Another Father’s Day without my father – for the fifteenth time. Another day of remembering things he liked, things he didn’t like, things he did, things he didn’t do.
Following are glimpses into his life. It would take many pages to tell his whole story.
My Dad is/was Galen Olene. His middle name is Meredith. He didn’t say much about his middle name but I always had the impression that it wasn’t his favorite. He grew up in Spencer Brook Township, southeast of Princeton, MN. He went to school through the eighth grade and then worked to help support the family. In his teen years and beyond, he helped support his mother, Florence. His father, Albin, was gone most of the time.
Galen worked on farms and then spent the bulk of his career working for the Great Northern Railway (later BNSF), retiring in 1980. During his working years, he hunted, trapped, and fished. I wasn’t too crazy about some of his hunting successes – such as having raccoon or squirrel on the dinner table. He was also a gardener – and continued to focus on gardening after retirement. I wasn’t fond of all of his produce – such as rutabegas, brussel sprouts, and parsnips. However, there was never a shortage of fresh or canned vegetables. He was most proud of his tomatoes and raspberry plants. We picked a lot of raspberries.
Dad was also an inventor – he fixed everything – although it might have been wired, welded, soldered, glued or duck-taped. He recycled everything. One of his best inventions was the radiator air conditioner for their bedroom. He put a car radiator in the window, with water running threw it, and a fan in front of it – blowing cool air into the bedroom – and he used the water to water the lawn at the same time.
At one period in his life, Galen drank a little too much. It really just became habit from going to the local bar (The Torch) after work each day. It ended one night when we went out for dinner – Mom, Dad, my husband and I. Dad drove his truck but was unable to drive home. So my husband, Jim, drove his truck and Dad rode in the back; Dad heard a noise and tried to jump out. Luckily, Jim stopped in time – before he jumped. But that was it. That was the end of his drinking. He didn’t want to have anyone else drive his truck other than him!
Galen wasn’t an emotional guy; I never saw him give a hug to anyone – especially his siblings – until later in life. He was very private; he didn’t talk about his private matters. For instance, he never talked about his battlefield experience in WWII until the last few years when he would come to our house, every day, sometimes more than once a day, and have coffee – most of the time with my husband (because I was at work but my husband worked from home). They would talk for hours and he would share stories from the war.
You see, at that time, he was lonely. Mom was gone. None of us ever truly realized the depth of their commitment to one another. Now I can see that committment as I read the letters they wrote to each other during the war – Mom writing every day – whether she could mail it or not – and Dad writing as often as he could, sometimes while sleeping in the hayloft of a barn in England as the soldiers sheltered overnight. Dad did not like being in the service. Most of the time it bored him. But he knew it was something he needed to do. His letters tell how much he wanted to come home and be with his family.
There are many stories to tell – so I will end with one of my favorites. Dad was not much for giving gifts – unless it was vegetables or something like that. He didn’t shop. He rarely purchased gifts although he would gift money. For my birthday – the last one he was here for – he gave me an envelope with “Happy Birthday” written on it — with a shaky hand. Inside, he had placed a small replica of a fishing cane pole – made out of a twig. Best present ever!
Everyone has a story worth telling and a story worth writing.
Happy Father’s Day!
Thank you for reading this! I hope you return.