Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exo 20:12)
These two wonderful people are no longer with us here on this plane. They served their time here with honor. Each of them gave me parts of who I am today.
From my father I learned loyalty and consistency. You could set your clock by his return from work at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola. There was no stopping off for a beer with the guys after work. He came home. Every night.
I also learned from him that I could do anything I put my mind to. I was just a young teenager when he decided to add on to the house they had purchased in 1952. He would spend his evenings drawing up plans for how the addition would look.
He had taken classes in mechanical drawing when he first got out of the Army, so the drawings for the house were precise. That part of the process did not amaze me. It was the actual construction for which I stand in awe to this day.
He was a sheet metal mechanic employed in civil service at the Navy Yard. In my mind, they worked with metal. He was in a building where they repaired jets and helicopters damaged from crashes. That had absolutely nothing to do with carpentry and brick laying.
There was no Youtube back then with instructional videos like there is today. But, somehow he managed to learn how to lay concrete block and do the necessary carpentry for this 24×28 addition to our modest 3-bedroom home. He also knew how to incorporate the help of his two teenage sons. We helped at his direction. I do not recall daddy ever getting upset with our ignorance.
I could spend the remainder of this post just describing all that was involved with that project, but I won’t. There were only two aspects of the construction that he hired out—the concrete floor and the finished floor, which was also poured.
As I look back on that time, there was one part that was quite risky. We were putting in a 6-foot patio door. The lintel for that door was solid concrete, 7-foot long, 8 inches wide and 8 inches high. HEAVY, to say the least. We hoisted that thing up onto our shoulders and walked up the ladders to put it in place. Even though I was the athlete in the family, my brother was always stronger than I. Still, that was quite a load for the three of us.
It was many years after I left home before I discovered my course in life. I can recall sitting out under the oak tree that we had dug up when it was barely 6-feet high—now a huge shade giver. Daddy and I were talking. I do not remember how the subject came up, but I clearly recall what he said.
That was it. Personal excellence was all that he ever expected from me. I often feel as if I failed him in that area, as I have only managed to rise to a high level of mediocrity in my many pursuits.
My mother brought different strengths from which I have benefitted. She was a Catholic, and I learned personal devotion from her.
She was also very creative with art, crafts and cooking. She grew up in an abusive environment, so she never was given the opportunity to learn those things. Everything she accomplished in those areas was due to her learning as an adult.
She learned secrets about making potato salad that garnered her awards and articles in the newspaper. The same was true for her iced tea, which never turned cloudy. Many of you may not be able to relate to that concept in today’s time of pre-packaged everything, but there was a time when iced tea was made with loose tea leaves. If left too long, the tea would turn cloudy. Mama’s stayed clear until the next batch was called for, because of one little secret ingredient.
She was a good southern cook always preparing a nice evening meal, and extravagant Sunday dinners. My brother has almost perfected an imitation of her fried chicken recipe. More than once, though, I heard the story of how she couldn’t even boil water when she got married.
She took classes at the junior college and applied what she learned to canvas. I’ve got more than one piece of her artwork hanging in our house. She learned to use a sewing machine to make many of our clothes when we were growing up. She learned how to do needle crafts, though I don’t think she ever learned to knit.
I miss their presence, but I still hear their voices in my head guiding me and encouraging me to “go for it.”