Donald Arthur Kinch, 1928-2012

I’ve been thinking about what I need to say about my Dad, Donald Arthur Kinch, who passed this morning. I don’t have it in me to give the bromide ‘after a long illness’ or ‘due to natural causes’. He’d been having a hard time for well over 10 years, as had my mother, who passed about four years ago, and there wasn’t anything natural about it. I’ll get into that later.

My Dad (like my mom) was a Depression era kid–he was an only child (as was my mom) and his parents had different aspirations for his future. My grandfather was a blue collar man and a tinkerer, but my grandmother didn’t want that for my dad. She saw him going off to college and bettering his station in life. In High School he ran with a well-off crowd, and when I got him to tell me stories of his days growing up, he had lots of them. He and his best friend (whose family owned the coal business in that part of the state) drove his friend’s father’s brand new car–the first new Chevrolet the town of Hamilton, Ohio had seen since Pearl Harbor–and when his friend managed to dent it up, Dad laughed and said that the kids’ parents probably blamed it on ‘that black-haired Kinch kid from the wrong side of town’. He was too young (by a handful of months) to get drafted into WWII, but graduated college just as the guns went off in Korea. He came back to his home-town (Hamilton, Ohio) and married my Mom and tried to make up for lost time–he and my mom were having their first kids at the ripe age of 28, a time when many of their contemporaries had already put their progeny into first grade.

In looking at old photographs of my dad, it’s always easy to pick him out of a crowd. The man was a painfully skinny kid and a skinny adult. It was one of the big issues in his life that he couldn’t play high school football because he didn’t weigh enough–the minimum weight was 120 pounds and he didn’t hit that in high school ever. The heaviest he ever got was in the Army, when he tipped the scales at a cool 160. He kept waiting for the middle-aged paunch, but it never came, and he passed out of this life still not heavy enough to play football in high school.

Life threw him some curve balls. He thought I’d be the athlete he couldn’t be and was probably disappointed in me not living up to that aspiration. When I was 12, his company (American Cyanamid) up and decided to send him and his family to New Jersey, a place far away from all his roots and friends. He wasn’t one to argue, and we all trooped out to the GardenState, a place he and my mother loathed. He and my mom had trouble making friends in New Jersey, and he was alone a lot, especially when his kids left for other places. Having uprooted him from his family home in Ohio, his employer dumped him when he turned 55. He was able to find work in Richmond, Virginia, and that’s where he and my mom spent the rest of their lives. They always pined for Ohio, but (as Mom once put it) the Ohio they knew was long gone.

The nicotine addiction took its toll on both my parents. He once regaled me with a story he remembered about a trip he took to Georgia to meet his great-grandmother (and other family) when she was in her 90’s. People in his family were long-lived in the days before tobacco. It has been really painful to watch both of my parents struggle with the effects over the years. My mother’s emphysema and heart problems caught up with her several years ago, and my father watched her struggle to the end. It was a preview of what he would face, and he surely understood that in the past few months. I’ve been thinking about that in recent months, as I heard him slowly fading. His answer on our nightly phone calls to the question “How are you?” was a laconic “about the same” as he struggled for breath and couldn’t enjoy food anymore. My sister had bravely moved down to stay with him a few years ago, and that probably helped his spirits and his health. But he was finding pleasure in fewer things each day as his life revolved around oxygen tubes and a nebulizer.

I have a picture of him by my bed–a snapshot of him at a golf outing some 30 years ago. He’s hitting out of a rough, and he’s wearing a crush hat and looking intently toward the next green. It’s not an especially good picture, but it does sum up my dad out alone pursuing a goal. He was having fun then.

Gonna miss you, dad.

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