From the heart of daddy and me

Published 8:05 pm Friday, June 19, 2009

Anything worth quoting was said by either Mark Twain or Will Rogers.

So, credit must go to one of those for the insightful words, “Children never know their parents as people, only as parents.”

If the Misters Twain and Rogers were around today, they might want to amend that a bit. Many children today know their parents as friends because parenting has kind of moved in that direction. Whether the direction’s up or down is debatable.

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But most of us AARP-card carrying dinosaurs would concur, with whichever humorist, that we really did know our parents only as parents.

Back in my day, parents subscribed to the theory that children are to be seen and not heard. We were not privy to grown-up talk. Our parents didn’t believe it was necessary to consult us on matters of family business or give us the privilege of deciding what we would have for supper and whether we would go to Sunday school or not.

They didn’t have to explain why to anything. “Because I said so,” was sufficient.

They were parents, and we were children.

And we did all right – we, the children who helped put a man on the moon, who thought up moving sidewalks and found favor in the art of Andy Warhol.

But we also missed something.

We didn’t know our parents as people. We didn’t know their hopes, their dreams, their disappointments. We didn’t know about lost loves and failed ventures. We didn’t know their deepest regrets and sorrows or their greatest joys and triumphs.

And, maybe even the children of “friends” won’t know that. And, maybe, we shouldn’t have known and, maybe, neither should they know.

But on this Father’s Day, I can’t help but wish that I had known more about my daddy.

Now, Wm. J. Caldwell wasn’t a very talkative man and neither was he very affectionate. There was no doubt that he loved me and Bubba, but he wasn’t the kind of daddy that bounced his little girl on his knee or showered her with kisses. Daddy showed his love in other ways – his ways – a pat on the head, a sack of funny books when I was sick and Christmas ski pajamas he ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue.

Daddy’s permission to jump off the high dive at Camp Grandview, date a boy who played guitar in a band and follow my heart to Yellowstone superseded Mama’s strong objections and gave me wings.

He passed his love of adventure and a good told tale along to me. I inherited his love of and appreciation for the outdoors and his fascination with the written word. And, I think that the soft spot in my heart came from Daddy. I didn’t know that until after he died on June 19, Father’s Day 1983.

See, Daddy didn’t say a lot but when he did even E.F. Hutton listened. Daddy could be wise and profound but mostly he was witty. He could make you laugh and never crack a smile himself. But he didn’t give away a lot of himself.

He sometimes shared funny stories about him and Uncle James as boys.

Once my grandmother shook my granddaddy from sound sleep. “Grady! What in the world was all that racket?”

“Just the boys coming home,” Pop said, without even turning over in the bed.

Actually, a transfer truck had run off the road through the front of their house – “Just the boys coming home,” Daddy would laugh and say.

And he told how they put a big pinecone under the tail of a sullin’ bull and stuck a match to it and “the bull ran like his tail was on fire and, of course it was.”

After Daddy died, we had to pack up the things in his golf shop and go through his personal belongings, including his billfold. And, oh, what I learned about my daddy.

He had cut the top off one of those linen wall calendars that doubled as a dishtowel at year’s end. It was a picture of a farm scene – a winding road and house tucked away in the bend. It was hanging on the back of the door in his golf shop where he could see it every day. I remembered that Mama had mentioned several times that Daddy said he’d like to move to the country. Mama would never have any of that. When she was a little girl, and they would go to visit relatives in the country, Mama said she would start crying when they got there and not stop until they left.

I wondered if Daddy’s deep desire was to live on a winding country road in a house tucked away in the bend.

And, there were clippings from newspapers — quotations that must have had special meaning to him – and Bible verses that gave him strength and hope. Those things gave me insight into some of Daddy’s deepest feelings and made me realize how much like him I am deep inside. Something that I didn’t know until he died. Things that I wish I had known.

I believe that we shared the same heart, Daddy and me. I know it now, and I’m glad of it and thankful for it.

So, on this Father’s Day 2009, I have warm and loving thoughts of that heart inside of me.