Best Thing About Being Dad

Corina, Chad and Sheryl cook up a CRUSH IT DAY Dinner on Marty’s 70th birthday at Gleneden Beach, Oregon.

What’s the best thing about being a Father?

Although Fatherhood has many best things, far and away the finest is to have the great good fortune of winding up Father to adults, who have become likeable, admirable people, who I prefer to my own cohort.

Seeing my reflected character traits and values, developed and improved by their efforts and ingenuities is astonishing.

Favorite Things

Dad, what are some of your favorite things you’ve done with your children?

Chad and Ryan contemplate another dip in the Deschutes near White Horse Rapids

Rafting the Deschutes

Central Oregon is a high desert, greened by Rivers beginning on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. The Deschutes River runs northward from South of Bend to the Columbia River. Below the dams, at Warm Springs, the Deschutes runs free, delighting fishermen and boaters.

I had discovered the bliss of the River Boating in the middle 1970s when I joined a group for teen boys and Dads led by Gary LaRue and Homer Ames at the Beaverton Christian Church. This  program was noteworthy because boys and their dads were invited to build eight-foot wooden prams from kits sourced from a river rat who had started a similar program in Idaho. Chad wasn’t old enough and Corina wasn’t eligible because of her gender. I enjoyed the River boating so much that I wanted to share the activity with my children.

After I left our family home, in 1985, I fell in with some people who had taken an interest in counseling and personal growth. My closest friends (Sherry Downs, George Celia and Peggy O’Brien) were in the Quest Fellowship,  started in the 1970s by Dale Jamgaard of Lutheran Family Services. Some of us were enthusiastic about river rafting and we began planning a Deschutes River trip each year. We depended on Mark Snead, who owned a rental company in Beaverton. Snead Rentals had some re-purposed surplus life-rafts with home made wooden frames for river boating.  Mark was indeed our leader, though some of us might have different ideas about how to raft the river.

On at least a couple of our large group rafting trips, I planned ahead for Chad and Corina to fit these into their summer schedules. Large group trips were complicated, with plenty of room for interpersonal conflict and disagreements about what to do and how to do it. Nevertheless, I remember them for the warm interaction among friends and the opportunity to introduce my offspring to my new friends.

Chad, Ryan, Peg, Reese, and Corina hiking to the rimrock for a different view of the River

Had I gotten the fly fishing bug, I could have tried to indoctrinate my offspring into that splendid sport. But it was enough to take a hike through the rimrock to view the river from far above and become genuinely weary for sleep.

 

 

 

Favorite Memories

Beach weekend at Lincoln City

Dad, what is one of your favorite memories of being dad?

Mother delighted me with reading stories as a child, and I was eager to continue this with Corina and Chad. Linda or I read to the children almost every night. I enjoyed discovering new authors of that time, such as Richard Scarry, Dr. Seuss and many more. I loved this close shared enjoyment, especially at bedtime.

Continue reading Favorite Memories

Becoming a Father

Eagle Creek trail with Corina in 1972

Dad, what was it like to become a father?

Linda and I were 21 and newlyweds when Corina was born. It was exciting and fun for me to have a baby girl. Fortunately, I found employment immediately after graduation and moved to a nicer apartment in Beaverton. We fell into stereotypical gender roles where I commuted to work in Portland each day and Linda stayed at home in the apartment with Corina. We joined the Christian Church and began to make a few friends, but did not have a close-knit community, nor extended family nearby. It should not have been surprising that Linda developed what looked like a serious postpartum depression. She was isolated with an infant for many hours each day, without supportive friends and an outlet for her creativity. I tried to make a point of helping with baby care during evenings and weekends, but my participation in feminine tasks like cooking, cleaning, laundry and baby care weren’t as enthusiastic and helpful as they should have been.

Linda found a job as a Memorial Coliseum usherette, a job that combined entertainment with helping people. This proved to be a relief valve that lifted her depression. I enjoyed doing baby care while Linda was away and was grateful that she came home enthused about the events.

After several months in Beaverton we rented a house in West Slope and began planning how we might purchase our first house. In the rental house, Linda practiced home decorating and I did house and yard maintenance. Everything was done on a restrictive budget because our limited income. Corina did well in the house in West Slope, playing with our cat named dee-dat, riding her trike, pushing her dolly stroller in the pretty grassy yard, and arranging her girl toys in her bedroom.

When Corina was between two and three, I found that being a parent sometimes comes with urgent care responsibilities. Corina had become ill, and was running a fever, which we assumed was not dangerous. Linda carefully prepared a dinner and we were eating it when Corina went into involuntary jerking movements in her high-chair. I had never witnessed a seizure before. I asked Linda to call emergency help at Kaiser while carried Corina into her bedroom. It seemed that Corina was having trouble breathing, and I felt panic. I shouted to Linda, “call the ambulance,” as I pushed my finger into Corina’s mouth and moved her tongue aside to free her airway. From the phone, Linda called, “they say, put her in a cool bath.” I drew tepid bath water and rushed back to her bedroom carrying her to the bath. She cried and shivered as I lowered her into the water. After a few minutes I felt it was safe to move her back to the bed and dress her in pajamas. Moments later emergency responders arrived and counseled us to drive slowly and carefully to the emergency room. She was admitted and remained at Bess Kaiser for two nights with an infection of the Roseola virus.

After the episode of fever seizures we filled a prescription for phenobarbital to avoid a repeat. Corina was very willful as a child; she hated the taste of phenobarbital and refused to swallow a dose of it. I spanked her bottom to overcome her refusal to swallow it down one time, and felt sad and guilty for that. My father had punished me with spanking, ear thumping, and even kicking me as a child. Unfortunately, I was beginning a pattern of treating my children in the same humiliating and infuriating way that I had been treated.

When my family was still very young, all of the parents at the Christian Church were encouraged to take “Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts” presented by Bill Gothard. Along with hundreds of other young parents, we filled large auditoriums at the Memorial Coliseum, where we received lengthy lectures regarding Bill’s scripture-based insights on family life and child rearing. One of the more egregious instructions Bill taught was “discipline your child to break their will, not break their spirit”. In other words, don’t hesitate to punish your child to the point of fearful compliance, but don’t punish them to the point of ruining their mental or physical health. I regret not walking out on this series on the first day, since it encouraged corporal punishment with Corina. Fortunately, by the time Chad was old enough to be willful and rebellious, I had learned enough to believe that corporal punishment was a terrible idea.

Linda and I agreed on two children, no more than two, spaced close enough so that they could more easily bond with each other. Chad was born 4 years and three months after Corina. Linda seemed to have a much easier time with the second child, both physically and emotionally. We were striving towards a mutually desired goal and she had more social support. It was a delight seeing four-year-old Corina “mothering” her little brother. Chad was also a contented baby, healthy and strong.

I was delighted to have a child of each gender and thought that it was the perfect combination. Despite their genders, I expected the two children to be more similar than different. But Corina liked girl toys and Chad liked boy toys, instinctively it seemed. Corina was more assertive and willful while Chad was more gentle and cooperative. Corina was harder to guide in things like social etiquette and table manners. We didn’t worry much about thumb sucking, but I got worried about nose picking after the kids were in school. I got a jar of flavored multivitamins and told Corina that these were pills that stopped nose picking. She was willing to take the pills, but didn’t find them helpful for nose-picking. Not long afterward, a wiser parent accurately advised “don’t worry about nose-picking – it will go away when she becomes interested in boys.”

Birth of Children

Corina and Chad, Christmas 1973

Dad, what do you remember about the birth of your children.

We invited our next-door neighbors for dinner, and Linda prepared an oriental meal to be enjoyed by the four of us seated on the floor. Midway through the meal, Linda noticed that she was sitting in a wet spot and with a mixture of humor and horror announced that water had broken and her time has come. We called the nearby hospital emergency room and they advised that we come at once. Coming without delay was no problem as Linda had prepared her expectant mother’s bag, and was anxious to get under doctor’s supervision for this new experience.

Corina was born the next morning, a healthy 9-pound infant, at Good Samaritan hospital in Corvallis. I was not present in the delivery room, as was the custom of that day. Sitting in the waiting room during the wee hours, I was greeted by the delivering doctor who offered congratulations. After the doctor left, I remember remarking to another expectant father, “Now I must get a good camera to take lots of pictures of this baby.”

Corina was left with Linda briefly after birth. The two of them seemed tired and happy that ordeal was over. I was glad that hospital policy urged Linda to stay for a few days, as a precaution. During the next few days, my strongest memory was padding down the waxed hallway in my moccasins to the nursery windows and then squinting to pick out lovely pink infant in her plastic crib. Despite being an unplanned baby, she was already loved.

We agreed that we wanted two children separated by enough time to give Linda respite from infant care, but not so much time that the children would have difficulty relating to each other.

Chad was born as planned four years and five months after Corina, at Bess Kaiser hospital, on North Greeley Street in Portland. In the early 1970’s fathers were being encouraged to be present at delivery, but Kaiser Health Plan didn’t recruit, and I failed to advocate for myself. I felt sad to miss my chance to be present in the room at the birth of my child.

I think that the hospital stay was shorter and that Grammie Thelma came to help Linda during the first few days at home. But the details of these events are not clear in my memory. By the next year, we were decorating our new home on Dale Street in Beaverton. We purchased large wooden letters C-H-A-D, spray painted them in orange, and mounted them vertically in Chad’s new bedroom.

Names chosen for our children was influenced by entertainment media of the late 60s and early 70s. Corina Rene was inspired by Ray Peterson’s rendition of the 1920’s song “Corinne, Corinna” as well as the cute childhood character Corey Baker, son of widow Julia Baker, in the television serial “Julia”. I think that Rene could have been lifted from the French singer Renee Claude, who sang in French with an memorable voice.

Chad Jeremy was a based on our admiration for the British folk singers Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde who performed “A Summer Song“, “Willow Weep for Me” and many others. Chad and Jeremy performed together for many years, culminating in their album “50 Years On” released in 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

Free Time

Marty on his Yamaha by Grace Crouch, 1982
Marty on his Yamaha by Grace Crouch, 1982

Dad, how did you spend your free time before you had kids?

After our marriage, we had very little free time and money before children. We lived off-campus in Corvallis on Washington Street in a recently-built apartment. Linda worked full time at The Clothes Tree, a specialty clothing store for women, still in business today. She was pregnant with baby Corina and grew over-tired from being on her feet at the sales floor each day.

I was a full-time senior finishing my bachelors degree in electrical engineering.  I also devoted time to researching, interviewing, and traveling in search of post college employment, interviewing in the California, Oregon and Arizona. Flying here and there a company’s expense was a heady experience but I felt like a poser, not emotionally or mentally ready to enter the world of work. The idea of moving out of Oregon only increased my anxiety.

One of our favorite together activities in that time was to begin walking in some random direction knowing that we would end up at a nearby Baskins-Robbins, in search of Jamoca Almond Fudge on a sugar cone. This fit our limited budget which did not support restaurant meals and concerts. Movies were a favorite date night entertainment. We also visited with other couples as host or guest occasionally.

We continued at Suburban Christian Church in Philomath on Sundays but were less involved than when we were single.

Our apartment neighbors were mostly newlyweds. The husband next door had an avid off-road vehicle hobby. I was interested in his Kawasaki and pestered him with questions. He graciously took me out riding a couple of times and let me take turns riding on some vacant property south of town. He liked to jump his bike over bumps and berms, and was working up to a wheelie. I became enamored with getting my own dirt bike, and became a frequent gawker at the motorcycle store in downtown Corvallis. As my college career wound down, I decided to sell a stock investment that I had hoarded and purchased a brand new red Yamaha, a graduation present to myself.

Dirt bike riding was not an interest that Linda and I shared, nor an appropriate hobby for a young father – it’s an expensive solitary activity with a high risk of injury. It took me several years to come to terms with this reality and I sold the Yamaha to help purchase our first home on Dale Avenue in Beaverton.