June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Midnight rolled around and I thought about my Dad. Jeff Todd had placed a status update on facebook a while back that spoke of the fun he had simply riding around town with his kids and stopping at Dairy Queen for an ice cream. I commented on his status that instead of material objects, those moments were the ones that his kids would remember when they were older... That thought is what led me here tonight.

Reaching back through the memories of my Dad is always a pleasant and frightening thing to do. The first photo is him about the same age that I am right now... Skip forward many years and here I am near the same place, the same age he is in his photo..

We spent many hours riding around with him in this town and he always a had a way of making each time like a new adventure... The night we saw Smokey and the Bandit for the first time.. Listening to his absolutely perfect impression of sheriff Buford T. Justice as he talked on his CB radio in the car to someone he found that was calling himself the bandit will never leave me.. "Honey go get me a banana split" was usually followed by a night time ride to the same Dairy Queen Jeff probably took his kids to... Whenever a tornado came through anywhere near here.. rest assured we would drive around in the truck and look for damage...

Through the gentle persuasions of my mother, my father was the kind of person that got things done. At the age I am now, he had five kids, was building a nice home for them all, and never seemed to stop smiling... Now, he had his moments of anger.. or pure ass meanness.. depending on whether or not you were on the receiving end.. Once, when jumping on the trampoline with a friend and my brother, we ripped the canvas along the seam.. He was working in his shop and proceeded to launch a fit of anger and obscenities towards us that would blister raw meat.. Informing us in no uncertain terms that it was either repair the damn thing or die shortly... Fear... fear like we had never known gripped us as we cried that little kid sob and wondered just how in hell we were going to fix this thing... My mother came home and asked us what was wrong and we told her, amid sobs, that we had to fix the trampoline or we were going to die... She assured us that no death would come about from the mishap, so we hid for many hours until it was safe to venture out.. or dinner was ready.. one or the other...

I think the angriest I had ever seen him was the day my brother and I got off the school bus and made our way to the front door. I had a key, we were the first ones home each day and were expected get inside and set about cleaning the place as soon as we walked in.. well... after we ate our weight in red links and cereal, and anything else we could find.. and spent a while honing our minds on such things as Gilligan's island and space giants... Well that particular day he had come home from work early and we failed to notice his car in the driveway... As I was trying to get the key to turn in the lock, my Dad was trying to unlock the door to let us in from the other side... So I was cussing up a storm because the thing wouldn't move and my brother was dancing about the place bitching about having to go to the bathroom. So I let lose with a resounding, "Just shut the F up you GD MF'er..." Just as Dad opened the door...

What followed was a scene straight from what I had imagined Armageddon would be like.. complete with whirling arms, smacking ass, and phrases like, "Where's my gun!?" and "You ain't gonna be able to sit down for a week boy!" If memory serves.. I don't think I did sit down for a week after that one... between the pain and the subsequent exhaustion of the stint of complete slavery that followed I learned the lesson every twelve year old is bound to cross over once in a while.. Save the cussing for the school bus..

There was the summer from hell we spent when he decided that the dirt road out back had gotten too grown up and "By God, it needed to be cleared.." So, it seemed to us, he took all of his vacation for the job... He would start out by fetching us from the bed as soon as the sun rose and cranking up his chain saw.. Our job was to simply walk behind him and pick up the trees and limbs he cut down... Holy shit that was hard work... When he had taken all of his vacation he would get home and rip down through the woods with that damnable saw creating piles of debris that were not to be believed... leaving us with specific instructions as to where and how it all was to be moved.. "It better be done when I get home!" became the call sign for that summer.. You couldn't procrastinate on that little project either.. he would slip in unannounced at all hours during the day and lord help you if you were caught in the house...

Without a doubt the worst all out beating I ever got.. the term spanking just comes nowhere near this one... Happened with the "firewood" incident..

When we had done wrong, and went into it knowing that we were doing wrong, we got a spanking.. We knew we would, but we were just plain stupid and did it anyway... What we would hear first was "Go cut me a switch.." Now we knew what this meant.. Go to the edge of the yard and cut down a stick to be used to spank us with from one of several, I believe, "strategically" planted bushes.. Now being the little fat smart ass kid that I was... On this one occasion I came back with a tiny little switch.. "That's too little... go cut me a good switch!" The second time I returned I had fared no better and was told that I had better get it right on this trip... The smart ass moved in and I lost all sense of survival that I had and did the unthinkable.. I went over to the woodpile and returned with a pine log cut for the fireplace.... "Is this big enough?!?"

It was....

I have written about my dad here many times, and now, like all the others, I sit here late at night at this computer laughing and crying quietly to myself thinking back about all the things that flood through my mind when I call him up to sit next to me.. He was a good man... Hard, yet fair. He was quick of wit, humor, anger, and love. One hell of a good guy. He worked his entire life for his family, wanting simply for all of us to be happy... I think of the phrases that he would use when James is being a pain in the ass and Patrick gives out the fifteen year old attitude.. and I smile after I get on to them when I find myself using the same lines...

I think that I will get them out of bed early this morning, get the Kawasaki mule loaded up with clippers, gloves and various implements of destruction and go check for any debris, vines or trees that may need cutting and clearing on that same dirt road back there.. Just to enjoy the looks of horror that cross their faces.... and top it off with a moon pie and an ice cold Rc cola...

Happy Father's Day Dad.. I love you...

6 comments:

Jules said...

Happy Father's Day to you my dear. I miss your dad like crazy too.

Rob Cole - eyesupward said...

Those that know you and knew your dad, can appreciate EVERYTHING you said... those that didn't know him, can appreciate him better by knowing you. He was an incredible man.. and you know I looked up to him as well.... but, you too are an incredible father and your boys are fortunate, my dear friend. Happy Father's day, Clay!! Godspeed.

Junebug said...

I still say you should write a book about your dad.
It would be a great legacy for your boys.I miss your dad too Clay.
He truly was a GREAT southern gentleman!

wendy said...

Happy Father's Day.

Becky Hoffman Koehler said...

I sat here and read your post a few times with tears streaming down my face. Your father was indeed a graceful and kind man whom I love and miss dearly. I still remember the time I looked at the bust on his mantle and asked, "Who's the cowboy?"... after several hours and quite a few movies, I will NEVER forget John Wayne, "the Duke" as long as I live... nor will I ever forget the sweetest man I've ever known. Thank you Clay for the stroll down memory lane. Happy Father's Day to you.

The Angry Georgian said...

A book about him would surely become a best seller.