Today, being father’s day, it only seems appropriate that I tell you fine folks a bit (pun) about my Dad, Col. Charles Webb Abbitt (U.S.A.F.(ret.)), who has always amazed me in many ways: How could a person, regardless of age and other factors, be so gol darned disciplined about actually doing the things he says he will do? Once I asked him something about this, when I was in high school in Houston, Texas, as every morning he’d hit the freeway way before 7:00am. His job was high pressured as he was involved in the design and activation of Mission Control from the start till that day of my inquisition in the the early l960’s( first from 1956 at the “cape”, an then where Headquarters for the Space Program for the USofA moved on to Houston.) He said something to the effect of “I have no choice in the matter.”
This was a shocking answer to me, sluggard Military Brat that I had always been. But the sheer, clear, Black and white, finite answer to my estupido question, made me realize right then, that any person’s present, and future is dependent on their past. I know that is a reality seemingly dumber than a door knob. And that I realized that- so late in life-was not a prodigy- like philosophic sign. However, that was the time, when one of those “eureka”, life changing thoughts, satorial to my 16 year old person, was revealed to my feeble brain. Believe me, those kind of thoughts didn’t start haunting me until my old age, when it’s way too late to change. But here is my rational theory for his dependability and dedication for exellence (way beyond the call of duty): My good old Dad graduated from Virginia Military Institute, back in the days when they where still being tortured and trained to be cavalry soldiers. There were no “female, women of the opposite sex,”in those days as students (his quote) to distract them, as there are now. And just as an example, all VMI students slept with the windows open, regardless of how cold it was in Lynchburg, Virginia, in that Winter. Each “rat” or freshman took his turn being the one to go close all the windows and light the fires in the winter before revelry (05:00 am. eastern time.) And all students carried their rifle on their right shoulder at all times (just to get used to that…) to class, to eat, etc. My mom always claimed that was why his right leg was 1/2 shorter than the left one, and looking back she was probably right. Dad went from a loving family life, not far from their family farm at 16 years old- into that Intense and really quite brutal training, and to say nothing of difficult college classes, all in one 4 year experience. (Heck, it took me 5 years to get my BFA at UT, and I graduated mostly cause they’d had it with me. ) He majored in Electrical Engineering, ’cause he found that “right interesting.” And Dad graduated in 1941, only to be sent right into the U.S. Army (no summer vacation for him). This was before the United States was officially at war, however there was a R.A.F. in England, and soon there was an U.S. Army Air Corp as well. At one point his brigade was flying gasoline to the ground troupes Under General Patton, as the Alis made progress to the Rhine River in Germany and on to crush the Nazis. All with out getting blown up to smithereens, even once.
I am one lucky “Baby-Boomer” to be alive today, considering the dangers he faced during his whole career during World War II, and the remaining dangers he continued to face with 20 years in the Air Force. He retired a full Colonel, and then went directly into one of the companies contracting to NASA, when it went from a Military Operation into being more the aspiration of President Kennedy’s dream of future Space Travel,and the goal of landing on the Moon. As the military developed these possibilities, that became more of a scientific achievement, than merely the defense department’s superior weaponry and such; the Space Program became more publicly available. many aspects of Nasa’s Space Program were non- military, and were provided with equipment and personnel using private contractors. Upon his first retirement from the Air Force, he went to work for what was then Philco-Ford. (This was in the time frame of when I asked him that question, on “how he could keep up that pace, with-out seriously wanting to role over in bed and sleep 6 more hours ?..”.) He progressed, from the start of the space program, to more or less Administrative duties over those dudes we always saw at their desks on TV, with headphones and “computers?”…during a lift off. And he always ended up doing what was necessary for him and about 10 other guys, as well. Fortunately for us all, Dad was up to that task and hyperactivity runs in our family.
Now, when I think of him then, when he was (-20 years) my age, as well as my age in the present, I remember his hair was dark brown; and he could ward off the most disgusting teen-aged wastrel, with one glance. (That would be me at that time.) My greatest fear was to disappoint him. And when he lost his tempter, it was rarely at me, as he had minions to monitor. (A much more likely group to capture his disdain.)
He is now 88 years old and living in Richardson, Texas, close to where my brother lives. He practices singing and playing his guitar every day,and learns at least two new songs for his Thursday night concerts each 2 week interval. Whereas, I do not practice my guitar, trying to focus on piano. ( However, whose got the time? ” ) If only I had that drilled-in discipline, and duty installed, or inherited, like there was no other choice.
I grew up to his singing and playing guitar for me all through my youth, and to this day. Though I’m his daughter, and alot of that musical interest and talent stuck. I’m the one with the “white” hair, and when we are together we look more like peer compaions, than Father-Daughter. Except for I limp, (artificially replaced hip and knee, one on each side)…And he’s able to walk a mile a day, which he does every morning.
My Husband and I visited him on his birthday weekend, when this was recorded, it’s one of my dad’s favorite songs. Though two weeks earlier, I had dislocated my right arm, lifting something way too heavy for me, but I thought I could…and I did, only with some physical damage…which I had not considered the possiblility of happening before doing so. But as it is said;” a bad workman, always blames his or her tools.(1)” (Those would be my thought processes, tsk. tsk.) So my guitar playing sucks, and my legs are still swollen up in this Video like they belong to Emmett Smith, and not to me from the 5 hour drive in our car, even with support hose…it’s the sitting still thats a problem, in a socially acceptable position.
Any hoo, This is a Gene Autry Song. It was my Dad’s childhood dream to be a cowboy, (preferably the singing kind.) Though he grew up in Virginia, we moved to Texas and he did that too. I miss our farm in Holland, Texas so much (along with it’s water moccasins, ants and “no-see-’em’s” gnats, and some of the nosiest mocking birds and cardinals in Texas,etc.) even though it was always in his care, (ergo; in perfect A-1 shape, of course)… it was always home.
If I’m lucky, I can re-record this on the piano and not sound quite so much like a dweeb. Hopefully, Charles Sauer (my husband) might feel up to the task of recording this, when I’m home and rested and inside the air conditioned house. It’s supposed to be 100 degrees outside this afternoon. I wonder why Dad didn’t want to live here? Oh, I remember; it’s way too hot, and that kid of his, with the white hair is a true wastrel, however entertaining she can be upon occasion. But, Dad, you’ve got to admit I’ve got good taste in music.
(1.) Read this in a Superman comic book.