Endured, accomplished, created
A self-educated perfectionist
This little word-cinquain describes my Dad in a matter of only a few words, but there was so much more to him than a few words could capture, that I’ve been trying for years to figure it all out without making him either less than he was or more. He reminded me often of what I had learned of the Appalachian people proud but humble, independent to a fault, fun-loving, at times a practical joker and yet very solemn and deliberate when it came to decisions.
He did many things to earn a living for his family. In Quanah he had a restaurant, next came the farm in Oklahoma, when we moved to Texas he bought a second hand furniture store and restored antiques, next he tried his hand at selling insurance and hated every minute of it, bought another restaurant, and then got into carpenter work as a result of building barracks for the military during World War II. After I was married he had a heart attack and was told he shouldn’t continue in that line of work, so he went to barber school and did sort of an internship with another barber until he was ready to have his own shop. Like I said, he was extremely independent. There were lots of little things that filled in, between major jobs, like driving a taxi and delivering wholesale groceries and lots of stories that go with them all. But I think you get the idea.
In spite of the moves and the changes, we were never hungry, but even more important than food on the table were the other things he gave us. They weren’t material things, there wasn’t money for those. But the morals, the ideals, the work ethic, the feeling that happiness came from within, the love he had for my mother, the respect he gave to her and her love for him. I never heard them have an argument. I don’t even know if they ever quarreled. Mother said that he never so much as held her hand before they were married, but they knew they were made for each other.
There is one last thing I want to tell you about my dad. He had amazing self-discipline. He and his brothers started smoking when he was eight. He was the youngest. The summer of my second year in high school he quit. Cold turkey. The reason he quit was that he was asked to serve in our church as an elder. They didn’t ask him to quit, but he said he couldn’t serve as a smoker who was indulging a habit that was harmful. So he quit. He almost died from the sudden withdrawal and was quite ill most of that year. Nothing less than the best, he said, and that was what he expected of us. I asked him one time how they had instilled such a principle and he just smiled and said it was because they knew we could.
He had five surgeries the last year of his life. The last one clipped nerves in his spiral cord to reduce his pain and he had to learn how to walk again. He wouldn’t take pain medication because he thought he would lose his ability to communicate if his cancer was long-lived. He suffered terribly. At the end, he seemed to know it was time and shouted “Take me, Lord, I’m ready.” And he slipped away.