It took me by surprise several years ago when out of the blue he asked me how I did on a test in school.
It happened again just the other day when I saw a copy of the Southeast Farm Press on his coffee table back home.
Both times are but small reminders of the impact he's had on my life.
Growing up, I mistakenly thought that he didn't keep up with what I was doing. I was engrossed in sports and other activities and generally myself. He was working.
By the time I met my father, he was in his early 40s. He had already lived a lifetime.
My father grew up in the Depression. By the time he was 16 or so, he was thrown into the duty of helping to support his family.
Working with the Civilian Conservation Corps in California, he made $27 a week — $20 going back home to his folks in Alabama. He comes from a generation that took responsibility at an early age.
World had changed
A short while later, he was serving in World War II in the Pacific. Coming back home, he returned to a changed environment on the farm. He started working as a carpenter and farmed on the side. The days of mechanization were fast approaching and the effects of the Depression were to remain a full 10 years or more in the Tennessee Valley.
He was 41 when I was born. I don't remember him talking too much to me. I do remember getting a strong sense off right and wrong from him and my mother. I also remember working hard growing up: First on our small farm and then 50- to 60-hour weeks during high school summers at potato sheds on Sand Mountain.
The majority of my classmates had fathers either in their 20s or 30s. To me, my father seemed ancient in comparison. I remember reading years later that folks who grew up in the Depression weren't as big on talking as they were on doing. I do remember him always being there and taking care of things.
And I remember his hands and fingers. Hands with lines from holding a hammer for 35 years with the TVA and fingers that seemed to me as thick as a mop handle.
That's what took me by surprise all those 15 years ago or so. The very fact that I was three hours away at school and he was tuned into what I was doing. Even more surprising was the news from a friend that my father took a piece of paper showing my Dean's List grades to work with him.
When I visited him the other day, I saw another reminder of just how much he keeps up with me. A copy of the Southeast Farm Press was on the coffee table. “I read it from cover to cover. There's some good reading in there.”
We got together the other day. I called his brothers and sisters for a get-together for his 80th birthday. It was also Decoration Day. They range in age from early 70s to early 90s. They seemed to be tickled to see each other. My daddy joked about changing the “eight” on the birthday cake to a “three.”
The occasion brought back a flood of memories and water to my eyes.
In today's society where so many of the problems are blamed on parents, I thought to myself, I want to go on record as saying they must have done something right. A big helping of the folks I talk with on a daily basis bear the positive marks of a father who had an impact for the better on their children.
It's a big responsibility, one not without mistakes and miscues. But one that needs to be recognized even more.
I hope you told your dad Happy Father's Day. And let him know he's special every day of the year.
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