Saturday, June 19, 2021

FATHER'S DAY by Sarah J. McNeal #TheWildingsSeries




Pop loved fishing. Here he is with his big catch.

Pop wasn’t the kind of dad who gave a lot of hugs and said, “I love you” very often. In fact, he seldom did those 2 things, but he DID show me love in the language he knew best; he showed me almost on the daily the time and energy he was willing to spend on me.


He helped my sister and me gather straw and put it in water to “ferment”, and then we looked at it under the microscope taking daily samples to see what going on in the murky water. It was like a microcosm of the universe in a drop of liquid. One celled animals developed, then new ones came in, and the first ones preyed on the second until the third group followed and did the same. Eventually all the living things were gone.


Pop showed us how to grow an organic garden without using pesticides, and gave us the knowledge to make compost. We were allowed to grow pollywogs we got from the pond to grow them until they became frogs. Those weren’t the only animals from the wild we were allowed to have; we had lizards and snakes, too. We learned the value of each creature in nature and learned to be respectful and reverent of all living things. “Everything has a purpose on Earth.”


He was a huge fan of conservation before conservation was a thing. He joined clubs like the Jacques Cousteau Society to protect nature’s creatures.


Pop in his kilt with his dog, Ember

As I have probably said before of him, he was a bit of an odd ball. Our freezer became his animal lab. He found a dead hawk, or maybe it was an owl alongside the road. He picked it up and put it in the freezer until he could turn it over to the Rapture Center for them to examine. Turns out it’s actually illegal to remove feathers or other parts of a bird of prey, so it’s a good thing he preserved it for them.

He dug up an ant hill, put it in a plastic bag in the freezer to keep until he could make the framed glass ant farm for the oldest nephew. It would have worked out fine if he had been able to get the queen, but unfortunately, the ants did not make it.

There were other road kill entries into the freezer hall of fame, so it was with caution that anyone lifted that freezer lid since we never knew what was in there.


Pop at work in the U.S. Weather Bureau at Douglas Airport

Pop loved math. He thought it was fun. My sister and I did not inherit that ability. Pop tried to teach me my multiplication tables and I’m certain he found that exhausting. Later, when I became a critical care nurse, his teaching about setting up algebraic equations came in very handy. Calculators had finally come into being by then. To show his pride in my work he gave me my first little calculator to keep in my pocket so I could calculate mixing and dispensing cardiac drugs. That was his “I love you” gift. He also gave me a Littman Master’s stethoscope when I passed the Coronary Care Curriculum to get into Coronary Care—another “I love you and I’m proud of you gift.”


Because Pop was a meteorologist, he was asked from time to time by our teachers to come to our classes and teach about the weather. He didn’t mind taking the time to do that for us and I think he actually enjoyed it. He taught my sister and me all about pressure areas, cold and hot fronts, and different cloud formations. Later, when he retired from the U.S. Weather Bureau and worked at WSOC TV, he worked with the filming crew to create little documentaries about wildlife and nature. I think that was something he really enjoyed doing.


Pop in the front yard wearing the suit Mom made for him

He was a big personality with a quirky sense of humor. I often went to him for advice on how to negotiate through life, and he always had something helpful to say to get me through. He died August 16, 1981 while he was touring the entire East Coast. While in Wilmington, NC, my favorite town, he had a ruptured aortic aneurism and was gone within 32 hours.

I miss him. I will always miss him. He was a great dad and I was lucky to have had him. He was like a harbor I could sail to in times of trouble. On this coming Father’s Day I honor my dad, James William McNeal. I love you, Pop.


 Sarah J. McNeal

Author of Heartwarming Stories




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