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My Father’s Daughter

By Annette Shope
It’s a beauty. The 1931 Remington portable typewriter complete with black carrying case that sits on a shelf in my office. Forest green scratched metal casing. Yellowed black and white typewriter keys that still ‘click, click, click’, when you press down on them. The inky typewriter ribbon is shredded from years of overuse. I imagined someone pounding out unsatisfactory page after page on those chattery keys. Then, in exasperation, ripping the sheet out, crumbling it, then balling it up and tossing it.

In grief lingo, it’s referred to as a ‘linking object.’ Some people wear Aunt Ida’s antique jewelry or Uncle Andy’s chained pocket watch, use Granny’s heirloom china for family gatherings, or bequeath a musical instrument once played by a deceased loved one. For me, the typewriter links me to my Dad, gone now for over 45 years. I didn’t get to know him. He died when I was six years old.

Chalk it up to bad timing, my father loss. Right smack at the developmental age when little princesses view their daddies as ‘the-end-all, can-do-no-wrong-in-their-eyes, knights in shining armor’ figures. Unfortunately, my knight rode off into infinity and left me behind. For decades, I’ve been yelling after him, “Wait, come back!” I’ve got a million unanswered questions.

My father longed to be a published writer, but historical timing and personal odds played against him. His aspirations collided with the Great Depression, an instant family, and a job he detested. Second-hand reports state that before meeting my mother, he travelled several times by railway to New York City with high hopes of getting into the publishing business. He took writing courses and would receive his edit comments through the mail.

During the Depression, a quart of milk cost 10 cents, same as a gallon of gas. Mobster Al Capone was sporting black ‘n white striped attire for tax evasion. America was belting out its patriotic national anthem, titled “The Star Spangled Banner.” The tallest structure – the Empire State Building – swung open its doors to the public, but remained mostly unoccupied, and for entertainment value, a cartoon private dick named Tracy hit the newspapers. Overall money was tight and unemployment was at a historic high.

Somehow, economic hardship and breadlines aside, my father salted away enough money to buy the mint condition manual from the Fort Pitt Typewriter Company in Pittsburgh, PA, for $65.89. The receipt of purchase serves as proof. That was a steep sum of money then. His US Steelworks weekly payday was a mere $40, and from that standard wage, my father had to support a wife and two daughters, (I, the ‘whoops’ baby, didn’t surface till years later), buy a few packs of unfiltered Raleigh cigarettes, and a pint of whiskey.

So, I always wonder, how could he afford to buy a brand new typewriter? I guess the real question is how could he afford not to? What literary dreams of his went up in smoke while he labored at the sooty steel mills? What stories did he long to tell?

Curiosity about my father – the man, an aspiring writer – will remain piqued throughout my lifetime. I will always yearn for the father-daughter relationship that never happened. Wishing I’d been privy to his hopes and dreams, his first-hand accounts of by-gone days, which included his triumphs, hardships and heartbreaks. But instead, I’ll have to settle for a few foggy memories and vintage photographs. His well-worn Remington typewriter is a symbol of his authentic desire to put words to paper. He needed it to serve as his voice. I’ll keep it in clear view, my linking object, as a reminder to continue the writing legacy.


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