My first father figure was….my Father.
He didn’t say a lot. Lecturing wasn’t in his nature. He didn’t see every other happenstance in life as a “teaching” moment. And he never sat me down for a long winded “father-son” talk.
He mostly said ordinary things to me, like “wipe your feet before you come in the house”, “hand me that wrench” and “turn that light off and go to sleep.”
He was a “look and learn” type guy.
Oh, if you messed up he was on you in an instant! He couldn’t abide misbehavior. Yours….or anybody else’s!
He demanded “yes sir” and “no sir”. He’d let you poke fun at some of those church ladies’ Sunday headgear….but there was a line you couldn’t cross. And if he just thought we had uttered a word that could be taken as “not respectful” towards Mom, he’d whip you into the middle of next week!
Me and Leon and David Mark realized three days after birth that respect for her was the highest thing on Daddy’s list.
And if he gave you a half dollar to go to the store for a head of lettuce, some Ivory Soap, a loaf of bread and a pack of Camels…..when you walked back in the door you had the sack in one hand…..and with the other, you were extending his dime change back to him. He’d most always tell you to keep it. But for some strange reason, it was important to him that you didn’t assume it was yours…..
He didn’t tell us to stand still up at the town square when the band broke into the annual Fourth of July Star Spangled Banner. One look at the way he snapped to attention and you KNEW not to move! I’m telling you, folks driving by in cars saw my Dad and came to a screeching halt, hopped out and threw a hand over their hearts!
I think World War II had something to do with that.
Work was big on his agenda. He earned everything he ever received in life. He expected others to do the same. He didn’t judge anybody on their bank account, where they came from, how important they thought they were, the color of their skin or who they might, or might not, be kin to.
He wanted to know if they would “pull their own load”.
Me and Leon David Mark always figured his Great Depression upbringing on that hillside farm out along Shannon Creek had lots to do with his simple but honest outlook on life.
I can tell you this from the bottom of my heart, I don’t believe I ever worked one day in all my life as hard as my Father worked EVERYDAY of his!
When I was packing to go off to college he came into the bedroom. Till this day, you’ll never convince me that Mom didn’t send him in there to “give me some advice”. He looked so uncomfortable. Speechmaking wasn’t high on his radar! He kinda stood on one foot and shifted to the other.
See if you can picture this in your mind—he had graduated from the third grade. I was college bound! He cleared his throat. Twice!
And then said the five most intelligent words ever spoken to any child leaving home to face the challenges of life……in the history of mankind!
I had lot of “older help” as I grew up. Leon put a baseball in my hand and showed me how to grip it. He taught me that Charlotte Melton would want me to say something nice before I tried to kiss her.
But Leon was just an older brother.
Mr. Ed Wiley taught the high school Sunday School class when I was passing through. He was special in so many ways. He prayed for me. He befriended me during some teenage years when I thought life was too much of a maze for me to “make it”.
I love Mr. Wiley to this day. I appreciate him now more than ever. But I never one time thought of him as a father figure.
Chick King was a real baseball man. He had played in the big leagues and coached our American Legion Team. He spent hours with me talking baseball….and life. He gave me so much of his time. And I will be forever grateful.
But I never confused him with my Father.
I could easily name fifty more “mentors” that truly helped me along but you get the idea.
My first father figure…..was the only one I ever had!
With Love and Respect,