Who Were You Dad?


In honor of Father’s Day, this is something I originally wrote back in 2014.  

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is a question I have asked many times.  I never knew the man.

My mother married 5 times.  Badly.  I knew 2 step-fathers, neither of which I ever wanted to call “Dad”.

What I do know about my dad is very sketchy.  His name was Roy.  A name that was passed down to my little brother.  I have one old, faded, black & white photo of him standing beside my mother.  They were both so young in that picture.  My mother looking up into my father’s eyes.  You could tell just from that single picture that she adored him.  Roy was quite tall.  In the picture he was head & shoulders above my mother who was 5’7”.  So he must have been over 6’ tall. He’s looking down at her, his hair falling down over his forehead a little bit.

All I have regarding my father is information that was passed down to me by my mother and older brothers.

My dad was full blood German.  I guess I have (had) grandparents in Germany somewhere.

My dad was a timber faller and worked in the woods.  I have very vague memories of a 2 room cabin, with a wood cook stove in one room and a fire place in the room where we all had our beds.  The front yard was dirt and there was a tire swing tied to a limb of a big tree in that front yard.  In my mind’s eye, I can’t make out his face, but I have a misty/foggy memory of a slender man sitting on the side of a big bed looking down at me in this 2 room cabin.  I can see the fireplace behind him burning brightly.  I have been told by my brothers that yes, we were living with my father during the time of these vague memories.

Continue reading “Who Were You Dad?”

Who Were You Dad?


In honor of Father’s Day, this is something I originally wrote back in 2014.  

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is a question I often ask.  I never knew the man.

My mother married 5 times.  Badly.  I knew 2 step-fathers, neither of which I ever wanted to call “Dad”.

What I do know about my dad is very sketchy.  His name was Roy.  A name that was passed down to my little brother.  I have one old, faded, black & white photo of him standing beside my mother.  They were both so young in that picture.  My mother looking up into my father’s eyes.  You could tell just from that single picture that she adored him.  Roy was quite tall.  In the picture he was head & shoulders above my mother who was 5’7”.  So he must have been over 6’ tall. He’s looking down at her, his hair falling down over his forehead a little bit.

All I have regarding my father is information that was passed down to me by my mother and older brothers.

My dad was full blood German.  I guess I have (had) grandparents in Germany somewhere.

My dad was a timber faller and worked in the woods.  I have very vague memories of a 2 room cabin, with a wood cook stove in one room and a fire place in the room where we all had our beds.  The front yard was dirt and there was a tire swing tied to a limb of a big tree in that front yard.  In my mind’s eye, I can’t make out his face, but I have a misty/foggy memory of a slender man sitting on the side of a big bed looking down at me in this 2 room cabin.  I can see the fireplace behind him burning brightly.  I have been told by my brothers that yes, we were living with my father during the time of these vague memories.

Other than that, I have no real memories of this man.

My mother said that my dad was injured in the war (WWII?) and he had a steel plate in his head.  She said eventually the war and the injury got the best of him and he turned mean.  MY mother packed us up and left.

Mom tells me that she loved my dad very much and if it had not been for his injury, she would have stayed with him.

My older brothers confirm this story as well.  I guess he was a swell guy until he went nuts.

As a child I used to fantasize about finding my father.  But another part of me didn’t want to see the ugly side of him.  What if he was in a nut house somewhere?  Or what if he was homeless?

If the steel plate in his head was that detrimental for him, would he even remember my mother or me?

These are questions I really didn’t want the answer to.

Now as an adult, I still let myself drift there once in a while; wondering who this man was.  What did his voice sound like?  Did I inherit any of his mannerisms?  Did he have a German accent?  Did I get my love of reading from him?  Did he smoke, drink, or like pizza?  These are things I will never know.

With the internet, you would think there would be avenues for me find him, or what may have happened to him.  But I simply don’t have enough information.  I don’t know his middle name, his hair or eye color, his birthday or even how old he might be.  My mother and father were never legally married.  So I don’t have that information either.  I’m pretty much stuck with what little information I have.

I would like to have ONE conversation with my dad.  Just one.  If he were coherent that is.  I would ask a million questions!  I would probably drive the man crazy!  More than anything, I would want to hear his voice.  To hear the inflection in his words.  I would want to take his hand, hold it; feel the warmth of his touch.  Had those hands ever touched his daughter with love?

In many ways I was very lucky growing up.  My mother loved me and my brothers and that is something I have never questioned.  Some people don’t have even that.  But I guess there has always been that piece of me that was empty and unanswered.

I think this is one of the perils of getting older.  We start looking back more than we look ahead.  I don’t think I quite do that…yet.  But I do find myself questioning my past more and more.

What’s In A Name?


1937-Wheat-Penny-Front-Back

Here a Penny, there a Penny…..

I was born with the name of Penny Nichols.  Not an easy name to live up to.  When I was in my teens and 20’s, I went by “Six Cents”.

The name Penny (NOT Penelope) was hard enough.  I heard all the usual taunts as a kid.  Henny Penny, Bad Penny.  My brothers bastardized the name Penelope and called me that, making the “o” long and the last “e” silent.  I hated it.  Then there was that stupid cartoon on when I was a kid called “Penelope PitStop”.  Kids called me that sometimes too.

Then there are those that try to be cute.  “A Penny for your thoughts!”  or “Penny’s from heaven!”

I always wanted to be called something pretty; something exotic.  I tried for a long time to get my childhood friends to call me Eva.  But it didn’t stick.

I had enough things to deal with as a kid.  I had a big chip out of one of my front teeth, which caused me to look like I had a huge gap there.  I had (have) crazy curly/frizzy hair that I could never control.  My mom was a single mother for most of my childhood.  So money was hard to come by.  I wore hand me down clothes (with 3 brothers!) or 2nd hand clothes.  They were clean, but never new.

I never got to BUY my lunch, like the cool kids did.  I took my lunch in a brown paper sack.

I found out as an adult how I got the name Penny.  I always thought it was because my fathers’ name was Nichols, I was his “little Penny”.  Apparently I was very small, only about 4 lbs. when I was born.

I got the name Penny because my 2 older brothers thought it would be great fun to have a sister named Penny Nichols.

Thanks guys….

Needless to say, I hated my name growing up.

I did meet one other Penny Nichols when I was a kid.  I was in the 3rd grade.  Her name was really Penelope and her last name was spelled differently.  BUT she was a Penny Nichols!

I occasionally look up the meaning of my name.  Most of the time I can’t find it.  What I usually find is Penelope.  But I am not a Penelope, I am a Penny!

A few of the meanings I have found are “Web over her face”.  What the… ?  Or “bobbin”.   Uh…ok.  Or “a coin”.  Duh!

The name Penelope has meanings like “weaver” and “dream weaver”.   Which makes more sense than bobbin!!

My mother wanted to name me Rose Marie.  There was a popular song at the time by the same name.  But my dear brothers would have none of it!

Now as an adult, I like my name.  It’s different.  You don’t hear it all the time.  My last name has changed, so I am no longer Nichols.  I can’t imagine being called anything other than Penny now.  I have a few friends that have shortened my name to Pen, as a nick name and that’s ok.

I have grown into my name over the years.  It’s who I am.

Now, my last name…. Wait.  That may be too much for you to handle in one sitting.  I think I will leave that for another time.