Do you remember 1954? I sure do. Hurricane Hazel, among other things.

SC Family Memories

Moving seemed to be an annual event when I was small.  We went from small apartment to large, then to a duplex, and by early 1954 we had a whole house to ourselves at Coles Crossroads. The large frame house had a tin roof which made for interesting sound effects when it rained, and it had huge yards front and back.

I think dreams of being a gentleman farmer had attracted daddy to the place; an already-constructed, fenced-in chicken pen occupied a prominent position behind the house.  A visit to Kirby’s Hatchery downtown was in order and soon little yellow bitties were scratching their hearts out for store-bought chicken feed.  Several setting hens and a strutting red rooster completed daddy’s menagerie and we were all set to enjoy our own fresh eggs and delicious fryers.

To the left of our new town-and-country home was a fascinating new “playground” for Harold…

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Mama’s Christmas Room

I can still see that room…

SC Family Memories

ChristmasCandlesAround 1955 my mother had a brainstorm about Christmas decorations. She loved them. And she wanted to make them. Lots of them! Lacking any other space, and seeing as how it wasn’t heated and wasn’t used in cold weather anyway, the living room became mama’s workshop. This was no small room, mind you, probably 12 by 20 feet front to back.

The living room was so big and so cold with the door kept shut, it was easy to store greenery of all kinds in there. Holly branches full of red berries piled in a corner. Long lengths of ivy stretched beside a wall. Pine boughs bunched up beside the sofa, and leaves — magnolia, mainly — overflowed a large box off to the side. And then there were the twigs of mistletoe ready to be thumbtacked overhead in each doorway.

In the middle was the work area, the floor…

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Mimi’s holiday dessert crew

A holiday dessert work crew made up of cousins, aunts and uncles usually assembled the weekend before Thanksgiving at my grandmother Mimi’s house. Mimi always prepared both Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts the week before Thanksgiving, and the lengthy menu required many helpers.

Most menu items not to be served at Thanksgiving would be wrapped, labeled, and deposited in the freezer or pie safe, delicious desserts like presents waiting to be opened.

My grandfather Da was an essential helper in the preparation of one ingredient. He brought a large, for-real coconut into the middle of the living room and presented it for inspection to us kids. We passed it around, each one hefting and guessing how heavy it was. Placing it on the floor in the middle of a spread newspaper, “Stay back,” he warned before whacking the coconut with a hammer.

Often it took several smaller whacks before he could pry the outer shell away. His pocket knife then became a chisel as Da drilled a hole into one end, then drained the coconut milk into one of Mimi’s measuring cups. Soon he was sawing off little chunks of fresh coconut for us to snack on before we started on other pre-baking assignments. The rest would be grated for at least two large pies and one multi-layer cake.

A navy blue and white roasting pan sat on the floor in the living room, overflowing with pecans picked up in a neighbor’s orchard. A smaller pan full of store-bought walnuts sat nearby, and in between us volunteer laborers, paper sacks waited for the empty shells. Hinged metal nutcrackers and clean mixing bowls were distributed to the crew and a-cracking we went.

Of course, you can’t crack pecans and walnuts and not sample the goods. You have to be sure the nuts are fresh and tasty, don’t you? But there were always extras, and Mimi didn’t care if we snacked a little on pecans — our appetites were soon satisfied and set into competing to see who had the most “whole” pecan halves. The pecans that weren’t would get chopped up for the fruit cake, of course, but we needed a lot of “whole” halves for pecan pies.

Once the nuts were finished, it was time for egg gathering. Mimi’s chicken yard was a large wire-fenced oblong with the chicken house at the very back of that space. In between the front gate and the chicken house were several dozen red and white hens and one ornery rooster. Sometimes that rooster took a cockeyed look at me and just knew I was his mortal enemy. Those days I did not enjoy getting selected to collect the eggs. I had to go armed with a broom or a tobacco stick to fend off beak and claw while I made my way through hens who clucked around my feet, thinking I was bringing them some fresh chicken feed.

Keeping an eye out for the rooster, I’d edge my way into the chicken house, perhaps shoo away a hen or two, then carefully place the eggs into a small basket. The reverse course wasn’t much more fun either and all the time I was having to watch where I stepped — you know how neat chickens are, I’m sure.

While Mimi created the batter for the fruit cake, I helped mix the fruit and nuts. Red and green candied cherries, watermelon rind, currants, chopped pecans and walnuts went into a clean foot-tub, stirred with a heavy metal spoon. I’m sure I’m forgetting some ingredients, but I’ll never forget how tired my arm got in the mixing process. Mimi used a pound cake recipe for the base cake, real butter and sugar. Lots of eggs. Almond, lemon and vanilla flavorings went into the batter. Then it was time to add a whole jar of Damson plum jam for color, extra moisture and flavor.

Combining the cake batter and the fruit mix was no easy task, considering how much of each one there was. It took two five-pound tube pans and one two-pound loaf pan to contain the batter, and then several hours to bake. Once the fruit cakes were done and cooled, Mimi wrapped one up in tin foil and set it on the sideboard. That one we’d eat at Thanksgiving. The other she wrapped in wine-soaked cheesecloth and stored in her pie safe, to be “basted” in wine another time or two before Christmas.

By Thanksgiving day the dessert menu was complete: Pecan pies, pumpkin pies, and coconut pies. Pineapple torte. Coconut layer cake, fruit cake and pound cake.

When my children were small, for several years I tried to duplicate Mimi’s efforts. I baked two of each kind of pie and cake, one fresh for Thanksgiving, one stored away for Christmas. It was much simpler, since I didn’t have to crack a coconut, pecan or walnut, and didn’t have to maneuver through a messy chicken yard avoiding clucking hens and ornery rooster.

Making fruit cakes was a wonderful time of chopping nuts and remembering Da, chopping fruit and remembering Mimi. I might just do it again one of these years.

Remembering Tim Cox

(The following article, The Tim Cox Story, was written by Bette and appeared in the Fall 2004 edition of “Voice of the Diabetic” Magazine, published world-wide by the National Federation of the Blind. The photo accompanied the article.)

timandbettecoxTim Cox “Sees” a Lot More Life than Most Folks Do, reads the article headline from the Florence Morning News of Sunday, May 4, 1986. This just one of dozens written over the years about the 58 year old native of Kingstree, South Carolina, who at age 5 developed juvenile diabetes. Insulin shots became a way of life for this little boy, in the days when there was very little sugar-free anything to satisfy a child’s craving for sweets. A constant dietary balancing act became his mother Ora Lee’s way of life; as were frequent trips to the doctor’s office or hospital.

As Tim grew, he determined to never let diabetes stop him from accomplishing the important things in life. He joined the high school tennis team, played french horn and the trombone in the marching band, he water skiied, and he had a ton of friends. In 1964 he graduated from Kingstree High School (celebrating their 40th class reunion with Tim as primary instigator June 2004). He went on to business school, began work as a computer programmer, and got married. His daughter Angelia was born.

And then Tim started having vision problems. He underwent laser treatments, traveled to Dukane University in Pittsburgh to be trained as a blind programmer, and by Labor Day 1974, Tim began losing his eyesight. A month later his kidneys failed. Up until that time, diabetics in South Carolina had never been put on dialysis. They were left to die.

But Tim wouldn’t give up, and after many agonizing days of praying, pleading and waiting, he became the first diabetic ever to be put on dialysis in South Carolina. His wife learned how to do home dialysis, but the many pressures of his illness soon led to separation and later divorce.

Once again Tim had to rely on his parents, family and friends, and a lot of prayer. Eventually Tim’s mother learned to operate the home dialysis unit, and the family settled into a precarious routine. Tim refused to settle for being “disabled.” He got involved with his whole heart in the community — serving on local boards for the American Diabetic Association (ADA), American Cancer Society, Kidney Foundation, and Jaycees. He helped found the Black River CB Club and organized such activities as the “Coffee Club Patrol,” calling drivers in from the highway to raise funds for house fire victims.

During these years, Tim won many awards: Outstanding Jaycee in South Carolina, 1978; Kingstree Jaycee of the Year 1979, and the Adam Fisher Award of the ADA, 1981. He was a member of the Committee on Computers for the Physically Handicapped based in Chicago, Illinois, the South Carolina Physically Handicapped Society and the National Federation for the Blind. He kept very busy between dialysis treatments.

In 1978, after four years of ups and downs with dialysis, Tim and his mother traveled to the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston and Ora Lee donated a kidney. Tim arrived home from the hospital at 12:05 AM, Christmas Day 1978. A month later, he became public affairs director and talk show host for WKSP radio in Kingstree. He owned a 1976 Datsun 280Z, and with driver Joel Stone, in 1979 he competed in several Sports Car Club of America races, coming home with first or second places.

He Has Battled Death and Won. So reads a December 17, 1979 Charlotte Observer headline. A State Newspaper headline of December 25, 1979 reads, Christmas Very Special to Tim Cox. And it was, indeed. Tim celebrated by arranging for the Brass Ensemble of the Charleston Symphony to play two public concerts in Kingstree, “as a Christmas gift to the community.”

Blindness Didn’t Stop Him, reads the headline from a Florence Morning News article of 1983. Tim had determined to get on with his career and enrolled in Francis Marion University in Florence. He moved to Florence, rented a room in a boarding house, and still owned a car. “It’s a lot easier to bum a ride if you have your own car,” he said.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in December of 1982 and went to work as the only blind instructor in the state’s technical college system. He had all his text books audiotaped and recorded his class notes on tape also. “Talk about a challenge, whew!” he said. He moved into an apartment complex and “sometimes I would be known to run into the hall asking my neighbors, what was in the box of Lean Cuisine, and for how long did I set the microwave!”

About that time, Tim met Bette Gaymon at a Full Gospel Businessman’s meeting in Florence, where she served as pianist. They began dating and were married on Christmas Day, 1984. Diets and insulin shots became the way of life for yet another person in Tim’s life. When Tim’s contract with the technical college ran out, he and Bette opened their own business, Executive Services of the Pee Dee, Inc., a full-line secretarial service. It was May, 1986.

Tim and Bette both got involved in their community. With Bette at the wheel of his car, Tim became a popular spokesman for the ADA, speaking to civic and church groups across the state. Both joined the board of Crimestoppers of the Pee Dee, and Tim took up playing his french horn again, joining Bette in the music ministry of their church. Their business grew and expanded along with their community activities.

Tim Cox Receives President’s Trophy, reports a May 1988 headline from the Florence Morning News, as Tim was named Florence’s Handicapped Citizen of the Year. This award was followed by being named South Carolina Handicapped Citizen of the Year for 1988, as well as Employer of the Year of the Handicapped, recognized for hiring handicapped employees for his business.

But …

By 1987, Ora Lee’s donated kidney had begun to fail. Despite the tightest blood sugar control Tim and Bette could achieve, diabetes had taken a toll on the transplant, and Tim began to study the possibility of a pancreas transplant to stop the diabetes completely. There was one obstacle — he also had coronary and other major artery disease, likewise a result of diabetes. “Get your arteries fixed, and then we’ll talk,” said the physicians. That didn’t seem to be an option at the time. But in May of 1987, Tim was admitted to the hospital with unstable angina, and while an inpatient on the cardiac floor he suffered cardiac arrest. An emergency pacemaker saved his life and ten days later he underwent triple bypass surgery. Later that year, his right leg had to be amputated due to gangrene. Diabetes had wrecked the peripheral arterial system in the leg.

After recovering from all that, Tim made another call about the pancreas transplant, and after traveling alone in September 1988 to the University of Minnesota Medical Center for a complete examination, he was accepted as a candidate for a double kidney-pancreas transplant. Since the kidney was already weak, they must replace it also. While Tim awaited a donor, this time he began fund raising efforts for himself — in 1988, insurance companies considered a pancreas transplant experimental and wouldn’t cover those costs.

Tim Cox Never Gives In To Fate said Charlie Walker in a December 14th newspaper column in the Kingstree News. “Tim Cox believes when you’re handed lemons, you make lemonade,” quipped Charlie. He pointed out all the other people Tim had helped over the years, and the fact that now Tim needed help. Charlie organized a Jail-A-Thon to help out. Civic clubs, church groups, friends, business acquaintances, and even strangers — people all over the state began helping out. Billboards went up all over the county: “Tim Cox Needs $100,000.” A trust fund was set up by a local civic club, a beeper was donated, and money started coming in.

On December 23, 1988, the call came in. “We’ve got a perfect match. You need to get here within twelve hours.” But the private planes Tim had lined up weren’t available due to the holidays. And all the major airports connecting to Florence were fogged in, so he couldn’t get to Minneapolis on a regular airline, even though Florence skies were clear. Desperate calls went out for a private plane, and one was finally found in North Carolina. Friends, family and news reporters waved goodbye as Tim’s parents, Tim and Bette flew out of Florence, headed for Minneapolis. By this time Bette’s daughter Shelby Powell was helping run the business, a tremendous blessing over the weeks ahead.

The transplants took place on Christmas Eve. All day long Tim’s parents and Bette sat, stood, paced the floor and prayed in the nearly deserted waiting room, and finally Dr. David Sutherland, head of the surgical team, came out with the news. The pancreas and kidney were working fine — the pancreas fired up immediately when the last stitch went in and Tim no longer needed insulin shots. Over the next two days, bleeding problems necessitated two more surgeries, but thirty days later Tim was back home in Florence and well on the way to recovery.

Diabetes was no longer a problem but fund raising had to resume, with talent shows, gospel sings, auctions, and a myriad of other events. Slowly but surely, the community responded and enough funds were collected to defray most of the medical bills and medications not covered by insurance.

Today, over 15 years later, Tim is busier than ever. The transplants are still working fine, and Tim is a true advocate for pancreas and kidney transplants, and of course organ donation. The disease was stopped in its tracks, but the damage already caused by diabetes wasn’t reversible. Tim lost his other leg in 1989 and later most of his fingers. He’s had several small strokes which affected his hearing. However, he still runs his business, still plays his french horn for church, and is still active in community affairs and politics. In 1991 he organized the UP (for Used Parts) Club, a support group for transplant patients of all types, and established the Carolina Transplant Foundation, a nonprofit organization designed to assist patients in fund-raising. He received WBTW-TV13’s “Giving Your Best” Award in 1991. In 1992 he added another division to his company, Advanced Insulation. He was named Florence County Republican Party Volunteer of the Year for 1993-95, and received the James B. Edwards Award of the state Republican Party in 1998.

Advantage: Attitude is yet another headline about Tim. “I don’t consider myself handicapped, I’m handicapable,” declared Tim in the 1992 business article in the Morning News. That really sums it up well. Tim Cox is Not Special; He’s Stubborn, said another Morning News column in 1997. “I like to surprise people. I like to do things they think I can’t do.” And he’s still doing it. Tim is now a grandfather with a two year old granddaughter, Bella. He and Bette recently added a new division to their company, Family Memories, which conducts interviews for personal histories, biographies or memoirs. Visit their web site and take a look at Tim’s resume. (No longer active.)

Tim could never have survived, much less accomplished all that he has, without the help of his family, his multitudes of friends, and his faith in Jesus Christ. Every time there was a medical setback, a call for prayer went out across South and North Carolina and things took a dramatic turn for the better. A special Bible verse came to Tim’s mom Ora Lee during a critical period, and over the years it has been a great source of strength.

If you don’t remember much else about Tim Cox, remember that verse: “With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.” (Psalms 91:16) That is the reason that still today, Tim Cox “Sees” a Lot More Life than Most Folks Do.


Tim died in December 2006, after falling at home and breaking his leg. He underwent surgery to repair the leg but suffered a heart attack in the recovery room. He lived only one day. Everyone expected Tim to bounce back – he always had before – but his tired heart couldn’t hold out. I miss him every single day, but I know that today in heaven he is well, healthy, busy, and still very much a “people person.”

Read this post in one of my other blogs to see what I mean: https://speakingofheaven.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/touching-base/

Plunderer’s paradise

CouldHaveBeenRogersBrothersFurnitureMy grandmother always called me a “plunderer.” I preferred to call myself an explorer, I just explored closets and chifferobes, kitchen cabinets and junk drawers.

You never knew what you might find in a dresser drawer at Mimi’s, stray pennies, nails, jar lids or rubber bands.

And in the early 1960’s the curiosity and snoopiness caused no doubt by my plundering gene hadn’t diminished much. I went shopping one Saturday afternoon for inexpensive pots and pans, cereal bowls and silverware.

My household budget was fairly small. I had dropped out of college to get married and although my family graciously threw me a bridal shower, these more mundane items weren’t among my shower gifts.

I browsed through the stores of downtown Florence, deciding to comparison shop a bit before making my selections. My little notebook was getting crammed with descriptions and prices of current needs plus future wants as I walked out of the back door of Kresses, meaning to cross over to McCown-Smith Department Store.

It was a pretty day, I was in no particular hurry, so I decided to stroll north on Dargan Street. I made note of several places I might like to check out later, especially the shoe repair shop.

I paused at the end of the block in front of the Army-Navy Store. No pots and pans were visible through the window glass, so I turned to cross the street and discovered a treasure — Rogers Brothers Furniture.

The front of the store seemed completely open to the street. Blue and black enamel cook pots, brooms and mops, mop buckets and chamber pots sat on the sidewalk and floor, while small tables held stacks of thick white china plates and saucers and cups, assorted farm utensils interspersed with more housewifely gadgets.

One side of the entrance was lined with leaf rakes and circles of garden hose. Hanging high on the walls were a variety of household items like coils of clothesline and sacks of clothespins. Rogers Brothers Furniture had more than furniture!

To a born plunderer, Rogers Brothers seemed a virtual paradise to browse through and snoop in to my heart’s content. I entered the store proper and found the furniture: dining room tables that could seat ten or twelve, overstuffed sofas, white metal kitchen tables and straight-back chairs, dark wood end tables and tall skinny magazine racks.

There were stacks and stacks of wood furniture, some shiny and expensive looking, some pretty ordinary and more my budget.

In between larger pieces were small rolled-up throw rugs and larger rolled-up lengths of linoleum in floral patterns of pink, green or yellow. No amount of space was wasted in that store.

As I explored, I stopped and counted the items in one furniture pyramid that rose to the ceiling. Anchoring the bottom was a dining room table, a smaller kitchen table topping that. Then came several kitchen chairs fitted into each other like a jig-saw puzzle, two end tables laid on their side atop those, with one large table lamp crowning the peak.

Milk-glass what-nots and large ceramic ash trays covered what space was left over on the bottom tiers of the pyramid. Multiple furniture pyramids occupied the store front to back, some with sofa bases, some with armchairs, but all decorated with knick-knacks galore.

Nestled here and there among the various pieces of household furniture were man-of-the-house tool chests and lady-of-the-house tool kits. Stacks of hand towel “seconds” wrapped with cord ready for the yard mechanic’s use lay next to kitchen towels and washcloths for the housewife.

As I slowly made my way toward the back of the first “aisle,” I found the kitchenware. Laid out helter-skelter on top of a table were piles of pots and pans of every size, plus soup bowls, spoons and forks, and more stacks of plates and cups.

None of the pots came with lids, but that was okay. Over on the floor to the side of the table was a large pasteboard box overflowing with pot lids, metal or enamel. Everything on my shopping list was right there, all well within my price range.

One of the twin Rogers brothers spotted me and came over, asking if he could help me find anything. He pointed out other sections of the store for me to peruse, including books! An old wooden bookcase stuffed with water-stained paperbacks, recipe books with loose pages and out-of-date magazines attracted me like a magnet.

I spent a very pleasant few minutes tugging books and magazines out to look over, finally adding a Fannie Farmer paperback recipe book with browning pages to my stack of purchases. A practical purchase it proved to be over the years, held together in its last days with rubber bands.

When I finally left the store with my finds, I had acquired several more items than on my shopping list, including the recipe book — isn’t that always the way? I still have the assortment of pot lids I bought that day, although the cook pots they were bought for wore out long ago.

Some years later Rogers Brothers moved to a larger location in the center of that block, and later still to a location on the edge of town where the family business morphed from furniture to fabrics. I browsed through there one day, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun.

I still have fond memories of my shopping trips to Rogers Brothers on North Dargan Street. I’ve never found another plunderer’s paradise quite like that one.

Note: The photos are not of Rogers Brothers Furniture, alas – I couldn’t find any from those day. These are internet photos of similar shops across the country, still popular with young housewives and curio collectors.

Jealous of mother’s hair

MotteBerthaAndBetty1944“Black, black, black is the color of my true love’s hair…”*

Black-haired and hazel-eyed, my Irish mother was the only girl in a family with four brothers. All her brothers’ hair began to turn gray at an early age, but mama’s didn’t. She just had a narrow streak of white from her right temple straight back through her lush, black waves.

Unfortunately, my hair took after my English daddy, who had brown hair and blue eyes. I was always jealous of mother’s hair.

When I was fifteen years old or so, mama took me to her hairdresser. The shop was centrally located in a storefront beside Sears, Roebuck and Company on North Irby Street. I thought I was getting a hair permanent, an event I dreaded. Frizzy, smelly, itchy curls for Easter. More frizzy, smelly, itchy curls for Christmas.

I pouted as I was draped in plastic and the leather chair pumped up to the appropriate level. My mood didn’t improve as mama whispered something to the beautician, gave me a pat and said she’d be in the cubicle next door.

The next thing I knew the circumference of my face and neck was being wrapped in cotton batting, as usual. Cold smelly chemicals were dabbed on my hair, just like usual. My head was encased in a plastic shower-cap, an egg timer was set and a magazine plopped into my hands.

Determined to make the best of it, I got engrossed in the romantic short story in the Redbook and tried to ignore the drips escaping down the back of my neck. “We’ll do the roll-ups in a bit,” the smiling lady said as she went out for a chat with mama.

Eventually the timer went off, the breezy beautician returned, peeked under the plastic, pronounced it “just right” and whirled me around to the sink for a rinse. Huddled under the noisy hair dryer, I finished Redbook, McCall’s magazine and an old Readers Digest before we got to the un-roll and the brush-out. Finally the smiling beautician presented me with a hand mirror.

Holy cow! My hair had undergone a miracle! It was no longer a mousy ash brown – it was now a lovely auburn brown. (I have never seen my natural hair color since.) I suddenly loved my mother fiercely – she understood, she really understood how much I had always admired her hair, how much I had always deplored mine.

Soon after that my whole family, grandparents and all, went to a movie at the Carolina Theater. It was rare for the grandparents to attend a movie – raising their family in the depression years they didn’t “hold with frivolous foofaraw.” But there they were standing in line just behind mama, daddy, Harold and me. 

In a gruff whisper, Da spoke into Mimi’s ear. “Betty’s sure gotten to be red-headed, ain’t she…” You could hear the question mark in his comment, wondering how on earth my hair had gone from brown to red. 

Da’s brand of Irish were Black Irish – mostly black or dark-haired, not red-haired, and they didn’t change their gene structure at fifteen. I can still hear Mimi shush-shushing him, trying to explain in a few words about beauty parlors and hair dye.

Since it goes better with the fire-engine red shirts I favor, in recent years I tended to stick with medium brown hair. When too much familial gray was first showing up around the edges, I visited my neighborhood drugstore. My tried and true brand was out.

I browsed through the hair-color selections. “Brown with auburn highlights.” Hmmm. A bit of auburn again might be fun. I shampooed it in, read a few chapters of a murder mystery, rinsed, dried, and –

My hair was the most unnatural pink you ever saw. Highlights? Forget highlights, where was the brown? I prayed I didn’t see anyone I knew as I drove back to the store and bought brown with NO red in it, according to the label. I re-colored, re-rinsed, re-dried – and it was still red. Darker red, but still not brown.

Now, I was a busy person, work, church, grocery-shopping, bill-paying, errands around town, you know the drill. I had no choice but to go out in public. Some folks were kind enough to say they liked it. A few giggled until they saw the set of my jaw.

BetteAtPhotoShopCropped11May2007I let my hair enjoy its redness for a week. This time I bought DARK brown with no red, and this time it did come out brown. Dark brown. Really, really dark brown. Almost black, it was so brown. Oh well, I looked more like my mama. That wasn’t a bad thing, really. 

It looked pretty good with my fire-engine red shirts. I thought I might just keep it that way for a while. (And I did… for a while. Story written in 2006.)

* Traditional Scottish folk song, though this video says it’s Irish. Beautiful either way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3rbRX675JE

Happy Father’s Day

DaddyInUniformSmallWhen I was two years old, I knew my daddy, in some ways. I didn’t know him as a WW II veteran of the US Army Air Force.

I didn’t know him as an airplane pilot or airplane mechanic, small engine repairman or insurance salesman.

I didn’t know him as a brother, uncle or son, or as a husband, son-in-law or brother-in-law.

I didn’t know him as a house painter, screen door fixer, lawn mower, or light-bulb replacer. Or as a banjo player / barbershop quartet singer, neighbor, friend, or as a ballroom dancer. Yet he was all those things, to other people.

Bette'sFamily1947ReducedTo two-year-old me he was just a marvelous big creature who loved me. He was a smiler. A carrier-on-the-shoulder. A hugger and tickler who got down on the floor and played baby dolls with me, or wound up the wobbly spinning top for me, over, and over, and over.

He let me climb up in his lap when he was trying to read the newspaper, and read the funnies out loud to me.

He was a food taster who offered me little bites of his grown-up meals. He was a goofy “mareseatoats” song singer and a “once upon a time” story reader.

Sometimes he pointed a square box at me and called, “Smile,” which I probably did most of the time. I still have the black and white prints to prove it. I didn’t really understand the definition of father yet but I knew the word daddy.

And I knew my daddy, in all the facets of my two-year-old personal relationship with him, limited though they were.

A few years later I knew my daddy as mama’s best friend, who would dress up in a fancy suit and necktie and go somewhere with her, who herself was dressed up in a frilly dress and high heels. Off they’d go to some place I couldn’t go. Baby sitter time.

He was the chauffeur to any places we went as a family, the bill-payer when we went to the movies or out to eat, the final declarer of the absolutely perfectly decorated Christmas tree, the slow present opener who (like so many other gentleman of his era) used his pocket knife to carefully unstick the scotch tape and avoid tearing or wrinkling up the wrapping paper.

I also knew daddy as occasional nay-sayer and occasional deep thinker. “Can I, daddy, can I have that?” might result in long moments of deep thought before daddy’s well-meditated “no” answer was forthcoming, complete with reasonable, logical explanation. Only in cases of youngster temper-tantrum threats did he resort to “because I said so,” but if daddy said so, it was so.

In my pre-teen years I got to know daddy as a good tic-tac-toe player, Chinese checker player, and monopoly player. I got to hear him play his banjo and sing four-part harmony.

I also discovered that mama and daddy weren’t always in perfect agreement – sometimes they had slightly loud discussions, at least that’s what they called them. Not yelling, not arguing, not fighting, but discussing points of view that sometimes clashed. I never listened and therefore I have no clear idea what those differences were all about. It’s probably just as well.

In my early teens, I began to know daddy as the family bread-winner who sometimes couldn’t work, who was suffering from heart disease caused by rheumatic fever contracted during WWII. For several years he and mama corresponded with various veteran offices, attempting to meet the many paperwork requirements for daddy to get veterans / disability benefits for this service-related heart condition. Many thanks to Congressman Johnny McMillan, he finally began receiving the benefits.

In September 1959, daddy and mama took me out to dinner for my birthday at the P & M Steakhouse in downtown Florence. It was quite an event, to have such a nice steak dinner in such a nice place. And they gave me such a nice birthday present – a birthstone ring, gold filigree with a large blue sapphire stone. I loved it. Here I was, having a very special grown-up occasion with my parents!

1960 daddy and mama traveled back and forth to the Medical College Hospital in Charleston, where plans were made for surgery to repair daddy’s heart valve, damaged by the rheumatic fever. But a week before the date for that surgery, daddy died of a massive heart attack. I was 16 years old.

I never got the chance to know daddy in all the many-faceted adult roles that other people knew. A few people have shared with me over the years about daddy as their friend. He was a valued friend to many. My mother never really recovered from losing her best friend, lover and husband, and I never really recovered from losing my daddy.

Over the years I have come to realize that daddy was a multi-faceted person, including a multi-faceted father to my brother and me. I knew him, but not as well as I would have liked, and the opportunity to know him better ended for me in 1960.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I still miss you.