Church time, Boys


My dear Father

My dear Father

Those were the words that awakened me every Sunday morning for years. My father made clear his expectations for us with regard to attendance at mass each week.

I don’t recall that he was such a stern disciplinarian but there were a few times when I experienced the wrong end of a belt. And I am sure it was deserved.

Daddy smoked all his life and repeatedly declared to us all how stupid it was and also explained that it took no brains to use profanity. He himself ended his education with the fifth grade but was well read and demonstrated knowledge on a far higher level than many college grads today. He worked with his half brother in their blacksmith shop two doors down from the house. Shoeing horses was not their stock in trade but rather building truck beds and other metal working needs of the day, including repair of illicit whiskey stills on a moonlight basis.

I well remember him many times, holding his second baby girl and singing “Sweet Rose-a- Mary,
my dear little girl…”

Later, he was able to get a job with the U.S. Customs service in Louisville and began a daily
commute on the Louisville & Nashville train that ran right by our house. Only when passenger
service was discontinued did he begin carpooling with a few others in town who worked in

Daddy’s entertainment was poker on Sunday afternoons at the Knights of Columbus hall
downtown on Main Street and an occasional beer at the Sherwood Inn next to the railroad tracks. We played canasta with him and Mama a lot too and he was always suspicious that Hugh Louis and I were tapping our hands out to each other in morse code. He gave his own good hands away, whistling softly when his cards looked good.

While still living at home in my college years, I would walk by his open bedroom and see only the lit cigarette as Daddy sat in the dark on the side of the bed listening to Billy Graham on the radio. A few years later after he was diagnosed with the cancer, I spoke to him on the telephone from Birmingham and he related to me how he had discovered the overwhelming presence of God in his great trauma.

It’s probably just as well that I don’t circulate a draft of these articles to my siblings for comments because I know that some of them don’t have a keenly favorable feeling toward Daddy and maybe for justifiable reasons. I saw some of the things in him that were irritable too but I personally was never mis-treated by him.

Though not perfect, he dealt with life as well as he could and left us all with a legacy. He was
faithful in his marriage and in providing for our considerable family of ten. Most of us survived to adulthood without any jail time, drugs or other shameful conduct and went on to college and making our own families.

He convened us in the living room nightly for prayer when the Church was pushing the slogan,
“The family that prays together, stays together.” That slogan turned out to be prophetic as there is a harmony among all my siblings that has lasted long after our father.