When people ask me what my major was in college, I just shake my head and laugh. I enjoyed my time at the University of Tennessee at Martin so much, that I finished my four year degree in eight years. I never missed a semester, and was only on academic probation once. I attempted 212 hours and passed 196. I had a GREAT time. The only reason I’m probably still not there is the purse strings were snipped, and a good woman “encouraged” me to get finished.
But I digress…
I hated to study. Hated it. There was always something better to do. A game of Rook at the Church of Christ Student Center, round of golf, baseball practice, party at the Pike House, dinner at Jody’s parent’s house, volleyball game at the Pike House, intramurals…something. I could always find another use of my time, and it didn’t take much coercion. That pretty much was the same for my classes too. If it wasn’t English Literature, a class on Shakespeare or Geoffrey Chaucer taught by Dr. Pigg, or one of Dr. Depta’s Southern Literature or poetry class, I really didn’t care to go.
Not taking my class work and academics seriously was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. That story is for another day.
But I digress….
It’s official…I’m a father of girls. I learned this the hard way on Tuesday afternoon as I made a visit to Martin Elementary. My oldest wasn’t expecting to see me at her school that day. I popped around the corner of the lunch room to surprise her, and she was mortified. That lovable brown haired girl that jumps into my arms every day when I get home, was in utter shock and total embarrassment when she saw me.
I’ve seen that look before, but it was 24 years ago.
I have beautifully made, younger sister that is the epitome of class and grace. She is, far and away, the strongest person I know. The crap she had to deal with as a 14 year old freshman is one I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Yet she handled it better than her older brothers did. Through it all, she remained faithful to her Church and the values our parents attempted to instill in us.
But there is another experience that she had to deal with that shaped her into the woman and mother she is today. It involved an insanely short pair of cut off blue jean shorts, a sleeveless AGR sweatshirt, brown sandals, and a trip to Shur Valu with her father.
My dad could dress….seriously dress. Nice suits, French cuff shirts with cuff links, snazzy ties, and accessorized with any type of boot you could imagine. Eel, Lizard, Elephant, snake, buffalo, ostrich, you name it. There were days he would throw on the felt cowboy hat for good measure.
However, when he got home from a taxing day at work, and my Mom asked him to go to the local grocery store, he would always ask his daughter to accompany him. Molly always said, “YES!!!” Dad would tell her he was going to get his keys, and emerge from the bedroom looking like a University of Florida frat boy.
Those shorts looked great on Cindy Crawford in that Pepsi commercial….but not on a 40 year old man.
As you can well imagine, my sister suddenly had a change of heart, but Dad made her go anyway. Imagine a 10 year old girl coming into her own, and going to the local grocery with her daddy, dressed like Wild Bill from Silence of the Lambs.
A guy who was the Deputy Chief of Police in Dallas, unbelievably smart, was appointed then elected to the School Board in Red Oak, and a Deacon in our church……..dressed like THAT.
I don’t know if he realized what he was teaching all of us by wearing that hideous outfit. It has taken me becoming a father to start to grasp that unintended lesson. Despite how stressful his job was, the professional appearance that he was expected to keep, the fact he had to lead all kinds of people, he was still just an old farm boy from Martin, Tennessee.
But most importantly, he was a normal father, living an extraordinary life with a wonderful wife and mother, trying to raise three kids the best way he knew how.
Life isn’t scripted. It’s a daily pop quiz, fraught with lessons we just aren’t ready for.
And just when you think you know it all, out come the Cindy Crawford shorts.