecting dust in my living room. I know Daddy would have approved.

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year in high school my best friend since second grade turned 16 and married her next-door neighbor. She and I were like peas in a pod. Whatever one of us did the other followed suit. My parents launched a huge campaign to end our friendship. They were terrified she would introduce me to someone and I would want to get married too.

They needn’t have bothered. A married woman and a high school sophomore have very little in common. Her world became about curtains and recipes while mine still centered around football games and after-game dances in the boys’ gym.

I certainly had no interest in getting married at age 15. Living through my parents’ divorce, I had already decided I was never going to get married or have kids.

My aversion to motherhood has many levels. I am far too selfish to make the sacrifices necessary to be a good mother. Once people become parents, life as they know it, ceases to exist. The notion of controlling a woman by keeping her barefoot and pregnant grates on my last nerve. Women who intentionally become pregnant to exercise restraint on a man is equally as objectionable. Not to mention typically a dismal failure. The politics of it are just wrong.

Enjoy your Fathers’ Day celebration and have a great weekend.

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