THE TREE MAN
My Father’s Childhood
As I began to seek focus for Dad’s book, “Don Bovaird: The Tree Man,” my aunt shared my grandmother’s diary with me so I could learn more about his early life. While the book mainly focuses on stories that take place much later in his life showing Dad’s impact on the community where he lived and worked, this provides readers with a behind-the-scenes look at his life.
When we talk about my dad at home, I almost feel as if he were born as a teenager because that’s where the stories always seemed to begin, especially with the cars he tinkered with. Thank goodness, my grandmother fills in the gaps for us with her diary.
In her carefully written, distinctive script, Grandma Florence recorded all kinds of details about her children. About Dad she wrote:
Donald Thomas Bovaird was born on December 17, 1928. “Baby Donald Thomas weighed 10 lbs. at birth, 12 at 3 wks., 20 lbs. at 4 mos.” At 4 months, he was learning to sit alone. The third of as many boys and seven children total, he was the first to start teething.
As a baby, he loved to eat. He was awfully fat as a toddler. “I feed him and put him in his bed at about 11 am and he goes to sleep by himself. Sometimes I leave him sitting up in bed playing and he lies down himself. The other boys would never do that.” I think my father has always been both independent and content.
Noteworthy was the day of his baptism. On July 15th, 1928 both my uncle Byron and my father were baptized by Reverend Tait at the nearby Presbyterian church. In an account that seemed to both exasperate and amuse my grandmother she wrote, “As usual, Rev. Tait made a mistake. Called Byron “Donald Kearney” [using my grandmother’s maiden name] and the baby – Donald Thomas.”
“He tries to say nearly everything if I insist on it,” she annotated. From what I read, Dad developed leadership traits at an early age. After watching my father try to put wood in the family woodstove, my uncle Alan, then just a year old, imitated him.
On Sept 15, 1933 my father started school. He joined the ranks of his two older brothers while his younger brother, Alan, 2 ½ and 1 ½ year old sister, Mary Jane, waited anxiously for their return. Mary Jane, the first girl in the family, was the sweetheart of all her brothers.
Dad’s early years were busy ones. He was an active child, always had something to do and places to be. But when he went to sleep, he slept like a log. My grandmother had to trail through “the girls’ bedroom” to get to “the boys’ bedroom” many times where she would attempt to wake my father up for school.
She also described my father as a “home boy” and wrote, “He’s so much better at playing by himself than the other boys were.” Perhaps it’s this ease in being by himself that led him to accomplish the goals he did in his life, building up unusual businesses. My father developed fortitude at an early age.
Grandma’s diary points out how Dad always seemed calm and in control of his world. He was independent and enjoyed food. Interesting how he carried these traits with him throughout his life. For example, Dad always loved a good meal. He ate whatever he wanted but he stayed trim because he worked so hard.
In the later years of his life when doctors thought he had had a heart attack, they checked the fat content of his heart and found to their astonishment, he had only 5 % blockage. He was by far one of the healthiest patients his age they had ever seen. After an overnight stay and several tests, they determined he hadn’t suffered a heart attack at all. He had pulled a muscle.
Also, Dad always slept well. His habit was to go to bed early and wake up early to start his day. He didn’t mind being alone. In fact, many of his jobs required him to work independently. He never rushed to accomplish what he had to do but he always got a lot done. He planned his day in advance, wrote a list the night before and got ‘er done, as he used to say.
Other entries talked about how curious Dad was. This, also, was a lifelong trait. He knew what he wanted to do. His task was to find the way to accomplish it, whether it required mathematics, measurements, adapting, or creativity, Dad had confidence to follow a task to completion.
Choose a parent or someone who has influenced you and talk about a trait or traits that stand out from what you know of their childhood. How did you become aware of these traits?
You have just read, “My Father’s Childhood” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright February 28, 2017. Take a moment to leave a comment!