This is a combination of tributes I wrote for my daddy on Father’s Day in 2010 and 2011. I share them again today.
For my earthly hero . . . .
My daddy was not an educated man. He and his brother and sister grew up on a small farm, where they picked cotton under the blistering south Georgia sun and plowed fields behind a mule they kept in the barn behind the house. He attended high school in Poulan GA and loved telling everyone he had graduated second in his class. The punch line was there were only two people in his senior class.
You read the “funny papers” to me every Sunday morning until I could read them to you – and you always laughed more than I did.
You taught me how to ride my bike – never even thinking about training wheels – “Go, Suga Buga”, you said. “You can do it!”
He never went to college. He served during World War II in Africa, then came home to his wife, and a few years later I became their only child.
Daddy worked for the Trailways Bus Line after the war in Albany GA. He was the “class trip” promotor. He would put me and mama in our old car, and we would ride all over south Georgia, parking under shade trees on high school campuses. Mama and I would wait in the car, opening our sack lunches and eating there in the shade, while daddy went inside to help plan senior class trips – with Trailways as the transportation of choice.
You only spanked me once – one tiny “pop” on my leg – and it broke my heart I had disappointed you.
You worked hard, and you taught me to work hard too – to show up, to be on time, to put my best effort into everything.
After the bus line, he had a civil service job at Ft. Benning in Columbus GA. Then we moved to Sylvester, my mom’s hometown (only seven miles from Poulan, where Daddy was born and raised). He worked in insurance for a while, working a “debit”, which meant going out and collecting insurance premiums on a monthly basis.
When he got a job as a bookkeeper at the Bank of Worth County in Sylvester, he and mama built their first home – the one they would live in for the rest of their lives. Even without a formal education beyond high school, daddy moved up the ranks at the bank. From bookkeeper, he was promoted to teller, then to loan officer, then to Vice President – and when he retired at the age of 65, he was President of the Bank of Worth County. Things like that just don’t happen anymore.
You were always fair, always honest, always good . . . and so very kind.
You were – and are – the wisest man I’ve ever known.
Daddy never met a stranger and loved to talk. He was honest, hard-working, and fair to everyone. At his funeral in 1996, one of the stories the preacher told was about what would happen when parents came into the bank to borrow money to buy a teenager their first car. Daddy would always ask to speak to the teenager privately. The probably frightened young person would sit down, and daddy would get up and close the door to his office. Then he would talk about the responsibility of owning a car – how they should be proud of it and take care of it, how they should never drive recklessly or speed or drive under the influence, how they should take on the task of working to pay for the car insurance themselves. I smiled hearing this story, because those were the same words I heard from him when he bought me my first car.
Daddy was a pillar of the community, a deacon at the First Baptist Church, a beloved brother to my Uncle Hubert and Aunt Martha, a treasured friend to many. He was my mama’s first and only love, and he was the only earthly hero I ever had, and that remains true to this day.
Mama was your queen, I was your princess, and God was your king.
You were my guide through all the highs and lows of my life. And then you were gone, leaving me to forge ahead with what you’d taught me.
It surely was easier when you were here.
When we meet again – as I know we will – my first words will be, “I love you, Daddy.”
And you’ll grin, and you’ll hug me as only you can hug. And I’ll hear “Suga Buga” from your lips again, and I’ll laugh out loud.
I wonder if there are funny papers in Heaven.
Happy Father’s Day, daddy. Love you more!