Three And One Of Them The Father.
He’s a working man, maybe likes his job, maybe not, sometimes wonders what he’d done with a little more time…but he married young, here come the babies, and the wide open became narrow, and his job was to keep roof over and bread upon.
His parents were illiterate, still trying to lose the accent from the old country, sound American. He went to school when it was too wet to plow. Older cousin got him started smoking. Bull Durham. Has a tint of yellow on his fingers, because he hates waste, pulls a draw on those things until the heat bites. He ain’t much for church, but believes in God.
This is the 1950’s. More doing, less talking. People like him, the big word is Duty. You lug your load, or you get left. You start something, like a family, you take it on, all the way, until the ticker quits ticking.
He’s come around to the American way of thinking, about education. Men, men, everywhere men, and they all can work with their hands, but if his son can go get some college in him, and work with his mind, then he’d have done a fine job of being a father.
It’s come to this. The boy is wearing new duds, because the father worked over, worked longer, did without.
Father ain’t much for feelings, but there’s a little stir going on inside. He knows how it goes, this leaving thing. He left home when he was 17, but he’s on the parent end of the stick here and it feels like how-it’s-been is about to be all over. He’s not sure what comes next, or whether it fits him, or whether there’s a place for him there.
He hears that train coming. He’s thinking about saying something. Not sure what. About to reach in the pouch and roll him up another cigarette.
Three Of Them And One Is The Son.
He’s feeling powerful handsome. Sister said he’d have to beat the girls off with a stick. Momma cried. That’s what mommas do, on things like this. He promised he’d write, even though she’d have to get someone from the church to read it to her.
Crossed his mind, a minute ago, maybe this is what a bird feels like. About to just get on up there, and put your head in the clouds, go wherever you want.
The Johnson boys, they made life plumb hell all these years, they ain’t going nowhere, gonna be stuck in the valley, like sticks in the mud…while he was going off, to the big city, gonna study to be something, be gone a while, but he’d come back, in a big black sedan, wearing some nice shoes, some wingtips, like the town doctor wears.
He’s a little nervous, because the whole family, even his third cousins two counties over, know he’s going to the college. Attention feels good, but he has some wonders, is he up to it, because he can’t no way come back a flop…
He’s proud of his father, but he’s got his own itch, to get grown. Needs out from under the shadow of a daddy who can’t say can’t. Ole man, he can frame a house, overhaul an 8 cylinder, do electric, run plumbing, clip a rooster’s wings, break a horse to saddle, castrate a bull calf, and dress a buck.
He was raised up on children-are-to-be-seen-and-not-heard, but right now, about to catch the train, he’s thinking that maybe he should be saying something.
He hears it. The train!
Three Of Them And One Is The Dog.
Who knows the heart of a dog? Norman Rockwell does. In that perfection of dog-ness, they are not seen, but seeing, not told, but sensing, that something is different…
…and what does the dog do, but declare, with the golden heart of good dogs, that they are the constant, and as for loyalty, men aspire to what dogs do easily…
And Then There’s Me…
…and my own time being the boy going off, ready to launch, ready for the big time, not sure where I was going, but I was leaving, going to find the people who cock their pinkie finger when they drink tea…
Sure, I respected my father. But he was all I knew, and trapped, a man of his times, limited by his limits, unfailingly good ‘n kind, but he was bumping his head on his ceiling.
I meant no harm…but that train coming, that was Santa on his sleigh, and Dad and the dog didn’t have a chance.
How I Look At It Now…
Bless our all-we-can-do hearts…for all we miss, for all the not knowing we don’t know, failing for words, failing for insights, just floundering in the human condition.
What we don’t know, about what we don’t know… Tender, tender, grace be our mender.
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where we adore pictures that are worth a 1,000 words…and hope in heaven we get a chance to make up for these moments, get to say sorry to both Daddy and dog…
P.S. I can picture the mother, back at the house, taking the sheets off the boy’s bed, a hankie stuffed in her apron pocket. I can also picture an invisible 4th on that running board, Our Father Who Art. I wonder, is His experience with us, of being the Father, whose children look away, afar, for bells and whistles, and next best thing, not seeing the Solid and Safe in their presence…
Uncle P can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.