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My Old Man Was a Real Man’s Man

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

Rugged, bold, and confident. A man's man.

Rugged, bold, and confident. A man's man.

In pragmatic terms, my dad was a real man’s man. This term is not to be confused with a modern slang that stands for gay. My dad was far from gay. By the same token, he was far from a “Smooth Operator,” a song that 80s icon, Billy Ocean sang about. When I say man’s man, I mean just that. A real man. No flashbulbs. No parades. Just my dad. Today I still love and miss him.

To clarify the song title, “Smooth Operator,” my dad didn’t know that term. In fact, and yes, I am very biased, he was a very respectful man especially to my mother, who choose to be a housewife. He also had respect for my only sister. And whatever women who came into and out of his life from working in a plant in Adrian, MI., and when he supervised a platoon of WACs who were working in a mess that fed the men who my dad served. Even then, being far away from my mother, his respect for other women, stood proudly. Fact: even if he did do some playing around in those days, only Jesus and him would ever know.

A brief description of my dad. He worked hard and smart. He mastered the violin at age seven and was playing the instrument in Fiddling Contests in his 20s, He won a few. He was also a self-taught brick layer, carpenter and auto mechanic. A self-made man’s man.

On Sunday’s, church-going day for the family meant that my dad loved to “dress up” when going to church or to town. His thinking was that he did not want to make my mom and sister ashamed of him by the cut of his clothing---which was many times a pair of very-used overalls and a gray work shirt that he wore while he worked in the field or other abilities that Jesus gave him. He, my dad, would be the first to confess that it was The Lord who blessed him with his abilities in order to support his family and neighbors.

Getting up early was a way of life for my dad. For him to sleep past 6 a.m., would be a sin. By 5:30 a.m., he had breakfast going, coffee brewing, and already planning the day’s work schedule. No wonder that mom loved him so. Was their marriage all roses and honeybee’s? Are you kidding? Many was the time that I have witnessed my parents shout at each other about some disagreement about something that would affect the family, and in the sparkle of the blinking of an eye, they were kissing and hugging like a couple who were just “courting.”

As for dressing-up, dad knew the trial perfectly. He loved to wear his only pair of light brown pleated pants with a thin brown belt. And he loved his white, short-sleeved shirts. He learned the fine art of looking sharp in the Army. He was taught that he had to look his best at all times. I almost forgot. He never left the house for church or just going to town unless he was wearing his brown leather slippers. Most ruralites, like us, called them his “Sunday slippers.” He loved them so much that he put them away in a bedroom closet to where no pilfering kids could wear them for fun.

I told you the truth about my dad never being a heavy drinker. He was true to his martial vows. Sure, every now and again when his musician buddies would pay a call on him, he might take one shot of their homemade “shine.” But never got drunk. I was proud of that and the other special things that made my dad . . .dad.

Although this is only a model, my dad was a  self-taught musician.

Although this is only a model, my dad was a self-taught musician.

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To be completely transparent, dad confessed to me when I was grown to adulthood, that while he served in the U.S. Army, his favorite recreation was to visit the PX on his base and sip cold beer with his best friend who hailed from New York City. The two of them spent many hours munching peanuts and sipping beer (only two for dad) and then they headed off back to their barracks.

That was my dad. But when I reached 21, and with a wife, I failed him miserably. I learned how to party and drink with my coworkers not knowing what a toll it was taking on my family. A few years later, God mercifully delivered this one problem drinker, me and today, I am even more thankful for that one blessing.

No. Although I did try to be like my dad, but learned early on that I was in the deep water without a life preserver. Dad did things so easily and smooth. Including playing his fiddle alone or with friends who visited him in his latter years.

I remember the dark day when he passed away and went to his Heavenly reward. But during these painful days, it kept running through my mind that if I had only half the friends as dad did, I would be most happy.

I may not ever know just how many friends that I have been blessed with, but I will always treasure the friends that I have been blessed with.

That’s what my dad did during his life.

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© 2022 Kenneth Avery

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