Eric Kinkel
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Eric Kinkel's speech read by Gary Lingner at my Father's Memorial

3/20/22

I've always understood the opening verse from an old Steve Goodman song called 'Between The Lines' as a foretold poetic lyric speaking to the truth of the beginning, and the end. It goes like this:

The day you're born they sign a piece of paper
That will certify the date of your birth
And the day you die they sign another
Just to prove you've gone back to the earth
And between those two pieces of paper
There is the truth that is so hard to find
And the story of your life is written' but
You must read in between the lines



My old man

My Old man is an endearing phrase used by many to refer to their father, and a phrase which my father often used to refer to himself as he often would say to me 'Eric your old man is getting old' his use of this phrase became more accentuated in his waning years and less so in his lively fulfilled years.

How to encapsulate your fathers life is a difficult task, as he lived a very full life... another phrase he also would often remind me of in his waning years. He would say: Eric your father's lived a good and full life, you should know that your mother and I always love you...Dad always spoke for mom long after her passing in 2006 but the meaning was always understood. Also, all Birthday cards, Christmas gifts etc... were always signed by my father as: Love your Mother and father.

My earliest memories of Father are few, when we lived on the south side of Chicago, where I was born, I do remember playing in the sand box Dad built for me and my sisters in the back yard, with the blonde polish neighbor girl Barbara Sobczak, who was also my age, she and I became my play mates. I also remember we had a neighbor name Gay Erickson who owned a a small prop plane in a hangar at Midway airport, close to our home. One time my father arranged for our family to take a flight with Gay, as we flew I sat in my mothers lap while Dad sat with Gay near the cockpit, I was slightly scared but Mom was my source of comfort as we peered out the windows of the airplane, I remember Dad saying to us, look out the right side we're going to fly over our house now. All I remember was a grid of homes, not really knowing which one was ours.

That was just one of many adventures my father made sure his family experienced.

Then Dad got a job at American Can Co. in Barrington IL. Shortly afterwards, our family moved to Arlington Heights, to be closer to Dads new job. At that time, in early1963, Arlington Heights was mostly bare land and some surrounding farmland and the beginnings of a new suburbia. I was probably all but 4 or 5 years old. I remember getting my own room in the new house, while my sisters had to share a room, as the small single family ranch only had 3 bedrooms for a family of 5. Years later Dad decided to wall off a portion of the basement so my sisters could trade off taking turns having their own private room. I vividly recall watching and assisting my father at age 6 or 7 as he bought the materials to wall off that room in the basement. It was one of many experiences helping Dad do a project. Back then Dad had little experience in construction, so, he would go to the library and take out self help books. I remember going to the library with him to find the book to construct a single wall. The rest of the time he relied on his own ingenuity to finish a project,  and he always made it work.I learned allot by watching Dad, and in my later adult years I began to create projects for my home using those very same inherited ingenuities I got from Dad

I can't say enough about what I learned just by watching my Dad, it was invaluable.

As time went on growing up my with my father he and I often didn't see eye to eye on many issues, music was one of those issues, as Dad felt the Beatles were the source of all evil that existed in the world at the time. I wasn't swayed by our differences and I marched on to the beat of my own drum. Oddly, Dad bought me my first guitar from a pawn shop for $34.00, it was an old Gibson acoustic arch top with beautiful F holes and a sunburst finish. Many years later I saw the very same guitar in a store, under glass valued at 11K $. Strangely, Dad taught me my first 3 chords on that guitar G, C and D. With those chords I learned ' You are my Sunshine' and 'She'll be coming round the mountain' At the time Dad had an affinity for country music, as it was rather popular back then, especially when we went on multiple camping trips in the years to follow, we always encountered people singing country songs around campfires and occasionally on the radio. Dad also liked a 'live' TV show on WGN called The Barn dance, an early precursor to the TV show Hee-Haw, with a mild country swing slant to it. At some point Dad decided we would go to a live taping of the show at the WGN studios, I was maybe 6.7 or 8 years old. When we got there it was kind of exciting to be in the audience of a live TV show, then at some point during the show the shows leader asked if anyone from the audience would like to come up on the stage to sing along with the band and the stage musicians. Dad forced me to go, I was reluctant, as I didn't know what I was being forced into. When I got up on stage on live TV, I began to naturally sing along to the country music. It was my first stage experience and I was smitten by it for a long time afterwards. Unfortunately, it was a live TV show, so our family never got to see the TV show, other than being a part of the live audience.

Dad had a penchant for following through on things and when he saw me playing outside with my friends, just being a kid, and not learning more on my guitar, he threatened to throw it out. years later he did just that. It was hard for me to stop being a kid and wanting to hang out with my my neighborhood friends, as opposed to learning more on the guitar. Dad eventually threw that $34.00 guitar in the garbage, as promised. I can still see in my mind, the neck of that guitar sticking out of the garbage can at the end of our long driveway. This experience made a remarkable impact on me.

As time went on I was dealing with multiple things growing up, such as being bullied by schoolmates and neighborhood friends for being to skinny which caused me to hole up in my room where my only solace was to listen to music...all kinds music, Country, rock pop songs on the radio, anything on WLS or WCFL radio, the Beatles and of course and borrowing my sisters record albums, whether they knew it or not. Mom and Dad did all they could to help me try to gain more weight, but, I was to wirey and wound up, my DNA and metabolism wasn't meant to grow my bones any bigger. It was a relentless struggle, for many years where I stumbled through until my childhood and subsequent adulthood. Dad didn't say much to me other than to keep my distance from the kids that were harassing me, most hurtful was that some were actual friend and even family, sisters and cousins alike, I was an easy target for ridicule. It was a hard for me to ignore, so music became my shelter and my solace. Dad didn't really understand those things I was struggling through, as he was from a different generation. nor did he understand the reasons why I struggled with them so painfully. So, I plowed on regardless.
 

Years later I began to see my father in many different ways. One way was his enormous love for my sister's and I, as Dad was an only child, Mom would often remind us 'that's was why your father loves you so much because had no brothers or sisters of his own to cherish and love' the other was his desires to work hard at his job and invent things at home, another was his adaptive work lifestyle and stringent skinny black ties with stiff white shirts and black rimmed glasses. All his friends were the same. Though I came to know all Dads friends over the years, I never uttered my disdain for that conforming look. In years to come I realized that while I respected my father for his self made family loving ethics and intense ingenuity, I just knew that his hatred for the music of our time and his skinny black tie, stiff white shirt brigade, was not meant for me. So, as I grew up I dually disliked my fathers conformity lifestyle but, deeply admired his love for his family and my mother. However, I wanted to take from my father, what I learned, and transfer it to my own life of non-conformity. I believe I did that quite well growing up. It was very satisfying, though I knew Dad didn't really come to understood that part of me. I know he loved me nonetheless.

While I overcame many struggles growing up under my fathers thumb and drifting away into my open lifestyle of non conformity and sheltered music. I also struggled with a woefully misunderstood heart condition for forty years called SVT tachycardia. At the age of 13 - I was stricken with these scary 'heart attack' like spells where my heart would beat out of my chest wall and I had to make them stop by shear will. And, nobody understood how scared I was of them. At the time, Mom and Dad took me to see many heart specialists and after their examination's they all say I would grow out of it. Yet, the SVT persisted, and my fears only grew even bigger, holding me back from a much more fulfilled life. It wasn't until I was 53 years old, that I finally had a procedure called an SVT ablation. My fears were finally allayed. It became an issue to this day few really understand what happened to my life with the SVT. Dad rarely understood my fears as he relied on what the doctors always said that I would 'grow out of it'. It became 'My' issue to fix, and 40 years later I did just that, at the expense of draining my bank account. Few understood that struggle in my life. Father really didn't understand it as he didn't know what an affliction was until he grew much older and his body began to self destruct. He finally came to understand how those 4 decades of my life held me back. It was an unbearable affliction.

In the many years to follow Dad and I grew apart, we also grew closer too, in different ways, such as fishing trips together and many camping excursions together. Then I moved out of the house at age 19, Dad cried like a baby as he and Mom watched me pull out of the driveway with the last load of my belongings to my new shared apartment with a good friend as a room mate.


Alas, I was out from underneath my father's thumb. And that's what changed our dynamic from that day on Dad had but a tad more respect for me. That is the time I began to grow my hair out over my ears, a saying father always had while growing up with Mom and Dad was in the house together with my sisters was that 'while your still living under my roof you will not let your hair grow over your ears Fortunately, my new found job with the Girl Scouts didn't mind such non conformity, so long as I did my job, and I did it well for 31 years.

My fathers influence on me as a child and as an adult was as wide as a sea. In time, Dad came to accept my longer hair. In fact I think in his later years I don't think paid much attention to it, as he ceased to ever bring it up, for decades after I moved out on my own. It become a part of me, and who I am. Dad always wanted the best for me, and he loved me none the less. He continued to be less of a music person than his early years with me, like hating on the Beatles, so, he didn't really grasp music in general, nor my later recordings. But, I know he he was proud of the many concerts I put on at the Schaumburg Prairie center for the arts for my sister Linda's in home health care funds.

In the early 80s I began to sing in a rock band called Lost Nation. Mom and Dad had no interest in coming to see our shows, while my band mates parents all showed up to support us, my parents drifted as far away as they could. They didn't even acknowledge that I sang for such a band. They couldn't grasp it, generally speaking.

In the years since my mother and sister Linda passed Dad became a different person, always reminding me: one day I'm not goanna be around, or: Eric one of these days I'm goanna kick the bucket, and many other such similarly termed phrases.

I became a son he depended on during his waning years for assistance such as taking him places he didn't feel comfortable driving, or, after he sold his car about 8 years ago, I began doing his grocery shopping for him once a week and keeping up with a financial spreadsheet I created for him on his home computer. We talked everyday until the day before he left us. My sister Nancy helped him out much more than I did, as my job status was always beleaguered by happenstance and eventually the small blood vessel stroke I incurred in 2018 while I was working at a great new found job, created many more physical changes that made it difficult for me to speak to him, plus, Dad refused to purchase any kind of hearing aids. This made it difficult for all his family to communicate with him. Especially myself as my stroke effected my speech in a bad way. There was a allot of misunderstandings and  'what did you say, and huh's going on?


We still made the best to talk everyday, whether I called him after work, or whether he beat me to it and he called me. I miss those calls, as they were our affirmation that he was still alive and his affirmation that we were still alive, which meant allot to him,   I was still his son. And I will always still be the last surviving male Kinkel to pass on his legacies. I WILL ALWAYS MISS YOU DAD! I'll call you tomorrow were my last words to him.

Wolf

Copyright 2022 Updated: 04/07/2022 08:57 PM
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