My father in 1935 at fifteen-years-old
My father, Robert Walker, had an IQ of 150.
Six feet tall and stocky, my father hid his balding head under a fedora and wore a houndstooth suit to work. At home, he lazed in yellow stained T-shirts and his tired gray slacks. His breath reeked of Listerine, tobacco smoke, and brandy. The Old Spice Cologne scent of his shirts defined the happier memories of the rare occasions he let me near him.
Daddy learned lack of affection from his father, who had abandoned the family, and his domineering mother who didn’t. I seldom saw him hug or kiss Mom. He avoided us kids except to punish us. Daddy rarely smiled. His face seemed frozen in a perpetual grimace, his gray eyes clinical and aloof.
Despite his upbringing, my father focused his energies on his studies and music. An accomplished musician by the age of fifteen, he played the violin, tuba, trumpet, piano, and organ. He also composed a few beautiful piano arrangements. Daddy studied electronic engineering at Georgia Tech. His genius had no boundaries, for he excelled as an Army engineer.
Some Saturdays, when my mother shopped, Daddy retreated to his piano, pipe dangling from his mouth with a brandy goblet in his hand.
“Come with Daddy, Kitten.”
Whenever he called me Kitten, it meant he was in a rare good mood. I latched onto his T-shirt and skipped behind him into the living room. Daddy let me hover over him and turn the music pages. He often sat me in his lap.
“Kitten, play ‘Chopsticks’ with me.”
He took my fingers in his hands and tapped each key with me.
“Am I doing it right, Daddy?” I knew what he’d say next.
“You’re a real Beethoven, Kitten.”
I didn’t know who Beethoven was, but Daddy was proud of me. The melodies, the scent of Old Spice on him, the way he tenderly touched my cheek—I thought we had bonded on those afternoons.The soothing piano music mixed with the fragrance of cherry tobacco to permeate our home and create a sense of comfort.
In Memorium Robert S, Walker April 10, 1920 – April 5, 1984