Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thinking About My Father

I've been thinking a bit about mortality, and about my parents and grandparents.  I don't know why...I guess because it's been a long time since they died, and I'm getting older every day.

Today, I was thinking about my father.  He was born 104 years ago today in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, the 5th child of seven, and the eldest son that survived.  Every time I visited with his sisters and his younger brother, they would tell stories about Freddie.  Good ones, as a boy and young man he was quite the prankster and drove his mother crazy.  He always maintained that he was Mister Innocent.  He was expelled from Leominster High and attended several boarding schools, even one in New Jersey.  He finally graduated from Worcester Academy.  Then he went to Dartmouth College on a baseball scholarship and hurt his knee and dropped out of school.  I don't think he was a serious student.

Then adulthood came along, and the Great Depression, and jobs were hard to find and keep.  The story is that he took odd jobs, and lived with one of his sisters off and on.  In December 1940, ostensibly "tired of shoveling snow from his sister's walkways," he jumped in his car and drove to California to visit his Aunt Emily and her family in San Diego.  He wrote a letter from Columbus, OPhio to his aunt, and probably beat the letter to their doorstep - they were really surprised to see him just before Christmas 1940.

But was that the real story?  According to family lore (and we all know how reliable that is), my father left Leominster MA in December 1940 and drove across the country to San Diego in order to escape a failed romance, and that the girl was pregnant when he left. All of his sisters claim it is true but are short on details. His brother scoffed at the claim, saying that he would have known about it, and it didn't happen. We know the girl's name - Mary Xxxxx, a Catholic girl whose father forbade a marriage.  'Tis a mystery - I may have a half-sibling.

When he got to San Diego, he lived with Aunt Emily's family.  They had a granddaughter, Marcia, who lived with them, and at some time in 1941 or early 1942, Fred said "I need a girl friend" while at the dinner table, and Marcia said "I know a really nice teacher."  An invitation to dinner ensued to Betty Carringer, an Art teacher at Marcia's school, Woodrow Wilson Junior High, and a romance was begun (I don't know how long).  By July 1942, they were married and living in a bungalow house on Twin Oaks Avenue in Chula Vista, and they both worked in the aircraft industry at Rohr Aircraft in Chula Vista.  Then little Randy came along.  Fred enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944, and returned in August 1945.  Stanley was born in 1946 and Scott in 1955.  The family moved into the upstairs flat at 2119 30th Street in San Diego, above Betty's parents who lived in the lower flat.

After the war, Fred worked at a number of jobs, and by 1949 was an insurance agent for Prudential Insurance, with a "debit" route out in Pacific Beach and southern La Jolla - about 12 miles from South Park where they lived.  He usually worked outside the home about three days a week, and worked at home the other days, sitting at his desk, running the adding machine, filling out the forms needed to keep track of payments and policies and paperwork.  It always seemed that work was easy for him because he had salesman abilities and a mathematical bent.  We were pretty much the typical 50s family - with enough to eat, a home, a love for games and toys, etc.  

My father's great love was baseball, and we watched it on television, and Stan and Scott played Little League and Pony League, and he managed their teams from 1956 through 1971 or so.  He spent al ot of time at the baseball fields, dragging them, trimming the grass, preparing the field for games, and then the games themselves.  He was very competitive and tried to pull fast ones on the other managers and teams.  

His second love was bowling.  He was a competitive bowler in the best leagues in San Diego during the 1950s and 1960s.  We went to several state bowling tournaments in the 1950s on vacation - I recall Fresno, Sacramento, San Jose and Los Angeles.  This was the only time we stayed in a motel or drove a long way - remember, this was before freeways, so it was Highway 101 and highway 99 all the way in the summer without air conditioning. 

He retired in 1971 after cutting off two fingers in the garage workshop and had a long convalescence.  This also ended his baseball coaching career.  He busied himself with the garage workshop, and taking care of the Carringer 30th Street properties as my grandparents aged.   After they died in 1976-7, my parents moved to their home on Point Loma and made it theirs.  That is the home my children remember.  In 1982, both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer, Fred with prostate cancer and Betty with breast cancer, had operations and seemed to be recovering.  However, Fred had some bladder blockages and was in and out of the hospital in early 1983, and succumbed in May 1983 after a heart attack in the hospital.  He was buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at the end of Point Loma, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

What is his legacy?  My memories are of a good businessman, a fun father, a kidder, a competitive and judgmental man, not a workaholic, didn't like to be criticized, a handyman, a bowler, a big sports fan who complained about the local teams, etc.  For me, the biggest legacy is his wonderful New England ancestry, which includes Mayflower passengers, colonial governors, and gateway ancestors to royal and noble ancestries.  I've had a lot of fun with that over the 32 years since his passing.  

So here's to you Dad, Happy 104th birthday, I hope you are proud of my life, my education, my work life, my choices, and our family history. I wish I had talked to you more about your life rather than try to remember long lost stories.  I need to tell your story to my children and grandchildren too.

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True Lewis said...

Always love to read stories about Fathers. My own are instrumental in my Life. Happy Heavenly 104th Mr. Seaver! (I'm curious about the Sister).

Julie Goucher said...

So given the comment about a possible half sibling have you done a DNA test?

Cindi said...

Such a lovely tribute!

Michigan Girl said...

Lovely tribute to your father Randy. Thank you for sharing it with us. And I second the question about "have you done a DNA test" to find about about the possible half sibling?

Barb said...

Fabulous tribute to your father. Thanks for sharing.

Randy Seaver said...

Julie and Diane,

I have done a Y-DNA test, an mtDNA test, and autosomal DNA tests at 23andMe, familyTreeDNA and AncestryDNA. No half-siblings so far, but hope springs eternal.

Jana Iverson Last said...


A wonderful tribute to your father!

I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a great weekend!

Crissouli said...

Great story, your Dad sounds like a man who worked to live, not lived for work. Pity more of us didn't create such a good balance between work, leisure and family.