Father’s Day is for smiles, flowers and love | The Wilson Times
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Father’s Day is for smiles, flowers and love

Posted on June 13, 2022

OpinionColumnsLife

Oliver Hedgepeth

Oliver Hedgepeth

What did your father give you for Father’s Day?

Elizabeth’s father placed a bag of tenderloin biscuits between the screen door and front door of her family home on Father’s Day — before anyone was awake. He was a Dr Pepper route salesman.

Richard Thackston would leave home as the sun was about to rise, headed to the Dr Pepper plant and drive to Godwin’s. There, he would enjoy coffee and tenderloin biscuits while driving back home to leave his surprise.

Elizabeth describes that brown paper bag with its telltale grease spots announcing the treat to start their day. That was a good hint that when her dad arrived home later that night, his present of a new tie or pair of socks or cigarette lighter would be waiting. Plus supper!

Elizabeth would help her mom fix her dad’s favorite, spaghetti and meatballs. Her dad would praise the work that Elizabeth would bring to the cooking with her mom. That was his favorite meal to make on other occasions. You see, he was one of the Army’s cooks for his boss, Gen. George S. Patton, during World War II. At home, he seemed to be only able to cook for about 30 people.

This Friday, we will spend time with my parents and paternal grandparents in Leggett at the Ebenezer Baptist Church Cemetery, Elizabeth’s parents and maternal grandparents at Rosebud in the family cemetery there and her paternal grandparents in Wilson’s Maplewood Cemetery. Roses from our garden will be placed on each memorial spot.

My dad was a Wilson fireman. He was born in 1901 in Leggett. He would celebrate Father’s Day with his favorite meal at Parker’s. His Father’s Day gift would be a card made by me in elementary school. We had a messy time. Our teachers seemed to love those days. And Dad was very pleased to get his little boy’s card.

My father died on Father’s Day in 1971. He had driven from Wilson to our home in Northern Virginia where his two grandchildren lived. Dad would always stay in a hotel nearby since we did not have much room in our little place. Elizabeth was busy that morning making Dad’s favorite dessert, a lemon layer cake.

Shortly after Mom and Dad arrived and after only three cigarettes, he asked me to drive him home. It was midmorning. He had just arrived in his latest car purchase of a Ford Fairlane. It was, and is, fire engine red inside and out. That was his Father’s Day gift to himself.

Dad was proud of his car. It was his retirement gift, having just retired the month we moved away from Wilson. Dad was pleased to have a picture taken that morning of his oldest grandchild, Sara, on the hood of that Fairlane.  But, after that moment of joy, he insisted I drive him home.

Of course, neither Elizabeth nor I, or Mom, had any idea the reason he wanted to go home. Elizabeth was cooking a special meal for him. I drove that marvelous red Fairlane back to Wilson. Dad asked me to stop by the nearest fire station. There, he was given an oxygen tank to use to help him breathe.

I drove the 125 miles to the Oettinger Apartments where I had been reared. Dad made a few phone calls, rummaged in his desk drawers and then asked me to drive him to Wilson Memorial Hospital.

When we arrived, his two best friends and his brother were there to greet us. On the hospital bed, he pulled from his coat some photos. He said, “This is my first wife.”

Minutes later, holding my hand, he said, “I love you.” Then, he died. That was the second time he had said those words to me. I knew then that I did not know my dad very well.

If he’s alive, bring your dad the gift of you. Love your dad. Listen to his stories of living. You may not get another chance to say, “I love you.”

Oliver Hedgepeth, a native Wilsonian, is a professor of logistics teaching online at American Military University. Email him at blh4835@gmail.com.

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