Today would be my dad’s birthday, April 12th (1927). These photos are ones that are my favorites of him as a young man. But, they do tell you much about my dad! The first one of him on the steps to his grandparent’s home: he was a meticulous dresser; dapper and stylish–yet a slightly mischievous attitude! His hair was always “just so” and definitely not to be messed with!
My dad was raised by his fully Polish grandparents on Altgeld Street in South Bend, Indiana. Though his mother was alive, she didn’t live with them; she was divorced from my dad’s father when dad was only six months old. She visited home and brought various friends home to meet her parents and son. My dad loved his grandparents and had a great relationship with them. His grandma was always slipping him a few dollars and his grandpa taught him how to maintain a home and yard.
Dad, George Wade Lushbaugh, was called Junior by his grandparents, or Georgie, but his mom always called him “sonny” which he never liked. He was an only child, which he didn’t like but he had a cousin named Jack who was six months younger than dad, and they were probably as close or closer than a brothers would be. Dad had many stories about Jack and their escapades; he loved hanging out at Jack’s house and riding bikes together. Jack’s dad, Virgil Marriott, was good to include my dad in family events.
My dad wasn’t educated in college, in fact, as an adult I learned that he quit High School to join the navy during WWII. However, that isn’t to say he wasn’t intelligent. Eventually, after moving our family to Arizona, and then California–dad went to work for Howard Hughes at Hughes Aircraft in California. He worked hard, enjoyed what he did, and was proud of the fact that he was part of the Surveyor Program–a satellite system that circled the earth. He taught himself math, trigonometry and calculus. He was good at what he did.
Perhaps because he was so good at math, when I was learning math in elementary school and wasn’t getting it—that is why he was so frustrated with why I couldn’t understand it! We spent many an evening going over and over times tables, etc. My forte was English, spelling and all the other subjects! Sorry, dad! (I don’t struggle so much anymore, but it still isn’t my cup of tea!) Thankfully, my husband is great at figures!
My dad loved working in the yard and ours was always the best yard on the block! Looking back on it now, I am sure it was therapeutic for him after long hours and overtime at work with complex issues involving aerospace! I loved it when he let me help him in the yard! But dad never wanted anyone to cut the corners where the grass (dichondra) would meet the sidewalk on their bike..so if you were the kid that he saw do it, you were going to get told! The dichondra was as thick as a carpet, and it was very soft and inviting! So my friend and I loved to spread a blanket under the tree and page through Teen Magazines while my dad was at work! I was regrettably amazed that after putting away the blanket, the impressions of our young teen bodies were still visible on the now “scrunched” dichondra! Dad wasn’t too pleased about that when he got home either! But mom pled my case–”George, it’s just grass!” The next time I wanted to spread a blanket in our yard, I learned that I could use the leaf rake to nearly eliminate the evidence!
As a grandfather, my dad loved coming up to our home in the mountains at Christmas time. It was pretty much a certainty we’d have snow, and he loved to play Santa for my girls! One year,
we Santa left them a cocker spaniel puppy named Cookie! I remember lying in bed, way before dawn, hearing whispers coming from my kids room (where Grandma was sleeping with both kids in a double bed!) Just then I and they heard, “Ho, Ho, Ho Merry Christmas!” along with sleighbells! There was no staying in bed any longer, the girls were up in no time, as were all of us! but it was a terrific Christmas!
Though there were some years when I was in high school that dad and I had a tough time, mostly because he was stressed and drinking, and I was a teenager who wanted to express her opinions, I always knew my dad loved me. Teenagers pretty much are all about themselves and I am sure I was no different. I didn’t understand much of my dad’s background (both his parents had basically left him) and I am sure he was lonely much of the time, for companionship, friends and nurturing from other than his grandparents. Sometimes, when we feel “empty” we try to fill it up with other things to compensate. It was years later when telling some of these things to a trusted “mentor” that through her eyes, I began to see what may be causing his “drinking” and how I could change my own attitudes, and my unforgiveness of him because of it. I’ve always been thankful to have had that conversation! When we can dig into the “facts” and feel the emotions of how they affect people, it gives us compassion and understanding for the other person.
When I began to be interested in the history of our family, my great grandmother Lily Lushbaugh, and her daughter Grace made my research much easier! They had written down many things, many stories, dates, names and even “traditions” about the Lushbaugh family that I have been able to put actual documents to, in order to prove them. But, because of my asking questions about the family—I was able to find out some background that even my own dad wasn’t aware of. You see, my great-grandmother, Lily would have my father over for the day and unknown to him, she would also invite her son, George William over (my dad’s father, whom he never saw after the divorce when he was six months old).
The picture below of my dad on a pony was just such a day. Lily paid for the picture to be made of my dad sitting on the pony. There were many photos like this taken in my dad’s day…my mother has one of herself on a pony…and even I, myself, have the same photo! This day, Lily’s son was introduced to my dad as a friend of the family—but it was really George William, father to my dad. He got to enjoy seeing his son and watch the whole day unfold, but my dad had no clue. Years later, as I said, I began asking some questions about why they were divorced and why didn’t my grandfather want to see his only son? I asked that of my great Aunt Grace, Lily’s unmarried daughter and High School English teacher. She told me that he had remarried to a Catholic woman and in those days, if they knew you’d been married before and divorced, they wouldn’t let you marry in the church, you’d be excommunicated. So, in fear of that, his new wife made him promise never to tell anyone about his first marriage or his son. Unfortunately, he went along with it–though his family thought it wrong, they stayed out of it. He evidently regretted having agreed to this almost immediately. He and his new wife lived an hour or so away in Chicago for many years, and so it wasn’t often that he returned to his mother’s home in South Bend during the early years of his new marriage. When my own mother would send my great grandmother Lily pictures of me, they would secretly share them with George William.
The wallet George William carried all those years before his death, had our pictures in it…mine, my dad’s and my children’s. When I was able to read the letter I received from a family member related by marriage– about all of this, my dad cried. It was a very healing thing for him to know that his own father, though he really never knew him, was asking and being made aware of his son’s family, and then my family. It’s a very sad story, and one that didn’t need to be.
My dad, George Wade Lushbaugh would have celebrated his 86th year today, but he passed six years ago. However, I know I will see him again and he and my mama are together. Thank you, Lord. And I love you, Dad–Happy Birthday!