My daddy was a man who considered there was a right way to do anything, whether it was repairing a car engine or eating cornflakes. He was not dictatorial or oppressive in any way. Daddy just knew what he considered right, and he demonstrated how to do things, expecting you to follow his example.
When my nephew Jarrett was quite small, my sister Juanita and her family stayed on the farm with my parents for several weeks while they were in the process of moving to Kentucky. Jarrett and his brother Mason followed Daddy around and absorbed his every utterance, but Jarrett was particularly impressionable.
Years later I met him and his fiancee for lunch in Manhattan and listened to Jarrett explain to her the proper way to eat cornflakes. “Granddaddy showed me, ” he said. “You pour the flakes in a bowl, then you crush them with your hands, like this”–he demonstrated. ‘Then you put sugar on top, and finally you pour the milk on.” He then moved on to the proper methodology for having molasses and biscuits. “You have to put the butter on the plate, then pour the sorghum molasses on it. You whip it up with your knife. Then you split your biscuit, and spread it on the biscuit.”
Daddy’s lessons weren’t always absorbed. He tried to teach my brother to work on a car engine, but Gil preferred to bounce a tennis ball off the side of the house. He never managed to teach Mother to drive, because she would get nervous, he would get gruff, she would dissolve in tears, and the lesson ended. Consequently she was dependent on other people for transportation her entire life.
But some of the lessons did sink in. He taught me to change a tire after I had two flats in one week. I had to jump on the crowbar to loosen the lug nuts, but I could do it. It stood me in good stead for many years.
Daddy died of a heart attack when I was 22 years old. I miss him to this day. Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere. Your daughters love you.