Don Lively

MY OLD SOUTHERN DADDY
 

 

I believe that if folks are still telling stories about you long after you leave the Earth, you made an impact while you were in this realm. If you grew up in the Blessed South like I did, your father is probably one of those folks, and chances are you still refer to him as Daddy.

Around these parts our Daddies, no matter how long they lived, impacted us for a lifetime

My own Daddy still influences me in many aspects of my life even though he flew off through the Eastern Sky over two decades ago.

Recently I was looking through one of several “junk drawers” that I keep filled with stuff I don’t want to throw away. In one tray there are close to ten pocketknives. Several of them are the same brand and the same basic size and shape. A couple of others are in worn leather cases. Some are a little rustier than others, the rustiest one I found half buried in Daddy’s old garden spot where he must have dropped it.

All of the knives have one thing in common.

At some point in the past, they all belonged to Daddy.

Daddy was never without a knife in his pocket and I’m rarely without one myself, though my blades are somewhat more “new-fangled”. Daddy knew, and passed it down to his boys, that you never know when you’re going to need to cut, slice or puncture something.

Every now and then, sitting in church, I glance over at the pew spot where Daddy and Mama sat almost every Sunday. If some visitor sat in the spot before they did, Mama would get slightly indignant but Daddy would just guide her to another pew. Daddy was not effusive in his faith but his faith was strong. He was rarely called on to pray during services because the preachers all knew that he wasn’t comfortable with it, but they also knew that he would be at church and that he could be counted on for wise advice in church matters.

All four of Daddy’s kids are still faithful members of the same church.

Daddy believed in hard work. He was always up before the sun came up, which meant that his young’uns often were too. I learned early in my life that idle hands are indeed the devil’s workshop. Daddy made sure my hands were rarely idle. If we were “laid by” for the season, if there were no weeds to be pulled and no stumps to be toted, he would find something for us to do. Once he decided that the scrap iron pile, something you’d find on most family farms back in the day, needed to be in a different place. So, we spent a cold, drizzly Saturday moving every scrap of scrap iron, from old broken driveshafts to discarded pump handles, from one location to another. I remember thinking what a waste of time it was. Thinking, not verbalizing out loud. Telling Daddy that you didn’t feel like working was unwise. The day before I left the Blessed South to move Out West where I would live for thirty years, never to return to farm work, he had me on a tractor harrowing for several hours.

I think Daddy got his money’s worth out of me, though he might guffaw at that assertion.

Because of his work ethic, I’ve never been more than a week in the last fifty years without some sort of earned paycheck.

Above all things on Earth, Daddy loved Mama. They were married for 54 years and, while I’d be lying if I said I never heard them argue, I can say that they were as devoted to each other as any couple I’ve ever known. They set examples with their marriage, their childrearing, their work ethic and their devotion to God and the local church that I’ve envied my whole life.

Daddy was definitely the Scriptural example of the head of his household, but Mama was never treated as subordinate to him. In his own hard-headed Southern male way, he adored her.

Yes, we still talk about Daddy long after his passing, because he left behind many stories that need to be told and re-told.

I loved him and I miss him, my Old Southern Daddy.

As for all those knives resting in my junk drawer, they will all one day belong to one of Daddy’s grandsons or great-grandsons, all potential Daddies.

Cause you never know when you might need a knife.

Thank you, Daddy.

Happy Heavenly Father’s Day.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of several books of Southern Humor. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

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