An Unfinished Story

Earlier this year, my father (David Conway) went into a memory care facility. He is suffering from both Parkinson’s Disease and vascular dementia. These diseases robbed him of a great many things—his independence, his confidence, and his humor. It’s very hard to communicate with my dad now as he frequently mumbles and often doesn’t maintain eye contact.

Prior to going into the care facility, my father shared a computer with his girlfriend. She recently found a folder on it with a couple things he’d written years ago. I thought I’d share one of them here.

The below story was found in a Word document. I believe Dad started to reply to an email that I sent him. I don’t know which of my writings he refers to. Based up on the age he mentions, the year must have been 2002. At that time, I only wrote short stories and most of them were littered with swear words (my writing has cleaned up considerably since then).

I think my father must have run out of time and copied what he’d written from the email to that Word document. This is based on the formatting in the original document. Dad likely had the intention of returning to it at another time. I’ve done this many times as well. I wish he’d have finished this one, but that’s a childish impulse. I have what he wrote and that’s a gift in itself.

I haven’t changed anything in the story except for a couple of misspelled words. I also added the photographs. Other than that, I’ve left everything as originally written. The title “An Ordinary Life” was Dad’s as were the section headings.

- Colin


Hi, Bub -

Actually, I did find it uplifting. Nice to see something without a lot of swear words and cussing. I’m glad you did have a couple of good memories. Since you sent it to us, I’ll send some of my memories to you. I love ya and I’m very, very proud of you.

-        Dad


An Ordinary Life

I’ve turned 56 recently. Strange, I never thought I’d grow this old. But then, as I was sitting here, looking at DVD players, color TV, faxes, computers and all the other things of our modern life, I realized young people today would never understand the kind of life that we had when I was growing up. This is a bit of a description of life, as I remember it, as I lived it, as I loved it, and, as I miss it.

Was life when I was growing up so different from today? I’ll let you decide.

Phyllis Hofmann, David Hofmann, and Robert Conway

I was born March 2, 1946. Naturally, I don’t remember too much about that, but I do know a few things about it that I learned over the years. My mother was Phyllis Hofmann. She was the youngest of about 12 kids.

World War II was over, and the baby boom was on. I guess the unusual thing about my birth, at least for that time, was that my mom and dad were not married, at least not to each other. Mom was 21 and single. Dad was 28 and married to another woman and had two children—a boy and a girl.

Dad’s name was Robert Conway. As I understand it, he was quite a Romeo type. He was good-looking, rugged and tough. Those were qualities that were admired then, still are in some men. He had a ready smile and an Irishman’s way with a story. He also had an Irishman’s love of drinking and gambling, but I’ll go into that a bit more later. I don’t know what my mother was thinking about, (well, actually, at this age I guess I do now) there was quite a stigma attached to children born “out of wedlock.” To bring this home, my birth certificate had “Illegitimate” stamped on it. Yes, I would have a strike against me from the beginning. Now, I know that seems silly, but is it, really? Knowing the shame attached to a woman having a child and not being married made many women think twice about their decisions. There were consequences to be faced for bad decisions. Now, we don’t want to tell people that they made a bad decision. We don’t want anyone to feel bad about what they did.

Donald Hofmann, Marshall Hofmann, Bob Hofmann, and Robert Conway

Mom and I stayed at grandma’s house. My grandfather had died when mom was young, but grandma didn’t have to worry about being alone. Mom lived there with her brothers and sister. The brothers were Uncle Don and Uncle Marsh.

Uncle Don never married. I’ve never been sure why, but I always heard he didn’t because the girl he loved married someone else. Uncle Marsh had been married. Then he went into the army in World War II. She stayed home and found comfort with someone else. When Uncle Marsh came home, he divorced her. Mom’s sister was Aunt Opal. Aunt Opal never married either. They say the man she loved was a drinker and she wouldn’t put up with that. I don’t know if those things were true, but I do know I was a lucky kid. I had a grandma, 2 moms and 2 dads.

David Conway, Donald Hofmann and Grandma Eva Hofmann

My grandma and most others at that time were different than the grandmas you see now. She was small, stout, and plain looking. Her hair was gray, her face was wrinkled, and she wore wire-rimmed glasses. She always seemed to be wearing a “house dress” with an apron over it. I remember her shoes—they were sturdy and had laces. She had a smile and a warm hug. Suddenly, writing this, I feel a couple of tears climbing into my eyes and a strange feeling that tells me I miss my grandma. That surprises me because I didn’t get to know her very well, she died when I was very young. I know some of my memories come from the things my mom and others have told me, but that doesn’t explain why I felt as I did just a moment ago. I guess somewhere, in the back of my mind, I did know my grandma and I know that she loved me.

My dad finally got a divorce and married my mom. I was about 3 at the time, but I do remember trying to figure out why they were getting married. I had Uncle Don and Uncle Marsh. I didn’t need Bob Conway.

Opal Hofmann and Donald Hofmann

They got married in a small chapel in the Trinity Methodist Church in Lima, Ohio. I sat with Uncle Don and Aunt Opal. Interestingly enough, the law about “illegitimate children” had been changed. It seemed that it was OK as long as the woman married the natural father of the child. From what my mom says, they went to the courthouse and had things straightened out. I received a new birth certificate. Poof, I was suddenly David Conway—David Hofmann was no more. They old birth certificate was destroyed and there was no longer any record that I had existed as David Hofmann. It tended to baffle me a bit. I was used to being David Hofmann. I know I questioned it a few times then and I’ve thought about it occasionally over the years. I’m not exactly upset at being a Conway, I just wonder what would have happened to that boy named Hofmann. Would he have been better, worse, or the same? Would he be the same man that I’ve become?  It’s a question with no answer but that never stopped me from thinking about it.


Now is probably a good time to tell you about my friends, the way we played and the things we did. I lived in Lima with my mom and dad and Uncle Don, Aunt Opal and Uncle Marshall until the summer of the year I started the 3rd grade. During those early years I was a very blessed, lucky, happy young guy. Go down one block, turn left and go about 4 blocks and that’s where my best friends lived. My best friends were my cousins—George and Jim Delph.

Jimmy Delph, George “Slug” Delph, David Conway, and Larry Snook

We never called George by his real name. In fact, I’m not sure when I realized he had a name other than the nickname I knew him by. I’ve been told that his dad would hold him and he would swing his fists at his dad, trying to hit him. His dad said he was a little slugger and, somehow over time, it was shortened to Slug. Jim was always Jimmy. Me, I never had a nickname, at least I don’t think I did. Oh, wait, my Aunt Dee (married to Uncle Bob Hofmann – Colin) always called me a “little shit”, but thankfully it didn’t catch on as a nickname. Our world was about a mile radius around our little part of the planet. Oh, we went downtown now and then, but we roamed that little bit of town like we owned it. Back then no one worried about losing a kid. A few people hoped to lose one, but they didn’t worry about it.

We’d say that we were going to play and then take off. Across the street and up an alley, behind Beeler’s house was a big, overgrown field. The great swamp was in there (I guess it wasn’t all that big, but we thought it was). We would go over there in the summer and catch pollywogs and put them in jars and watch them become frogs. If you have never held a pollywog, you are missing out on something special. They were like holding velvet—wiggling velvet. We would check out the mason jar they were in every day. Suddenly we would see some legs growing. It was an amazing thing that couldn’t help but fascinate a few little boys. Then some grownup would make us take them back to the swamp before they died.

There was a crabapple tree in that field. It was an old, gnarled tree that we could crawl under to hide. The crabapples were small, red pieces of fruit about the size of a marble. We’d have to eat a dozen for our stomachs to even realize anything had been eaten. I don’t remember ever getting sick from eating them, but I do remember giggling and laughing at each other as we tried to hold that crabapple between our index fingers and nibble at the flesh of that apple with just one of our front teeth. They were very small.

When we walked through the field to the street behind it, we were looking at the play field for the elementary school we attended. There were a couple of dirt infield ball diamonds, a shed to keep stuff in and a large open field before we would get to the school. We played many a pickup game at those ball fields. We’d grab our gloves, a ball and a bat and head off to the diamond to see who was there. If there were some other kids there, we would choose up sides, make up some rules and play ball. We’d often meet up with Larry Snook, Rich Bolenger, Denny (I can’t remember his last name) and the rest of the guys.

If we didn’t have enough guys, right field was “out” and you could get a guy running to first “out” by throwing to the pitcher on the mound. If it was only a few of us, then the infield and the right field was “out”. If it was just the three of us, we could just hit flies to each other. I feel sorry for all the kids now who have to play “organized” baseball. We organized ourselves and had a great time. Just as a side note, each of us were incredibly gifted. We could drift gracefully under a fly. There wasn’t a ground ball that could get past us. And how we could hit! If you ask Slug or Jimmy, they will tell you that they were the best. Me, I know I was better than either of them. Imagination and memory are wonderful things, especially as you grow older.

Turn left and head a mile or so and we would end up at Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park had pretty much the same stuff near home, except it was more exotic. The train tracks ran next to the park. There was an overgrown area there that we called hobo jungle. We would sneak in there, adrenaline surging in our veins, looking to see what we could find and hoping we wouldn’t find a hobo. We found spots where the grass was beaten down and a fire had been, but no hobos.

The school, Washington McKinley, had swings, monkey bars, a jungle gym, a slide, teeter totters and one of those things that goes around in a circle and you sit on the outer edge. We didn’t have bark or saw dust or ground up tires or anything like that to protect us if we fell. We had hard packed dirt and gravel and I think that even now, writing this, I can still taste that dirt and gravel. Fall on it and hands got roughed up and bled, knees in your pants got torn and your knees got scuffed.

The Four Hopalongs - Joey Hickey, David Conway, George ‘Slug’ Delph, and Jimmy Delph

Shoes didn’t last long. I will tell you this much, none of that ever stopped us. We went around that playground at full speed. Look out world, it’s us—Slug and Jim and Dave. Kings of the world.

There were three small neighborhood stores in our area of influence. I remember Rumer’s was to the south about 3 blocks and one about two blocks west. There was also one around the corner from Slug and Jim’s house. They were one small room, with shelves around the outside wall. They had some shelves in the middle, of course, and a pop machine near the window. The pop machine held bottles of pop in ice water. There was no air conditioning. They had a wood screen door with a spring attached to it to insure it closed. The owners always knew when someone entered by the slamming of that screen door. The glass counter near the register held that most glorious desire of young boys, penny candy. Yep, actual candy that could be bought for a penny. A Hershey bar was a nickel. If you could tolerate that cheap chocolate, you could buy a slightly smaller bar made by someone called Ghirardelli for 3 cents. The three of us would scour the neighborhood for pop bottles. We would get a penny for each one we brought to the store. Then we would stock up on taffy, hard candy and maybe a chocolate bar. The Three Musketeers bar was divided into three portions so it could be shared. We always figured that was just for us.

We skated on the sidewalks, played football in the brick street, jumped off Snook’s garage. We ate plums off Snook’s tree and green apples wherever we could find them. We wiped our noses on our sleeves, jumped in puddles, and chased each other just for fun. We camped out in the backyard under a card table draped with a blanket. We ate baked beans out of the can and drank water out of an old canteen someone had in WWII. We put on helmets and packs and ammo belts, grabbed our toy guns and shot up the neighborhood and each other. We put on our cowboy hats, gun belts and six shooters and chased every bad guy out of our neighborhood. We were the good guys, we always won and if we got shot, it was always in the left arm (we all shot with our right).

In the summer at twilight, we played tag and hide and seek. Very few of the houses had fences, so we went anywhere and everywhere. No one complained or chased us out of their yards. It was wonderful. We also chased lightning bugs and hunted locust shells.


I had two girl friends in Lima—Dixie Roberts and Janie Smith. I mention this ’cause I wanted you to know that I was a good-looking little guy. Slug would disagree, but I knew the truth. Dixie kissed me on the steps outside school one day. Life was great and I was looking forward to the third grade, but then the unthinkable happened.


That’s where Dad’s story ended.

The ‘unthinkable’ that he mentioned was a family move to nearby Cridersville—a small town only eight miles away. To a kid, though, that was a huge distance. Dad was so far from his uncles and aunts, his friends, and the life he’d known up until then.

Over the years, Dad told many tales like those above. He especially liked sharing his memories of Uncle Don. Unfortunately, I didn’t write any of them down. They were his stories—not mine.

Maybe I’ll do more with this someday, but I wanted to share it now. It’s still raw and reflects the attitude of a man of that generation. However, I think it also shows that our modern lives may have lost something magical in the pursuit of technological conveniences. - Colin

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1 comment

Thanks for sharing. This makes me feel like I should write something for my children.

Linda Ames-Boman

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