Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fathers . Amazing . Everyday

Father's Day in our family has always been a day to honor a man we loved, Clinton J. Stites Sr, our Dad. I invited a guest blogger @KitchenClatter and my real life sister to capture his essence as only she can do.

Our Dad……..

He was Archie Bunker, before there was an Archie Bunker. No kidding. The first time my family watched an episode of “All In The Family”, we looked at each other and said, “Wow, that’s Dad”. My father, who always watched TV in the kitchen, walked in after the show and said “hey, I like that guy”.  And for those of you too young to remember the famous TV character, Archie was a family loving man who was okay with the world… long as everything was done his way. That was Dad!

Life wasn’t always kind to my Dad. After losing our mom to cancer at the age of 39, he was left with three young children to raise. And with our oldest brother in the Coast Guard, it couldn’t have been an easy time. Shortly after my mom passed, it seemed unfathomable to me that she wasn’t in the house. At night, I would always check to see if my Dad was still there. I have such a vivid memory of sitting on the top landing of the stairway and seeing him iron our clothes, while watching the Phillies. On the end of the ironing board was a bottle of Schmitt’s Beer and a cigarette burning in an ashtray. I am sure he knew I was there, but he allowed me the comfort of seeing him without bringing attention to it.

Times were lean for sure. But our Dad was the epitome of the term “never let them see you sweat”. He didn’t want his children to feel pity or be pitied and took great pride in making the best of what we had. At one point, my mother’s family seemed convinced that they could do a better job with us then my Dad, and petitioned the court for custody. I use to wonder if that option was ever tempting to him. How much easier life would have been for him if he could have said, “live with your aunts, I will visit often.” But not Bud, he marched in front of the judge and proclaimed the three of us his to care for. “I lost my wife. I’m not losing my children.” And that was the end of that.

Still, there were challenges, for sure. When my mother first died, we ate a lot of Spam. A lot of Spam! It was cheap and easy to cook. But as Bud gained confidence behind the stove, he became….well rather adventurous. Tomato soup with sliced hot dogs and macaroni was his go-to favorite. It wasn’t as good as it sounds. He claims to have invented this recipe and I’m sure that even if he didn’t, no one else would claim it. Ironically, in later years, some of his grandchildren actually liked this concoction. Go figure. 

Eventually, he became quite the cook, handling everything from homemade soups on Saturday nights (a tradition I continue to this day) to five-star Sunday dinners. Sunday dinner attendance, by the way, was mandatory. To Bud, it was family day and not the time to eat at a friend’s house. Roast beef was my favorite and to this day, when we have a family gathering, someone will inevitably ask “did you make Dad’s coleslaw?”

Dad loved the holidays and Thanksgiving actually became his favorite. He’d get up early to put the turkey in the oven and off we’d go to my younger brother’s football game. Dad had an open door policy that offered anyone who had no one to spend the holiday with a chair at our table. We never knew from year to year if we would have one, two or even three tables to set up in the dining room. It simply didn’t matter to him. He’d buy the biggest turkey he could find and cook a breast alongside of it. There was always plenty.

In later years, Dad married Rosalie, who brought two young kids into the family that he raised and loved as his own. Rosalie, who like my mother, was Italian, and could hold her own against Bud’s constant joking. “I asked Rose to see if my turn signal was working, and she stood behind the car and said ‘now it is, now it’s not, now it is, now it’s not”. Rose would reply, “Why don’t you go stand behind the car, while I’m behind the wheel”. He loved that joke. He loved Rosalie. There was a constant bantering going on in that house.
Bud loved banter. He loved to argue.

 He was a proud republican who could take you to task on a political debate. I was never quite sure if he had all his facts straight, but he argued with such conviction, that you would always end up on the losing side. 

Life with Dad was at times exasperating, at times challenging, at times frustrating, but always, always loving. He taught us by example to be independent and strong willed. To be able to handle whatever life throws our way. So, Happy Father’s Day to the man who wore a Phillies hat for six months of the year, and an Eagles hat for the other six….. To the man who invented hot dog soup and Spam burgers…. To the man who decorated his kitchen with hanging spiders on Halloween, and his Christmas tree with bubble lights…. To a man who after working all day, stuffed a frozen turkey into a storage locker at the mall so he could Christmas shop for his kids….To a man who made the absolute best chicken soup…. To a man who once bought an artificial tree and then never took it out of the box because we cried when he brought it home.  To a man who loved his grandchildren as fiercely as he loved his own…. To a man who hurdled every obstacle that life put in his way and landed on his feet with his family intact…. To a man who once walked into a court room with empty pockets and a full heart, and told a judge “These are my children, no one is taking them from me” and we were all the better for it. 

Thanks Dad!

Clint, Betty, Joann, Tommy, John and Rosemarie and a slew of grand kids and great grand kids.


  1. Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing such great memories and stories of your dad.

  2. That is so beautiful! What a big heart he had.

  3. Thank you Marcy and Renee! Only my sister could have written the post! She has mad skills.

  4. What an amazing Dad!!! You were so lucky to have had him!

  5. Jo - that was nothing short of BEAUTIFUL! xoxo

  6. Thank you Jess! He made mistakes like everyone else but his love and support is what we remember.

  7. What a well written post that really captures a big personality.

  8. What a character !! A creative the his own way !! HILARE !
    Big love
    Lynne xx