Monday, June 16, 2014

Fathers, Daddies, Papas - we all have one

Coy Council with his first car

 I never knew what to get my daddy for Father’s Day. He said he didn't want anything, but I felt I had to do something. We always gave presents to Mother who enjoyed our making over her. I am sure that Daddy had many shirts, belts, shoes and stuff he never used or wore. With seven kids he couldn't expect to have a father's day come without the obligatory box and card.

I agonized over what to get him because I wanted it to be special, to give him something that would please him, to show that I had made an effort. Once I wrote a poem for him. I gave it to him in a card, but he never mentioned reading it or whether or not he liked it. 

One year I made the mistake of going up to him and giving him a big hug. He stood like a giant tree, his arms straight down by his sides. I was hurt, but I should have known better. He was uncomfortable with any show of emotion. I used to think he had a heart of stone, but in his last years, I came to know him better and realized he was a marshmallow inside.

Because he was brought up to believe that real men don’t cry, he was deathly afraid he might shed a tear and someone would actually see it. He lost his own father when he was only ten years old.  But even before his father, Tom, died, he was not around for much of my daddy’s life. Tom brought his family to Pelham, Georgia from the farm in north Florida where Daddy was born in 1900. All the children went to work in the new textile mill there. But Tom hated working in a factory, and he went back to the farm. He came back to Pelham a couple of times each year with a wagon loaded with cured meat, corn and beans and anything from the farm that would help to feed his large family. My father remembered his daddy, and told us stories about him. But Tom Council died when in his early fifties, leaving a wife, several daughters and a little son behind. 

Men of my father’s generation were expected to be the breadwinners and expected their wives to nurture the family. With four sons and a grown daughter, my father didn't find much use for my little sister and me, it seemed, until we were grown and could help out. My lifelong goal of making my father proud came to fruition after my mother’s stroke, after she lost her short term memory. At the time, both my sisters were married and lived hundreds of miles away. 

Finally, when he understood that Mother had to have extra care that he could not provide alone, he appreciated his girls. Both of my sisters came and each stayed a month until we could make arrangements for a part-time housekeeper. When they left, I supervised her and managed Mother's care. Daddy called me when he needed me, day or night, and he was happy I was there. 

My father, an honest, kind-hearted, hard-working man was devoted to his family. He said to me in his last months of life, “I always prayed that I would live to see all of my children grown and married.”  

The average life span of a man in the early twentieth century was 48 years. From an early age, he had been afraid he might die and leave my mother and his children all alone. Growing up without a father, he knew the impact his death would have on his kids. After he bought the farm and suffered an injury to his back,  he was prone to kidney infections. I remember as a little girl that I was afraid he was going to die. As Mother worried and piled quilts and blankets on him, I heard him moan as he endured hard chills and fever.  

My parents' 50th wedding anniversary in the seventies with all seven kids
My older brothers had a different father than the one I knew. He played baseball with his boys and read comics to the kids. But I never knew that man. My father was often worried and serious, often upset and complaining, a pessimist who was sure he was going to lose his farm due to bad weather or a poor crop. When lightning struck a tree and killed the livestock under it, he was devastated. But he managed to hang on and, with four hardworking sons, they bought the adjoining farmland and formed a business that eventually made them all financially successful.

I am proud of the man who fathered me. He was not easy to love, but he gave me a home, with all the security and comfort he could afford. I carried his name with pride. And after years of writing about him and learning about his life, I now understand him and why he was unreasonable at times, extremely strict and demanding. His concern was usually for our welfare, our safety, our good names, our futures.

If we made a dumb mistake such as the time my youngest brother and his friend, as a prank, stole some bee hives, Daddy went on the warpath. He said he did not raise thieves, and he made my brother take the hives back to the owner and apologize. Daddy did not go with him. My brother had to face the music all alone. That was a lesson to all of us. Unlike many girls I know, I never, never took anything that did not belong to me. No shoplifting in my past, I assure you. My father did not raise a thief.

My parents set a great example for the seven of us. Their work ethic became instilled in all of us. Daddy had no use for self-righteous, pretentious people who held themselves above others. He spoke with disgust about men who did not put the welfare of their families first. Life was hard for my father as he grew into a young man. He had been betrayed in his youth by people he trusted, so he developed a tough shell that shut out everyone but his family. At times it seemed to me that he didn't even trust everyone of his kin. 

He loved Mother and his kids above all else, although he was not one to say it. He also loved his bulldogs -- the Georgia football team, and his canine pets. 
Daddy, before I knew him, in his baseball
He had been quite a baseball player in his youth, and sports were his major interests throughout his life. Growing crops was his passion. He was on his tractor in his huge garden just a few days before his death from pneumonia at the age of 87. 
I am grateful to have had this good man for my father. 


DJan said...

What a wonderful tribute to your father. He does sound like he was a hard man to love, but you certainly showed the reasons behind his behavior. And he did live a full life and fathered a fine family. Thank you for sharing him with me. :-)

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you had a terrific dad. Thank you for sharing.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

This is a wonderful posting about your father. I enjoyed reading it very much. You did a great job writing about your father. This reminds me very much of my own dad. We are so fortunate we had wonderful fathers.

Glenda Beall said...

Yes, DJan, he was hard to love and I didn't like him at times when I was young. But I have seen and heard of so many fathers who had far more flaws than my daddy had, and I am grateful for him.
Thank you Abbie and Brenda Kay for your comments on this post. Thanks for reading my blog.