By Richard Mabey Jr.
On the twelfth of February of 2000, Charles M. Shulz went Home to be with the Lord. My father cried when he heard the news. My father loved Peanuts. And, Dad was particularly fond of Snoopy. Dad had a most wonderful collection of Peanuts collectibles. I used to go with Dad to the various toy shows, looking for Peanuts and Snoopy toys. It was a lot of fun.
Dad always pointed out, to friends, neighbors, fellow church members and relatives that Charles Shulz was a World War II veteran. And, that Shulz had captured a German soldier with an empty loaded machine gun. I can still hear Dad saying, “can you imagine it! Can your really imagine it, Charles Shulz captured a German soldier with an empty machine gun!” For my dad, that was the ultimate mark of heroism in the midst of war.
I think that my dad’s love for Snoopy, in his retired years, was a callback of a dog he had when he was a young child. My Grandma Mabey often told me that Dad was very shy as a child. That he would spend hours and hours in the backyard of their home on Mabey Lane, playing fetch with his dog. My grandmother told me that Dad’s dog was a collie that had simply came out from the woods one day and adopted Dad.
I think I was in the third grade, I might have been in the fourth grade, but I’m pretty sure that it was when I was in the third grade, that I asked Dad about his collie dog. “She was quite a dog. Just came walking from the woods one day and we just took to one another. I guess I was about your age when I adopted her,” Dad would tell me.
I was about eight years old, when I got my first dog, Pal. He was a beagle. He was one of the pups from a litter of beagles that my Grandpa Kemmerer’s dog had. In my early childhood, my father had a certain understanding that a boy needs a dog. He would often say that to my mom. “Janet, a boy needs a dog. Sometimes a dog is a boy’s only true friend, when he’s growing up.”
I think that Charlie Brown’s relationship with Snoopy was one of the main draws that Dad had with Peanuts. In Dad’s last few months of his life, when we had Hospice care for Dad, we put his Snoopy stuffed figure, on his bedside table. Only now, in the last couple of months, I have come to realize that it was Dad’s spiritual connection to the dog he loved and cared for in his childhood.
A day or two after hearing of Mr. Shulz’s passing, Dad asked the Library Director of the Lincoln Park Public Library if he could put up a display in the library’s display case to honor Charles Shulz. The Library Director readily agreed.
One day, coming home from work at my job at the ad agency, Dad had two big boxes of his Snoopy and Peanuts collectibles on the enclosed front porch. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and reading the paper. “Richie, after supper maybe you can help me set up that Snoopy display at the library?” I readily agreed.
At the library, while we were setting up Dad’s tribute display to Mr. Shulz, Dad got a little emotional. At one point, he started to cry and told me that he had to use the Men’s Room. Where upon, Dad came out of the restroom, putting his handkerchief in his pocket and then said to me, “okay, let’s get back to work here.”
During the month, Dad got a lot of compliments on his tribute display for Mr. Shulz. I remember one time at the coffee gathering, after church service, a gentleman complimented Dad on his library display. Upon which Dad gave the young man a lesson on the biography of Charles Shulz. I can still hear the echo of my Dad’s voice saying, “and you know, Tom, during the war, Charles Shulz captured a German soldier with an empty machine gun. Now that takes guts to do that!”
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.