My mom and dad, Jones Beach, NY, 1961
Dad, me at nearly 3 yrs., my mom, and a very new Colby, Columbus, OH - 1966
Once, when I was in 6th grade, the topic of fire drills came up at school. Topics like how your family should prepare for a fire, what precautions are taken, and if your family had one of those new, fangled smoke detectors on your ceiling somewhere were discussed.
Upon hearing this, my dad thought it would be a great idea if we practiced a fire drill as a family. Sure, it was a slow day in Hutchinson, KS, not much else going on, "so let's all pretend that it's the middle of the night and I'll be the fire that tries to come into your room".
My brother and I thought that this would be fun, hilarious, may even involve quickly fashioning a rope out of my bedsheets to get me safely out of my second-story bedroom window. "Yeah, dad, you be the fire and Colby and I will just lie on our beds, pretending to be asleep and wait".
So. I'm on my bed. *Sleeping*.
Suddenly, I hear a grumble. I hear a very low voice, saying repeatedly, "I'm the fire".
"I'm the fire" just outside my bedroom door.
"I'm the fire" as my door slowly opens.
"I'm the fire" creeping into my bedroom. This big, large, somewhat hairy, *fire*, is hunching over towards me. Walking, hunkering over towards my bed.
And it keeps repeating, "I'm the fire".
I can't move. I'm terrified.
I.am.seriously.petrified.with.fear. This walking, hunched over fire-man is going to get me.
And my 12 year old self breaks down into tears because my thespian of a dad has so convinced me that he's a walking-man-of-fire, I simply cannot move an inch.
So ends our family fire drill.
The Hall family, Hutchinson, KS, 1976 (or thereabouts).
Dad, on his head, at Jones Beach, NY - 1961
Sometimes I miss my dad.
My dad died nearly 24 years ago. I was 20. My brother was 17. And my dad was 47. He died suddenly, as in it was totally unexpected.
But Father's Day isn't really a day I think or pine for my dad. I actually miss my dad more on holidays, on his birthday-March 2nd, whenever I'm in the kitchen preparing some intense, untried dish, and especially when I think my kids need more of a 'Hall' infusion in the their lives.
I think of him whenever we're decorating the Christmas tree, on Easter, when I see Egg's Benedict on a menu or when I see a well-marbleized piece of beef. And I think of him whenever I'm in the ocean, body-surfing or skipping stones with my kids.
See, my dad was a force. A big, bon vivant power of a force. Such a force that he left a bit of a vacuum in my family. Growing up, he was the super glue. He understood and practiced family obligation. He was in frequent touch with his siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. And Saturday nights were the nights that were spent together as a family. Even through my Junior High years.... if we weren't watching the NBC line-up of Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and the Carole Burnett Show we were playing games of Masterpiece, Hearts, or Dictionary - in the family room, with the orange shag carpet and black pleather couch.
And my dad was loud. My dad whistled- a lot. My dad loved pranks and loved to sneak up on me and my brother. He loved food. He loved celebrating. He loved music. He loved marching bands. He loved college football.
He loved Dewar's on the rocks. He loved to sail. He loved the earth and soil and the poetry and simplicity of farms. He loved Monty Python. He loved chocolate-covered toffee. He loved entertaining and sharing and giving. He firmly believed in whole notion of 'the more, the merrier'.
And he loved just being with his family.
We were living in Overland Park, KS-a suburb of Kansas City. My brother and I were just returning to school, the days around my dad's death. I was starting my Junior year and Colby was starting his Freshman year, both at the University of Kansas. He died Sept. 2, 1984. It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.
I think his death was such a crazy shock to me that it wasn't until 5 or more years after his death that I got some help and took the opportunity to really sit and feel his lose and absence. And I know that I will always feel it. Just not as much as times goes on.
Overall, though, I believe that my life took a dramatic turn when my dad died. I finished college, I moved to the East coast, I became totally independent and did very well for myself. And I think because my dad died I was able to live the life I've always wanted. I live in the city. I live near the ocean. I married this awesome guy from Rhode Island who loves to travel and explore and shares my curiosity and wanderlust. And we raised two curious, urban kids that have seen more and done more than either of us have done at their age.
I think the direction my life has taken is really in honor of my dad, to some extent.
Dad with a scruffy beard, taken when we all had the Hong Kong flu in '68
It's a terrible idea of this trade-off but I believe it to be true.
John Benson Hall
March 2, 1937 - September 2, 1984
March 2, 1937 - September 2, 1984