2015-06-24 / Editorial

DADDY'S WAY

Don Lively

“Dad, can we get a pizza from A and A for dinner?”

It was one of my kids inquiring several years ago when we were still living Out West but were on our annual vacation to the homeplace. To explain, my kids grew up sounding, for all the world, like Yankees even though their mother is a Texan and I am from right around these parts. So, when they asked about the pizza for dinner, they meant for the nighttime meal that we know of around here as supper. Dinner, as we all know, is mid day. A and A is our neighborhood country store and they had recently begun selling and serving great pizza that had quickly become my kid's favorite vacation meal.

But none of that is the point of the story.

“Just because we are on vacation doesn't mean that y'all can eat pizza every day. We still need to eat healthy even when we're traveling,” I said with all the artificial sincerity I could muster.

Daddy was still on earth at the time and he overheard the conversation.

“Let them eat pizza. There's nothing wrong with it. Pizza has bread, meat and vegetables, everything you need.”

He went on to explain the ingredients, the crust being the carbohydrates, the pepperoni and sausage being the protein, the cheese being the dairy and the mushrooms and peppers and onions being the vegetables.

I didn't bother explaining that my kids, every one of them, would immediately pick off the mushrooms and peppers and onions before they dined.

Instead I said, “Okay, who are you and what have you done with my Daddy?”

After all, this was the same man who made me eat cabbage and turnips and rutabagas and collard greens.

Who also made me eat oyster stew.

Pork brains mixed with scrambled eggs.

Squirrel mull.

You get the idea.

Granted, I eventually learned to like all of those Southern delicacies.

Well, not the hog brains and squirrel.

I can do without either of those, thank you very much.

The point of all this is, Daddy, like every man that becomes a grandfather, experiences a change.

It's called mellowing.

Last week we celebrated dads with the Sunday we call Father's Day. We all know that Father's Day is not near the love fest that Mother's Day is with all the flowers and candy and presents and dinners out.

Still, for the ones of us whose fathers have left for Heaven, Father's Day is a time of reflection. And around the Blessed South, our ol' Southern Daddies are nearly revered for their wisdom and common sense.

The older I get, the more I understand Daddy's ways.

If I'd stayed out too late and came home after having consumed a few too many of certain drinks that I wasn't old enough to have any of, he wouldn't holler and yell, he knew that boys were going to be boys. Instead, before the sun came up he'd have me occupying a tractor seat, plowing or harrowing or cultivating and wishing I had died in bed.

It won't cure a hangover but it will make you never want to have another one.

If I got in a fight at school he'd never get mad about it. He expected me to never start a fight, never be a bully, but if I was in a fight I should be the one to finish it.

That one served me well years later when I was a street cop and half the people I came across wanted to take a swing at me.

Daddy took us to church on a regular basis but he was not one to do a lot of Biblical lecturing. But on more than one occasion he would quote lines from an old spiritual hymn, “You gotta walk that lonesome valley. You gotta walk it by yourself.” I had no idea exactly what he meant those decades ago but now I do. There's a popular saying these days that basically states that honesty is doing the right thing even when nobody's looking.

I've tried to live by that one too, or by Daddy's version of it.

I hope I've done well by him.

And, if it's actually possible for he and Mama to look down on me and the rest of his progeny, I pray we are living up to his good name.

Happy Father's Day Daddy and say hello to the Father for me.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of the new book, South O' Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff, Georgia. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.comand visit his website, www.DonLively.com.

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