Several different journal entries I have been to lately have brought back vivid memories of my Daddy. So, I decided that I'd like to reminisce about him a little.
He was one of fourteen children. Dirt poor cotton farmers. His own father died when he was in High School, so Daddy had to drop out and work as one of the oldest sons. He went into the army for WWII. Never spoke much of those days. Except when the movie the Battle of the Bulge would come on TV. Then he'd be agreeing and disagreeing with its accuracy, as he fought there. I overheard him sharing with a nephew who was having nightmares after Vietnam how the infantry lined up and marched across the fields, ahead of the tanks and artillery. Seems to lose one man (maybe two) on foot was more efficient than to lose 5 men in a tank along with the support it provided should a land mine be in the path.
Daddy came back to the states and got into heavy duty equipment operating. He was union and proud of it. He worked in and visited every state except for Alaska and Hawaii. His sisters used to tell me how he'd be home and have a little money, he'd take them to the picture show.....he sat outside on the sidewalk and talked with passersby.
Daddy loved good conversation and playing straight dominoes. He was very good. I played him many times, but never beat him. After two or three plays he could tell you every domino in your hand!
He married, but never had a child. They ended up divorced. I don't know why really. Then he met Mama, who had more or less been abandoned with two little girls by her first husband. He married her for her homemade buttermilk biscuits. Daddy bought Mama's wedding ring, a pearl necklace for her, and her dress, shoes, purse for the wedding.
Eleven months later they had me! Head full of hair that stood straight up. But Daddy thought I was something else. Mama always said that Daddy thought the sun rose in my head and set in my feet. He carried me all over the place, lying on a pillow in the front seat of the car, showing me off.
He taught me to ride my bike. Expected me to always do my best. Showed me by example that all people were people and should be treated as such. Loved to watch a good "shoot'em up." Had me watching pro football with him when I was about 7 years old on until he died. I remember when Johnny Unitas was the hottest quarterback going. Daddy always acted silly for my friends when they would come over. Would tell fairy tells all mixed up together, while making the biggest funniest faces.
Daddy bought an old jenny when I was young and started to raise a garden every year. Jenny outlived him. They would plow a round or two, stop and Daddy would smoke a Marlboro while Jenny had a bite or two of grass. He could grow the sweetest watermelons you ever tasted. And get more potatoes per hill than anyone I've seen since.
He taught me to believe I could do or be anything I wanted to be. But cut me short for any thing that sounded like "Well, I'd never!" He'd shake his head and very seriously say, "Never say never.....you have no idea what life might give you."
One of the last things he ever taught me to do, before he became sick with cancer, was to drive. He wasn't satisfied that I could take a car down the road. Oh, no. I had to take it half way up the steepest hill he could find, come to a complete stop, and then start off again without jerking, dying or spinning a tire. (This was a standard transmission, mind you.) And then there was the narrow little lane he had me go down. Just wide enough for one car. Steep ditches on either side. Said "Stop." a piece down it. Then, "Okay, turn around." I just looked at him like he was crazy at first. Then I realized by the look on his face, we were going to do it. Back and forth, forwards and backwards, inch by inch (no power steering, mind you.) But I did it! And have had to use that skill many times in my life. I think he knew even then he wouldn't be around to bail me out of a tight fix.
But the lessons kept coming, even a year or more after he passed away. Every so often there would be a knock on our front door. Some ordinary working man standing on the porch. "Just got back in the area." Or, "I know it's been longer than I said." But the reason was always the same. To pay back the money that Daddy had lent to them.
I am proud to be my Daddy's daughter. And I am proud my husband chose to name our son after him. And he is the spitting image of my Daddy at his age. I think he may just measure up to be somewhere near the man he was, too.