Today is my dad’s birthday. My sister wrote a beautiful tribute to him over at Folk, Flocks, Flowers and I would love for you to read the beautiful words that she has written. He’s an amazing man.
One way I’ve silently paid tribute to him through the years is in finding similarities between literary characters and him. When I read Mark Twain’s Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, I could see my dad as a young man in Georgia, most likely wearing cut-off overalls and floating down the river. I remember talking about the book with him later; it was being challenged in several school systems because of its use of derogatory terms for Jim, the escaped slave. Daddy was passionate(in his calm and quiet way) about its need to be read. It was a book of its time; people really did use those words. Most importantly, though, they were missing the boat. The point of Huck Finn was not that hateful words were used for one group of people. The point is that Huck was willing to die and go to Hell if helping Jim was a sin.
When I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I saw my dad all in Atticus Finch. Both were intelligent, fair-minded, humble, carried a large level of responsibility at home, and were always southern gentlemen. Atticus shocked his daughter by being able to shoot a gun. My dad shocked me by being able to hit a baseball further than I’d ever seen one be hit. Neither Atticus nor my dad was a “respector of persons.” In my dad’s world, people were not treated differently because of race, belief systems, or educational levels. People were people, made in God’s image and deserving of respect.
My dad loves words. He taught Advanced Grammar and History of the English Language courses, and he dabbled in other languages throughout his adult life. He was fascinated with communication styles and was a Greek and Hebrew major in his undergraduate years. He took sign language courses, taught himself Esperanto, and completed a dissertation that reviewed how places were given their names. Regional dialect delighted him. He earned a doctoral degree, but said, “y’alls’s” (pronounced y’all-zes) when we went home to Georgia to visit his family.
His love of words is the connection I see in my final literary comparison: In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.
I’m too old to hold the childish belief that my dad is God, but I have seen more of God in my dad than in any other person I know.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Daddy!