To my Late Father on his 70th Birthday: Tiny Colossus; Conquering Giant

I was sixteen when my dad had his final, fatal heart attack. I was spending my summer with him at his home in Las Vegas. It was a strange summer, full of the awful and the awfully humorous as Dad tried to teach me how to drive his stick-shift VW bus in the middle of LV traffic.

But that’s for another time. For today’s blog I just want to give you some highlights of his amazing 45 years of life, as well as some photos of the ways I think of Dad. I was originally going to create a book for the family, but we are all a bunch of procrastinators. Nobody gave me pictures of his wood carvings or copies of his poems, and I didn’t hound them as much as I should. But this tribute I can do with what I have around the house…

June 18, 1942 – Donald LeRoy Sink born at home, in Home, Pennsylvania. “Ed Abbey who?” My dad was born AT HOME, HOME, PA. Ha. (Inside joke there, actually to do with the Abbey family and Mom’s Work family of Marion Center. I actually kinda love the Abbeys.) Anyway, Dad’s name came from Gram’s beloved brother, Donnie, and from uncle Roy Blystone.

“LeRoy” btw, means “The King” and since Elvis and my dad were so young and handsome and died too young after years of not taking care of themselves, and since Lisa Marie was 9 when her dad died, and I was 9 when my dad left, I used to not be able to separate Elvis from my dad. Later, as I read a lot about Johnny Cash, I began thinking of JC as my surrogate Dad.  Weird, right? I am just flipping weird. But that’s just how my brain works. Too many konks on the noggin.

It’s weird, the things you intertwine.

1960 – “Marion Center Class of 1960 Largest in School’s History” cried the June Indiana Gazette. A senior at MC High School, Dad’s drawings were published in the school newspaper. I have not yet been able to track down any of those papers. {sigh} Dad took the service entrance exams before graduation from high school. He would enter the US Navy.

1960-62 USS Boston. Quartermaster. On New Year’s Eve, 1961, Dad was selected to read his own poem on the Armed Forces broadcast. His service included stationing in Spain, where he explored many places, including the Rock of Gibraltar. Dad was still finding his love life in the Navy, being engaged for a short time to a woman from Boston named Maria, and having a love affair with a Spanish woman in Barcelona.

Dad – far right aboard the USS Boston

Oct 1962 – Cuban Blockade. He served on a submarine protecting destroyers. I think this was the breaking point between Dad and the navy. He would honorably discharge after the blockade and return to marry Mom.

This is the Rock of Gibraltar postcard. On the back, Dad has written “Look out across the top of this flick and you will see a tiny dot. Below that is where I stood and straddled the rock of Gibraltar, folded my arms and thought of myself as a tiny colossus and a conquering giant.”

Dec 1962 – Married Mom.

Nov 1963 – Jeff born. Not sure whose idea it was to do an American Gothic picture with the three of them – probably Dad’s. Enjoy…

American Gothic – Sink-style Jeff is between 1 and 2 here.

Oct 1965 – Wendy born

Wendy and Dad on his graduation day from IUP. 1970

1966 – Coal Mine Equip Maintenance Graduate – Elders Ridge PA / Also – a car wreck in which he and sister Wendy were hospitalized in Kittanning.

1966-Began 4-year undergraduate program in Spanish Education at what would become Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Sep 1970. Building a house around a trailer.

1967 – Bought property from Rupps in Goheenville. This is the place, along Scrub Grass Creek, where he would build a house around an existing trailer.

Finished house Dad built around a trailer. Goheenville, PA.

1970 – April: Student Teacher at Lower Burrell HS. / June – graduated from IUP with bachelor’s in Spanish Education /

1970 – July – hired to teach Spanish at Ford City HS.  There is a story, told to my brother by a fellow teacher at FCHS… One day, a kid was acting up while Dad was on cafeteria duty. Dad, cowboy boots and all, leapt onto a cafeteria table and made his way across the cafeteria, trays flying, until he reached the kid, yanked him up onto the table and dragged him back the way he had come and out to the principal’s office.

Sep 1970 – Marla born. Finally got the kid thing right with me, so they stopped. 😉

Dad and me. Gulf of Mexico. 1974 while we lived at Sand Key Trailer Park in Oneco.

1972 – Hospitalized. Kittanning PA. I believe this is when Troy, the horse, breaks Dad’s back, I believe as they were riding across the bridge in Goheenville. The horse fell on top of dad, breaking back and hip.  Despite many surgeries, Dad always had a little limp and swore one leg was now shorter than the other.

1973 – Apparently cheery and recovered enough for Christmas caroling, as noted in the Kittaning Leader Times.

1974 – Moved to Florida for work on a carpentry job. Lived in Sand Key Trailer Park. Did not stay an entire year before moving back to our house in Goheenville.

1975 – Sold some of his wood carvings at a festival in Kittanning PA.  Do you have any of the carvings by D. L. Sink? If so, I will buy them off of you. We would love to have more of the things made by our father.

1976 – Moved to Marion Center PA in time for the bicentennial parade. (In other news, I, six years old and excited about the celebration, wore my red, white and blue “wonder woman” swimsuit and rode my bike in the parade. I stuck out my tongue at cousin John and got in serious trouble from Gram.)

70s in Marion Center and Skunk Hollow (part of Home, PA): Dad kept bees – mostly near his parents house in Skunk Hollow but once, INSIDE our home in Marion Center (blog to come another day).

1977 – Penn State Mine Instructor at Elders Ridge. Falls for a student (see 1979)

1979 – Leaves Mom (and all of us) for a new girlfriend he met while teaching at Elders Ridge. Tries to return. Mom does not allow.  (No commentary here. Just some 4-1-1.)

1983 – Grandson Brandon born.

Dad and Brandon

1985 – Granddaughter Brianna born.

80s – Lives in Emery Utah, Price Utah, Las Vegas, NV (I travel to live with him in summers when he can buy me a ticket). Dad changes his artistry from woodcarving to poetry and painting during this time of his life.  Dad has horses in Utah, does many outdoorsy activities, like repelling. His poem “Dune Dancers” published posthumously. Gets a CB Radio. Handle: “Bee Man”

July 19, 1987 – Dies on the sidewalk of Decatur Blvd. in Las Vegas, Nevada.

If Dad had lived to this, his 70th birthday, he would have gotten to see me graduate high school and college. He would have seen me publish my first poem, my first essay. He would have met my loving husband, Kurt. He would have walked me down the aisle. He would have gotten to see the weddings of his granddaughter, Brianna and his daughter, Wendy. He would have seen Wendy, then me get our Masters’ degrees. He would have seen Jeff rise quickly from carpenter to overseeing all the installation at his job, and watched him build his own house. He would have watched and joked as each of his children turned 40. He would have gone through the heartbreak with us of losing his father, his mother, and his ex-wife, our mother, who he did still (always) love, despite his flaws. He would have seen the birth of his first great-grandchild, Adeline, and heard the new of a new great-grandchild on the way.

It’s hard to imagine what he would have been like at 70.

I like to imagine him as he was in 1960, his future unfolding—all our lives hanging on his choice to try, TRY to settle down a live a *normal* life, if only for awhile.

There he stands. While our lives move on, while his lineage unfurls, he remains still, straddling the Rock of Gibraltar, forever a tiny colossus, a conquering giant.

I love you, Dad. Happy 70th Birthday. I Miss you and am so grateful for your wild, crazy, wonderful, life.


Love, Marla

17 thoughts on “To my Late Father on his 70th Birthday: Tiny Colossus; Conquering Giant

  1. Marla, that was so beautiful. I don’t know why I didn’t read it two years ago (life intervening, perhaps?) but I’m glad I read it today. I don’t know that many details about my dad’s growing up life. I wish he would talk about it more. It’s great that your family has this awesome piece to remember him by.

    PS. I took a picture of the boys at Chatham by “the place where our friend Marla went to school” the other day. I just have to get it out of the camera and onto the web. : ) xoxo

  2. Marla I have a cupple of pictures from graduation you may like I also have some school papers from 59/60 but only one lists art done by your Dad. I am tring to get hold of someone on the paper & see if she remembers if Roy did more & was just never listed. I am saving these for you. Let me know when you are around Plumville. Anne Cornman Chester class of ’60

    1. Anne, thank you so much for your comment on the post. I would love to see the art by Dad. Thanks for looking into it. We can meet for coffee at Smicksburg when I’m there on the 30th if you want.

  3. Thought about Dad all day…and how much he has missed…more than he got to see… I knew you would give him a fitting tribute – thanks for not letting me down

  4. Marla, I have a wooden cross necklace that he made to sell at the Fort Armstrong Folk Festival here in Kittanning. And I believe your mom made the cord chain that it is on. If you want it, you may have it. And NO, you will not buy it. Even if you have others, there may be someone in your family who would appreciate it. Let me know if you are gonna be at Jeff’s sometime or I can drop it off there or give it to Nancy at Country Junction.
    I enjoyed the reminiscences and remember some of them. He was unique, a nut, fun & funny in high school. I can still see your mom & dad sitting on the porch swing in Marion Center when they were dating. I remember tripping through the addition to the trailer in Goheenville before it was finished. I’m not sure I ever saw it finished. I still try to see it thru the trees when we are on the way to New Bethlehem.
    Love you and your writings. Ginny

    1. Thanks Ginny. I would love to have that. I am still planning on getting together with you at CJ sometime later in the summer, so hold onto it and I’ll get it when we meet in Smicksburg. Do you have any of the Marion Center newsletters from 1960 or know anyone in your email list who might? According to the Indiana Gazette, Dad joined the newsletter staff in senior year to do some drawings for the paper. I’ve never seen them and I don’t think anyone in the family has the newsletters. If someone could scan those and email them that would be amazing.

      1. I’ll put out a request for the Yellow Jackets. I have some that someone gave me but they are from ’55-’56. I think I gave the ones I had to someone at the last reunion rather than trying to sort them out. I didn’t have many anyway but thot I’d saved some from our graduation, but I can’t find them. Looking forward to seeing you.

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