A Sidekick's Blog

A Tribute to My Father | January 22, 2017

We were not on good terms when my (biological) father died last Thursday. He had attacked my bride, blaming her for “all my troubles” following my life-threatening battle with severe depression. He never showed any respect for the female members of my family. Neither my wife nor my daughter – both of whom I am immensely proud of – was worthy of any mention in his letters or phone calls for the last several years of his life. Informed of my brush with death, his response was heartless and cruel, especially toward my wife. That was our last contact, about a year ago.

“Joe,” as we always called him, was a brilliant composer of classical music that never got published as far as I know, but efforts to get one of the local colleges up in his hometown to publish it and play some selections were mostly successful. He wrote several hymns as well, which were heard, as far as I know, only at the little Lutheran church he attended. I hope they will find their way into publication so that that part of his legacy can live on and bless many others. Joe was a military veteran, an arch-conservative, a certified NRA firearms instructor, and a faithful husband.

When Joe and his wife Hilda visited us in Florida, he had nothing but good things to say about my stepfather, who was living with us by then. One of my favorite memories of Joe was one wonderful day of target shooting in which everyone including my kids and nephew participated.

Joe helps Danny perfect his technique.

That’s “Dad Hiley” seated on the scooter, Joe teaching, and Hilda poking her smiling face from behind Dad.

Shooting sports were a love we both shared. Here Joe and I went skeet shooting a few times, both at his home in Virginia and mine down here in Florida.
Great memories!

I renewed my acquaintance with my biological father when I was 14 and intensely curious about finding and getting to know my “real” father. He was very accommodating then, and we kept in touch by phone and correspondence for many years.

I met my half-brother Charles on that first trip to Virginia, and always enjoyed the pride that Joe had in him. Charles is a French-trained pastry chef who owns and operates the best bakery in Luray, Virginia. If you’re ever traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and plan a visit to Luray Caverns, be sure to stop in at the Main Street Bakery and Catering shop and tell them Robin sent you!

Joe hated technology. I tried several times to get him a computer in the hopes of teaching him to use it, if only so that our correspondence would be easier and faster, to include pictures, links, and other stuff to enrich it. But really, nothing beats pen and paper and “real” printed photographs, newspaper clippings, and the like. It seems technophobia was another trait we shared.

Joe never got my Star Trek references.

“Holy moley, it’s genetic!” was Suzie’s first response to meeting Joe and witnessing the idiosyncrasies we shared, from the frequent lack of a proper “filter” for our words and behavior in social situations. I was not raised by Joe at all. Yet I act like him in several ways and share his contempt for the new math and modern technology. In a conversation with him about Asperger’s syndrome (before it was re-named to “high functioning autism”) his reaction was, “Holy moley there’s a name for this?” I believe that is a trait we also shared.

Even though we parted on unfriendly terms – so much so that I was not supposed to be informed of his death – most of my memories of Joe are really good ones, and I’m proud to be his son.

Rest in peace, Papa Joe. I’ll see you again soon, in the next world, where our falling out won’t matter one little bit.

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2 Comments »

  1. Sorry for your loss Robin. My prayers are with you and your family.

    Comment by keachfan — January 22, 2017 @ 8:29 pm

  2. Sorry for the loss to your family.

    Comment by wwsorrells — January 23, 2017 @ 11:01 pm


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