Sunday, June 15, 2008

For My Father

My father never knew I went to college; I don’t know if he would have been proud of me or not.  I like to think so.  My mother’s family never cared much for education and dad was gone long before I saw my eleventh year.

Just down from the house on the farm where my mother grew up, there was a creek.  It ran through the fields of Plymouth County in western Iowa.  It wasn’t much of a creek when I played there, but it always intrigued me.  I remember it was simply the West Fork, and no matter how hard I tried I could learn no more about it.  I guess no one really knew, and I remember if I pressed the issue I ran into a wall.

Today, with computers, I might have learned more, I suppose.  I guess I could have asked someone in town, and perhaps I did query some of my grandmother’s friends.  But children in Plymouth County were to be seen and not heard, and usually I kept my mouth shut.

Thus, for me the West Fork was a muddy little stream to nowhere.  It was mind numbing, but I minded my own business.  It wasn’t until adulthood I learned the shallow, muddy creek was the west fork of the Little Sioux River, a tributary of the Missouri River that carved wide valleys and gorges in western Iowa.

It was wonderful to learn about.  I like to believe my dad would have known — or he would have found out.  Unfortunately, my dad was a bad man.  Everyone told me this again and again.  I never saw the bad man when he was around, but I guess it was true.  I heard about it all the time — whenever I asked after him.  And, of course, family members couldn’t believe I would ever want to be with him (that's the bad man and me in Canada below).

In the Omaha World-Herald, Saturday, June 14, a headline proclaims “Dads Call Their Day Second-Rate.”  I am sure this is true (it was for my father), but I will never know for sure because I have no children.

Are men lousy parents?  Everyone tells us this all the time.  Even the World-Herald article misses the mark.  Author, Michael O’Connor, tells us what we all know: “Face it, guys, we don’t always carry our load.”

I am sure this is what my father felt, even thought he paid his child support every month year after year — and alimony.

I loved my father, and missed him terribly when I was growing up.  His name was Carl DeForest Switzer, and he was my dad.

He was a strong man, a Sergeant in the US Army Air force stationed on Tinian.  He was in the First Ordnance Squadron.  He never talked much about it.  My father and mother met at McCook Army Air Field in Nebraska (she worked in the typing pool).  He was on his way to Wendover (and is kneeling in the front row to the far right in this photo from Tinian).

Happy Father’s Day to my dad.  And please, should anyone ever read this, tell your dad, or an uncle or any meaningful man in your life how important he is — even if from afar.  It will mean the world to him, I am sure.

Editor’s Note: This photo is from the The Manhattan Project Heritage Preservation Association, Inc. web site (The Joseph Papalia Collection).  I often look at photos to see if I can find him doing stuff (I don't think that's him in the upper right corner) but please visit to learn more (just type Tinian, or other keywords in their search engine).


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