My father, Edwin W. Giles, was born on the fourth of July, 1911 in New Orleans, LA. I look at the photos of him, a dark-eyed little boy wearing a long white christening gown the way all the little boys did back then, posing for the camera in a fancy chair, looking solemn and frightened, sitting up all by himself, holding onto the arms of the chair.
The black and white photos of my grandmother show the same dark, serious eyes, looking out from under one of those elegant hats they wore around the turn of the century. Even years later, I never saw her smile. Life was a serious business for a lady who had lost her husband when her boys were young. With few options in those days, she had to "go into service" as a lady's maid, forcing her to put my dad and uncle into a Masonic orphanage for several years.
Though Daddy never really recovered from this traumatic event in his childhood, he rarely talked about it, and his own glittering smile was quick and contagious. I think he learned that people liked his smile--particularly the ladies--and particularly when he wore that U.S. Army Air Force WWII uniform with the gold wings.
In later years, Daddy's students at Malden Air Base called him "Steady Eddie," because of an incident, when a small fire broke out in the trainer he was flying one day. The fire crew rushed out, as he landed his plane on the air strip.
"Where's the fire?" they shouted.
"I put it out," said my dad, calmly.
For me, my dad was the rock I leaned on, when I cut my finger one Thanksgiving, slicing a piece of turkey. When my mom fainted dead away on the floor, my dad treated the cut with his usual calm efficiency.
When my cat "Tuna Kitty Precious Darling Heart" was attacked in the back yard of our Abilene home by four neighbor dogs, who were intent on shredding her alive before my eyes, it was my dad who waded in, kicking dogs and grabbing the hapless cat, who promptly climbed him like a tree.
The incident was all the more amazing, because he absolutely hated that cat! She was the one who once stole a pork chop off his plate at the supper table, fleeing through the screen door just ahead of the knife he hurled after her.
When later asked why he had saved the hated feline, my dad said, "What could I do--watch the dogs kill my daughter's cat--right in front of her?"
I was in the second grade at the time. The trauma would have been insupportable, and my dad knew that. I mean, who names a cat "Precious Darling Heart"???
Has he really been gone 20 years? It seems impossible!
Well, happy birthday, Steady Eddie! We miss you!