"The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him."
It’s not a big day for the fresh flower industry and most restaurants don’t expect large crowds, but Father’s Day carries a lot more importance than the window dressing of festivities. Not to discount tributes-they are important-but fatherhood carries many elements that merit pondering on the day set aside for remembering.
Dad was able to hang on to age 96.
His youth mirrored millions of other men of the era. Leaving the farm during the Depression, he found work in Atlanta and was a member of the construction crew at Bell Aircraft that built the legendary B-29. One of the giant bombers became the Enola Gay. Drafted during World War II, he fought across Europe under Gen. George Patton as a foot soldier in the legendary Third Army, later assigned to another army called the Thunderbirds and mustered out while serving as an MP in New Orleans after a spell as a bodyguard for General Jonathan Wainwright.
My mother had a boy’s army dress uniform made for me to wear when we greeted him at the station where he got off the famous train named The Crescent that connected New Orleans with Atlanta and points north.
He was movie star handsome, dressed fashionably and taught me to tie a perfect Windsor when I was eight.
Education and home ownership came through the GI Bill of Rights. Dad had a high opinion of FDR and Harry Truman and accomplished everything he could to better himself and his family during my baby days. The early years were tranquil and the only interruption was his determination to get a college education which he did taking night classes in college and graduate work in Indiana.
Healthy food was somehow always on the table. We dressed well for school and church, and the one thing he wanted for his three children was a good education. We went to college wherever we chose and honored his wish with diplomas.
He took pride in outliving almost everyone he knew or worked with except for one overbearing tragedy: the loss of his 28 year-old son, an event that nearly did what the Nazi’s could not.
My childhood memories include many fishing trips. Carrabelle, Florida where, at about 10 miles out, I got seasick and prayed for a merciful death. Freshwater fishing in Alabama on the Tennessee River. The pier in Lake Worth, Florida. Big game fishing in the Atlantic and a boatload of trout caught on the Florida’s Indian River. My preference for fresh fish has never lessened.
Baseball, whether I played or we went to see the greatest minor league team in history, the beloved Atlanta Crackers, was prime entertainment. His favorites (and mine) were Ralph “Country” Brown, a speedy centerfielder who never made to the big leagues and Eddie Mathews who did and joined Babe Ruth as the only player to hit a home over the centerfield “Baseball Magnolia” in Atlanta’s fabled Ponce de Leon ballpark.
The old tree still stands and I visit it occasionally, always thinking of the farm boy who survived war, worked hard, served his community well and gave me a jump start in life.
My father was a composite of Robert E. Lee and Billy Graham. A ferocious warrior who loathed war, a Southern gentleman and devoted Christian. A good and decent man who laughed out loud to the great stories from Jerry Clower and Lewis Grizzard.