My feet are very ticklish and he was taking full advantage of that, getting as wet from my splashes as I was by being in the water.
Later, he used those same feet to yank me out of bed to get me moving for school. My mom would rather politely just open the door to wake me but dad, well, he yanked me out onto the floor by my heels. Sometimes, I wish he would do that now when I need to get up and would rather stay under the sheets.
My second memory of dad is when he left the house on a summer Saturday and returned about an hour later with a brand new glove and baseball. He taught me how to throw and catch that day. I eventually developed into an all-glove, no-hit shortstop on one of the best teams in the league.
But it was that no-hit aspect that drove him crazy, so one day he took me out in the backyard to analyze my swing. Instantly he noted I was stepping away from the pitch and not into it, so he somehow convinced my mother to hold my feet in place while I swung the bat. On the first pitch, I nearly knocked it over the fence. And nearly knocked out my mom on my backswing. So much for my batting prowess. (We had to take her to the hospital to get stitches in her head!)
Later, as my other skills developed, he taught me how to write. He was an outstanding journalist; he worked for the Chattanooga (TN) Times and was hired away by the Tennessee Valley Authority to start and head up its publications.
I distinctly remember one time in the 8th grade when I wrote a story for class about driving from our home in Knoxville, TN, to Birmingham, AL, for the Alabama-Tennessee football game. I received an F. The teacher said the article was too good for an 8th grader and accused me of plagiarizing the story from the Birmingham newspaper. Well, I wish I still had that letter my dad wrote to the teacher in response! That F turned into an A and I could do no wrong with her after that day, I’ll tell ya.
My dad also put forth the bill for me to go to journalism school at Alabama, his alma mater. That was not financially easy because of the out of state tuition. Sure, I could have gone to UT and would have, but I think he wanted me to follow into his footsteps.
My sophomore year he delivered me early to campus for band practice – I was in the Million Dollar Band and played alto sax, if you are curious – and when I went back to my room I found him there installing a fan in my room window. Tuscaloosa, you see, is a very hot and humid place and we had no air conditioning. This was hours after dropping me off and by doing this, he would not return to Knoxville until well after midnight.
“I just couldn’t have you in here this hot place without at least a fan,” he said.
Now THAT, folks, is what a father does for a son.
There are many other things he did for me but the greatest thing my dad has ever done for me is to be my dad.
Happy Father’s Day dad!