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Chuck Brooks' column: Memories of Dad

I said last week I was going to focus on Leprechaun Days this week, but I forgot what this weekend was in my life. I've never said too much to you about my father. Thirteen years ago on July 27, he left this world for the next one. Since this weekend marks that anniversary, I had hoped you would afford me the option of switching gears and recognizing the man we called Dad.

Like Mom, Dad grew up on a farm. He went to school through eighth grade, and then, as was typical in those days, he quit school to help on the farm.

Dad had two other brothers and four sisters. One of the brothers came home from the military, only to die in a car accident one night, long before any of my siblings were born. Dad's mom was the sweetest woman. She had the tiniest lips, and when she talked, her voice was soft and sweet. My grandfather, unfortunately, was an abusive alcoholic. I never learned this until many years after his death. The one story that still haunts me is how he cornered my grandmother one night in the kitchen and held her at bay with a knife while she cowered behind the stove. Dad acquired his own tastes for alcohol, but he didn't get his father's violent streak.

Dad worked in a factory. I'll always say this about Dad. He was as hard a worker as any person I've ever known, but I never really think about him "raising" us. I think I could've been missing for days, and he wouldn't have noticed. That seemed to be Mom's job. Dad made sure everything around the house worked and the grounds were maintained. We had a huge lawn that ran to the lake. Dad found solace in working with his hands, outside and on cars. I did not inherit that quality.

Dad's side of the family possessed a party-like personality. They embraced fun. Mom's side was more refined and sophisticated. As much as I get from Mom's side of the family on some traits, I certainly received Dad's love for fun. He was a scrawny little guy, maybe no taller than 5'9" and thin as a rail. The man loved to dance. He was an absolute hoot on the dance floor. He was at his best when surrounded by music and festivity. We didn't connect often, but when we did, it was usually after he'd been drinking and we were partying with relatives. Some of you might remember Foster Brooks, the comedian who played the role of a drunk man; he'd speak at many roasts in the 70s on television. I would impersonate Foster for Dad because he loved it. He'd then try to imitate me imitating Foster. I could only do that for so long before I'd break down laughing with my father.

Dad smoked all his life. I remember, mostly, his love for his pipe. He eventually died of emphysema at 75. I was able to be with him when he passed.

I still miss Dad, as I do Mom. Hard to believe it's been 13 years since hearing his voice or seeing that silly squint he'd do with his unusually large nose.

If it's been awhile and it's possible, I bet your dad and/or mom would love to hear from you soon. Just to say hi. I bet they quietly smile, at the very least.

Thanks for letting me share our dad with you.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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