Here he is: my father. In this picture he's in his early 20's. He gave the photo to my mother sometime during the seven or so years they were together before I was born. On the back she wrote his name, Eino, and added "My woodchopper." That astonishing caption is indicative of her equally astonishing love for the man. She saw something in him that was never really there, similar to mistaking an iron pipe for a woodcutter's ax...
He was a first-generation American, the son of hardworking Finnish immigrants. I blogged about his mother here. They deserved better than what they got from him as a son. He was drinking by the time he was 15, he never held a steady job in his hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, and after he rode the rails (yes, a real hobo) to the west coast he never held a steady job in any of the cities he lived in there either. He met my mother in Lafayette, California, where he was working as a dishwasher and when he told her he was a "pearl diver" she actually thought it was adorable. She fell so hard for him, she with the devout Christian Science upbringing who didn't even know what the word alcoholic meant.
The two of them went to Lake Tahoe where they lived and worked for a few seasons before heading to Reno, where she worked in the casinos and he drank and loafed. After years together I came along and they married when I was three weeks old. A month later, my mother returned to their small apartment one morning after a long shift dealing cards and found him passed out in a chair with his cigarette burned through his t-shirt into his chest. He was loosely holding me in the crook of one arm and I was asleep.
Gritty details form a bridge from that part of the story to his departure by bus from Reno to Duluth two weeks later. She saved me, but my mother also carried a torch for him until she died at 85. That's love.