artist - musician - craftsman
and furniture maker
[July 25, 2021]
simply revland: cletis revland (1916-2005)
Like all notions of dignity, fatherhood, in all its dignity, inevitably invites the banana-peel slip of satire. A good example of this is the William Carlos Williams poem, “Dance Russe,” where a father, allowed a moment of privacy as everyone else in the house sleeps, humorously dances naked in front of a mirror, eventually concluding:
This is how I want to remember my father, Cletis Bernell Revland, like me, another simple, silly, fearless, uneducated man, who through sufficient schmoozing and a lovingly firm handshake, two-stepped his way through the Great Depression, World War ll, and Typhoid Fever, something that just about took his life in 1946.
If it weren’t for the great care he received at the VA, I wouldn’t be writing this story.
Here’s an excellent example exhibiting the practice of purposeful parenting. As a child I once saw Cletis capture a fly in the cup of his hand through one full swoop. As he opened the door to let him fly away, he stated:
"Flies don’t have a tendency to live very long, so why cut it short now? He may have family to come home to."
Some household units have a tradition of hunting, customarily handed down for generations. We did not hunt. The determined extension of the life of a house fly was all I needed to know. I have become quite adept at fly catching, and I will let my friends do the hunting.
Cletis could also be quite clever, when it came to teaching us a lesson. No spanking. No yelling. Just a pinch of mortifying humiliation would suffice.
One day, when my brother was in high school, Dad found some condoms stashed in my brother's Converse All-Star high-top sneakers. When Paul returned from school, we found Dad mowing the lawn. His choice of landscaping footwear? Paul’s Converse high tops.
Nothing more was said. The message was clear. The guilt was delivered, All- American style. Paul and I discussed this. We don’t think Dad gave a shit about the condoms. Edna, on the other hand, who at the time was the Executive Director of a house for unwed mothers, may have felt that some degree of shame should be proportionately administered.
Being a good and generous father is hard work, especially when you have 4 children, the youngest (yours truly) being a handful. Cletis truly understood my shortcomings growing up, resolutely exhibiting patience and empathy, yet at the same time, perpetually willing to play catch in the back yard, or give me a nod while creating my seasonal projects. He was consistent in his consistency, and I felt that in my heart. Always.
Throughout my childhood, and even up to today (December 27, 2005), his love was ever present. Sometimes, as a father, all you need to do is show up. If I only had a nickel for every ball game he attended, and there were more than 1,000 during a 37-year softball career.
For every home run I hit, seeing his face light up, exposing his trademark thumbs-up, as I rounded third base.
For every image he took with his Minolta Maxim 7000, as furniture progressively rolled out of my shop.
He also loved hearing me sing at funerals (morbid, I know) but you see, Cletis was also a funeral singer for decades, and I took over for him in the early 90s, as his vocal cords wore thin. In fact, today, I sang at his funeral, trying my best to mimic his voice, as friends and family gathered at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, where he and Edna were charter members. He was 89 years old, lived a full life, and indoctrinated my soul with daily life lessons that I try and implement every single day.
Mary and I are so thankful that we moved up our wedding a few months so he could witness a miracle:
His youngest, the black sheep who struggled mightily, actually found a soulmate.
He passed away a day before our initial wedding date of December 28th, so it ended up being our miracle as well.
I sang his favorite, “In the Garden,” at his service, the backyard location where Cletis found his summer solace. Heaven regularly welcomes award-winning tomato growers, his specialty.
Rest In Peace, Pops.