Thursday, August 11, 2005

Daddy, My Pa

Daddy, laughing during one of his jokes. He frequently does this gesture while joking or being joked by someone else.

Daddy, my dear Pa, is one of my best friends in this world. He's been there for me as a real father all my life. We are very similar in many ways, including the way we walk, our personalities, sense of humor, and how we deal with things.

My father was born in Coal Mine City, West Virginia to a large poor family of farmers. My grandpa was born in a log cabin his own father built. This log cabin is now part of a national park in West Virginia, and you can see it from the tram when you visit the park. My grandpa was the first in his family to go to college to study agriculture. The family disowned him because they did not believe in college back then. My grandpa was determined to learn how to understand agriculture better so he could be a better farmer and better provide for his family. Later on, he moved his family to southwestern VA, not too far from Blue Hills, West Virginia. Relatives later congregated to build the family house. Pictures of this day exist as well as pictures of family gatherings on the long side porch. (Later on, my generation of cousins and I played on that very long whiteboard porch, cracking walnuts the old-fashioned way, playing with farming tools, figuring out ways to get on the tractor and drive it without being caught, feasting on berries gathered from nearby trees and plants, and just playing.)

When we were all together for a major family event or reunion, we slept throughout the farmhouse, Grandma's trailer and relatives' homes. During one huge reunion when I was about 10 or 11, my cousins and I ended up sleeping in our grandparents' old bedroom in the farm house. Whenever we had to go to the bathroom during the night, we had few choices: pee in the bowl kept under the bed (which we all laughed about and refused to do), go out to the old outhouse (which none of us dared to do out of fear that we'd fall down the hole, or hold it in until morning. Fortunately, Grandma was an early riser who started out with the famous banging of pots and pans as she set out to cook breakfast for us all. All of us woke up (they woke me up) and ran across the grass to line up for the bathroom in her home. Grandma jolly-laughed at us and shooed us as she watched us waiting for our turn to use the bathroom. She understood our generation and that times were different from before. And, she respected us. After we came out of the bathroom, she greeted us with a huge hug and a wet kiss before ushering us to the table to feed us.

On this very farm, my father grew up. He was very bright and at the top of his class. He went on to study at Virginia Tech where he continued to excel. The family, although very poor, worked and helped as much as they could. My grandpa and grandma believed in supporting their children, be it entering the military, staying on the farm, or going to college. Aunt Naomi went to Berea College to become a nurse. Dad went to Virginia Tech then later University of Georgia (where he got his PhD AND DVM). The others went into the military then one brother later returned home to raise his own family.

The next generation (my generation) of cousins and siblings grew up going to this farm, seeing and living where our own parents grew up and congregated. We witnessed the changes that took place as the face of America's farming changed. When we were little, there were huge lands on this family farm. Grandpa went "into town" to sell things from our land. He was the town barometer reader, and whenever we visited as little kids, we walked with him a considerable distance on a dirt path up to a high point where Grandpa did accurate barmometer reading. He even let us hold up the old-fashioned barometer reading thing and learn how to read it. Then, we'd delight as he showed us treasures (i.e., an old mining cave, plants, animals, animal tracking prints) of the land on the trek back down to the house. Grandpa eventually sold off our ponies, animals and land plots. By the time we were grown up or at least high school age (my younger cousins), there were few acres left, a plot given to my cousin Amby for her family, and a section was where my Grandma and Grandpa lived. One thing that never changed was their way of life in their daily routine. For example, every single night, Grandpa took out that huge Bible of his and sat down at the kitchen table under a lamp reading for a while. Sometimes he called us over to show us verses. When he was done, he marked his page, turned off the lamp, walked over to us, patted our heads and let us rub his soft white crewcut, then went into his bedroom for the night. The morning pots and pans-banging of Grandma woke him and everyone else up.

After Grandpa passed away, the family helped out by taking down the farmhouse which was falling apart. It was the end of a special era in the history of our family and America. We were all sad about this, and we all received pictures of the take down. We all were able to look through the house where it was safe to walk and say goodbye before it was taken down then eventually buried into the ground. It was later covered with dirt and grass. Grandma got a double-trailer looking out on this large grass lawn where the old farmhouse once stood. She lived there until her death last fall.

Now, the land belongs to relatives. And, our parents are the next generation of grandparents. My father is going to be one great Grandpa when me or my brother finally have a baby.

My Dad has great heritage and history that helped make him who he is today. And, it helped him be a great father. Thanks, Dad. I love you.

Me and Daddy at Cousin Trish's home last Fall.