Sunday, June 20, 2010

Memories of My Father

HE WAS A MAN'S MAN, YET I NEVER HEARD A SINGLE curse word or profanity come out of his mouth. Never saw a Playboy in our home or any sign that he cared for any woman, other than my mother whom he singly adored. I do know in the early years of his marriage, about the time I was born, he would get into occasional fist fights, back when he still would have a drink or two at a social event. There was rumor of a big fight at the country club when a man tried to make a pass at my mother. I think they may have wrestled each other to the floor and several by-standers had to pull them apart. My father and his 'opponent' were chilly acquaintances from then on, for the rest of their lives. But I never heard of another fight after that.

Growing up, I almost never saw him take a drink other than a rare glass of wine. But he made up for it with a sweet tooth. He loved chocolate and would often pour chocolate sauce on top of chocolate ice cream. I was never a sugar fan, so I would often be silently appalled at what I considered his sugar addiction.

My father loved the outdoors as much as any man I ever knew and passed that passion on to me. Not only did he work part of each day outside in the lumber yard, he loved to walk, play golf and hunt. When he couldn't get outside enough, he'd go down in the basement and pound his punching bag with his boxing gloves on.

In the fall, he quail hunted in the wild country of hills and fields outside of town. As a little girl, I would beg him to take me with him. When he said Yes!, I was beside myself with excitement. We would walk for miles and miles all afternoon through brambles and briars with his shot gun and bird dogs in the late fall air. He taught me to shoot. When we'd get our limit of birds, we'd take them home to clean. He showed me how to pull off their heads---but I was too squeamish so he'd end up having to do it himself. I was brave enough to help pull off the quail feathers though. Then he'd take out his pocket knife and cut the guts out and more or less fillet them. I'd wash the newly cleaned birds in a pan before we put them in milk cartons, covering them in water, and freezing them until a special occasion. On Thanksgiving my mother would always cook dozens of quail in butter and sherry, served with wild rice , along with the turkey. I can still smell the sweet aromas of the birds and gravy coming to the table and was so proud I'd helped to bring them there with Daddy.

I have several strong images of my father that will live with me forever. He was a devout Christian and would get down on his knees to pray every night.Sometimes I would barge into the room when he was there. I'm sure he prayed for me and my sister every day of his life. After he finished his prayer, he would get up into bed with my mother---later with my step-mother---and read a page of two from the Bible either out loud or to himself. He never missed a night. This ritual, like his morning coffee, or blessings before meals was so entrenched for decades of his adult life that only his impending death weeks before he died would end it.

I remember the thrill of going down to visit him at his office at the lumber mill down in Depot Bottom. It smelled of oak paneling and tobacco, though he was never a smoker. In the early days there were brass spittoons in the waiting area for the men to use. Seeing that both terrified and fascinated me. It was as if I'd gone into a scary world of rough and tumble men. My father always admonished me to wear a skirt below my knees and conduct myself like a lady when I came into his man world. I was never allowed to wear shorts or skimpy tops down to the mill and never allowed to speak unless spoken to until I was older.

He was a political conservative who believed strongly in less government and lower taxes. He loathed labor unions like the plague. After that, he loathed debt. Although he made plenty of money, he never cared much for living high-on-the-hog. It was one of the things I most admired about him. Stuff simply didn't matter, especially as he got older. Much of what he had and did, he did it for mother and us-- and later for my step-mother who relished the good life a bit more than he did.

He was far from perfect and could be inflexible and stubborn. But both of his wives loved and respected him. He was happily married to my mother over thirty years before she died. It broke his heart. When he remarried, he was happily married another thirty years. I believe it's hard for any woman not to respect a Godly man like him. Love without respect is very hard to sustain between men and women I think.

I had many differences with my father over the years which are other posts for other times. When I went away to college in the 60s, I became a knee-jerk liberal with no idea what I stood for. Only that I stood for what sounded much more liberated, exciting and cool at the time. It took me decades to come back to my ideological roots, much to his chagrin. Yet when I did come back, I had made many of them my own and had experienced enough liberal elitism and experienced their effects never to want to go back there again.

There's so much more I want to write about my father and our relationship. But it's getting late and a strong West Wind is blowing in my life this week. Perhaps I'll come back and write a little more from the Western Slope of the Rockies soon. He would like that, I'm sure.

One thing's for sure, I learned to pray for my family, children and grandchildren by watching and following his example. Knowing he submitted to a Higher Authority and feared the Lord was one of the greatest things he passed on to me and our family. He lived a godly life, though not without many heartaches and challenges. I miss him and give thanks one da I'll surely see him again.

He was truly a small town Southern gentleman. I've been blessed by that in ways I'm only now coming to fully appreciate.


BBM said...

Just finished reading your 'memories' of your father--that is so special--(& makes me long so for my father, too). Your father was loved & respected by everyone who knew him. He was a kind man--& that is rare today.

Webutante said...

He was a decent man, BBM. Thank you for your note.

mRed said...

Thank you for sharing this. Brings back a lot of "don't speak until spoken to" moments. My father has been gone 43 years and I still think of him every day and I also still learn from him through long ago memories.

gcotharn said...

I've noticed, in your writing - and suspected between the lines of your writing - that your father was much beloved and had major influence on who you are today. Therefore, have been curious to learn more about him, and figured you would write more in time. For sake of my curiosity, thanks for coming through!

I've been visiting churches in Fort Worth, and just yesterday noticed something about myself: I've been tiptoeing in and out of churches in furtive fashion. This is b/c church members LOVE their churches, and I have felt badly - almost as if I were rejecting members who have noticed I was a visitor and welcomed me to their churches - when I have not returned to their churches. This has been exacerbated b/c, in some churches, people who know me have seen me and have rushed up to welcome me to their churches. I've reacted by walking into these churches in hopes of being incognito. Furtively.

And I suddenly realized it: furtive(!?), and could see the error of my ways. First, no man ought walk into any room in furtive fashion. Ever. A man belongs on the Earth, and ought walk into any room as if he belongs on Earth, i.e. as if he is claiming his God given territory. And, the reason I wrote this part, is that I doubt your dad ever walked into any room in furtive fashion. Ever.

Second, I'm really not giving my friends and fellow human beings enough credit for intelligence and wisdom: they KNOW that finding a church involves subtle considerations. By worrying about hurting their feelings, I am dishonoring them, i.e. I am treating them as if they are children, as opposed to treating them as wise adults.

So, problem solved. When next I enter a church, I shall enter as if I own a lumber yard in Nashville and pray on my knees every night. No more of this furtive horse manure.

Webutante said...

mREd, that would mean your father died about 8 years after my mother who died at 51 in 1969. Still young by most standards. From what I've read from you, he was a fine man and very good influence. I know you must miss him as I do both my parents....

Webutante said...

Well OK, Greg! Except I was not raised in Nashville but rather 80 miles to the SE in a beautiful little town called McMinnville. The surrounding area has some of the best growing conditions in the world for hardwood trees. My father actually was raised in Nashville and then dropped out of Vanderbilt during the depression to help his father run the business during very hard times. They wouldn't have made it had they not been debt free....and I assure you they were debt I am today.

I'm sure my father would say that finding a church is important...and he attended First Methodist Church on Main Street in McMinnville....but he would also say that a personal relationship with Christ was even more important. He believed in being in the Word, as well as daily prayer which he believed kept a man humble.

He had a great influence on my life and perhaps more even than mother since she died so young. I won't lie, mother and I had our share of conflict...among other things she was a smoker and I was a sickly asthmatic child. I grew to detest her smoking which eventually killed her, but that's another story too.

Daddy and I had our share of struggles over the years but after all was said and done, we ended up having profound love and respect for each other. He died with me holding his hand....