Today is the fifteen anniversary of my father’s death. He was such a huge part of my life for so long, his death left a rift that continues . He taught me pretty much everything I know about gardening. I remember following him around as we pulled Japanese beetles off plants, which we dropped in a can of kerosene. Besides the usual tomatoes, peppers, etc., we planted peanuts, and kale years it became the “it” vegetable. His trick was to wait until the first frost to harvest it. I remember it was sweet, much more savory than spinach or chard. The only failure (my opinion) was okra because I had clean the pan after he cooked it.
Daddy also taught me basic plumbing. I can change washers and repair toilets. Well, I could until the faucets became washerless and the toilets went high-tech.
I learned to play softball. He was the favorite adult team member for the neighborhood game, usually played in our yard, because he could pitch and hit leftie or rightie. That talent was thanks to years of Catholic school education in which the nuns tied his left arm behind his back. The only sport I never got was football. He’d say, “Watch, the quarterback is going to throw the ball to the guy at the top of the screen.” I’d ask how he knew, and he’d get mad.
More successful were the games of checkers and dominoes and concentration. What little arithmetic I learned came from dominoes.
He also had an outrageous sense of humor. He introduced me to Mad Magazine. We bonded over “Spy vs. Spy” and the contents of celebrity wallets. I had pretty much left home by the time they bought a television, so we didn’t have family time. I do remember his glee at Archie Bunker — he carried the same prejudices, except that Jews received a pass because of their respect for education.
He spoke French to me when I was a little kid with the result that I picked up the language much faster when I began studying it in school.
George David Petry was an incredibly bright man who could never have a job that matched his intellectual abilities.
On the night before he died, he asked, “Why do people fight wars?” Naturally I didn’t have an answer. He made the transition on Pearl Harbor Day.