A life well-lived

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My dad was the runt of the litter. Of course, his nine brothers and sisters were born over the course of several years, but he was the smallest of them all at his birth.

He had a robust twin sister who weighed in at 9 lbs. at birth, while he tipped the scales at barely 2 lbs. The doctor asked for a shoe box to put in in. He was placed into the warmer in the bottom of grandma’s wood-cook stove to keep him warm. Little did they realize back then that it acted like a modern day incubator.

His twin sister seemed to get out of the starting gates earlier than he did. She started walking four months before he did and learned to read and write before age three. She had rosy cheeks and a pleasing smile.

Dad was a slow beginner, but when he started walking and talking, he couldn’t be stopped. All of his brothers were over 6 ft. tall, while he managed to be only 5 ft. 7 in. tall in height.

He became a terror on the clay basketball court in Garfield. He was quick as lightening and as fast as the road runner. If he couldn’t run over the tall giants on the basketball court, he ran under and through their long legs. He was deadly on a midcourt shot, and seldom missed a layup shot.

All the girls swooned at his athletic abilities, and while he was not the Clark Gabel of his time, he used his athletic abilities to sway the girls into thinking he could be their special heartthrob. From what I hear, the girls came knocking at his door for a Sunday afternoon stroll or ride through the countryside.

I suppose I got my love of dancing from my dad. He went to many Saturday night frolics and cane grindings, and he called many sets for the square dancing segments just to impress his date on Friday nights.

His popularity didn’t sit too well for the young men of his neighborhood. One time, at a dance, they untied dad’s mule from the hitching post, and dad had to walk home without his ride. Another time, they spiked his fruit punch with corn liquor without his knowing. He later said that he had never felt so light on his feet before or since.

Dad never planned on getting married. He enjoyed the freedom of being single and playing the field, but a blue-eyed brunette upset his applecart. She was my future mother, and she had her own plans. She smothered him with kisses and kindness and drove a stake into his heart with a steady supply of Candy Kisses, Snickers, Milky Ways, Butterfingers, and Almond Joys and Mounds. The old folks say that the best way to catch a man is through his stomach, and it seemed to work for my sweet mama.

Dad and Mom were married for 65 years, and, although dad never met a woman he didn’t like, mama still held him securely on a long leash. When he strayed a little, she always slyly reeled him back in without his knowing. She didn’t want to hurt his pride.

Dad lived to be 96 years old. He reminded me of a spunky cat squirrel, so full of personality, energy, and just plain fun! He always had a joke to tell for anybody who would listen.

At a revival of Hillcrest Methodist Church, a group of brothers were bunched together on church grounds talking before service. Dad saw an opportunity to get a good joke in before the revival started. He didn’t know several men in the group, but he thought they would enjoy a good, clean, manly joke before the service began.

He found his way into the circle of menfolk and said, “I have a good one for you”. As he began, the circle of men broke and several men cupped their hands on their mouths, holding back a muted laugh while rushing for the church entrance.

It was not until the following Sunday that the brethren told daddy that the visiting revival preacher had enjoyed his joke.

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