It was a beautiful summer Sunday morning. My Mom was getting us into the car for a day at Thompson Park. This was a real treat. We would have a small picnic with ham sandwiches and apples. We had stale bread to feed to the animals in the petting zoo and we were all ready to skim rocks on the lake and climb the jungle gym. We were ready and then, and then my Dad came home. He had been at his version of church with his buddies at Sloppy John’s Tavern. He was filled to the top with the Holy Spirits.
He wanted to come with us, my Mom did not want him to. She insisted he go take a nap or watch some baseball on TV. He insisted even more. No point arguing with someone so moved by spirits.
My Dad accompanied us to the park. I don’t quite remember, but I think we just left him in the car parked by the lake. We played and watched the guys fishing the lake off of Black’s Bridge, which was a railroad trestle. We fed the zoo animals and it was time to feed ourselves. We returned to the car to get the cooler. My Dad wasn’t there. Hmmm where could he be? We looked around. No sight of him. We called and hollered for him. Nothing. Oh well, we had our picnic without him.
It started to get late when my Mom said it was time to go home. All of us piled into the car when my Mom asked “Anybody seen your Father ?”
Nope. None of us had seen him since we got to the park. She had a mild worried look on her face. She got in the car and drove the park looking for him. He was nowhere to be seen.
Being that we were so close to my Grandparents house, my Mom figured he must of walked there. She drove to McKnight Ave. No, he wasn’t there. No one had seen him. She stopped at Sloppy’s. Nope, not there. Not at Frank Paul’s Bar. Not at Blind Frank’s Tavern, not even at Nap’s Bar. My Dad was lost.
Now if my Dad wasn’t at a bar or my Grandparents on a Sunday where was he? We knew he was feeling no pain when we last saw him, but that effect had to have worn off by now. My Mom was seriously worried. She did something she has never done. This was very serious. She went to the police. She told them how she had left him in the car being he was at “church” that morning and had figured he’d just sleep it off but instead he had disappeared.
The police seemed concerned too. They said he must of fell in the lake and drowned. Oh, no! My Dad wasn’t lost, he was dead! The lake had claimed a number of inebriated victims. It wasn’t common, but it wasn’t uncommon. I’d remember the old Black man from New St that had drowned. I got a little scared. They told my Mom they’d get a boat and drag the lake. This seemed awful. They also said they would put out a 13 state bulletin for him, but they would have to wait twenty four hours to list him as a missing person. As a ten year old, this was serious stuff. My Mom said she would search for him. He had to be somewhere. My Grandfather joined the search.
It was getting dark and still no sign of him. My Mom decided us kids needed to get home. My Pop said he would keep looking.
We went home. My Mom was on the phone calling anyone who might have seen him. He had disappeared into thick, humid, summer air.
All of us sat in the living room; waiting. How can you find someone in the dark? Why would he just walk away and leave us? Was he drowned, his
lifeless body laying on the bottom of the lake? So many questions and no answers. I don’t know if they were dragging the lake or not, I just knew we had lost our Dad.
Then the phone rang. It was Pop. He had found my Father walking on the tracks that ran through the center of town. Where had he been? Why was he gone? How’d he get on the tracks? All these questions and suspense had an incredibly mundane ending.
In his drunken state, he had decided to heed the old advice of walk it off. He said he headed to Black’s Bridge and continued to walk the tracks. He got tired and layed down… ON THE TRACKS! He wasn’t missing, he was sleeping. It was very fortunate for him it was a Sunday so no trains were running. He said he was woke up by a big German Shepard licking his face and the dog had scared him so he ran (fortunately) back in the direction of town and that is where my Grandfather found him.
So, that was the story of the day we lost Daddy. It turned out okay.