Fathers & Sons

When I was a newly minted teenager, I was fairly certain that my father was a lunatic. He was a baffling old man who said the craziest things, things that stressed the importance and sanctity of family. He’d say at the end of the day, a person’s family would be their greatest asset in life. Insane, right? I know. He also spouted off about how he longed to retire to the solitude of the mountains for him and my mother, and how Waylon Jennings was the greatest entertainer of all time. I groaned a lot as a kid riding in the backseat of my father’s mile-long Ford LTD as he reinforced his point by singing along to every Waylon song on the radio everywhere we went.

Like I said, I was a teenager and I knew about life. I also knew how wrong he was about everything. I was astutely aware that my girlfriend at the time would always be more important than any single member of my family (I can’t remember her name), and that being alone in the mountains sounded like the most boring life ever. Oh, and country music was about as uncool as it could get. Give me the heavy rock clubs in Little Five Points any day because 80s hair-metal would never die. Like I said, my father was crazy.

One of my favorite stories about this man to whom I couldn’t possibly be related to happened when I was 13. I wanted to go see KISS perform at the Augusta Civic Center with my buddies—completely unsupervised—because at 13, that sounds perfectly reasonable. Of course, my irrational father insisted on parental supervision or the outing was a no-go. I threw a huge tantrum that ensured I wasn’t going to go either way, so the night of the show, I climbed out of my second story window, met my friends up the street, and went anyway. That genius idea didn’t go over very well at all. I got home that night to find my father sitting in the kitchen waiting for me with the look of disappointment that did me in every time. That look was far worse than any whooping I might’ve received. He sent me to my room and put me on restriction for what I remember to be the better part of five years. No outside. No TV. No record player. No fun. The man was just downright mean.

Well, fast forward a few weeks later. He and my mother were going out for the evening. I was reminded that my sentence had yet to be carried out and was instructed not to leave the house, not to have any friends over, and not to even bother looking for the remote to operate the TV. He hid it and he assured me I would never find it. Of course, I was 13 and way smarter than he was, so the minute he and my mom left the house I went to work trying to find the remote. I tore the place apart. I searched every room and every nook and cranny of that house. I searched for hours. I was determined to at least break the one rule he so assuredly said I couldn’t break. Well, I didn’t. I gave up the ghost and began to assume that he didn’t hide the clicker, but in fact, he must have taken it with him. That made him a cheater and a liar besides being an unfair madman. I ran to my room the second I heard my parents return from their night out and tried to pretend like I was asleep—but it was bugging me. Where had he put that dang remote? I had to know. I walked downstairs and faked a yawn as if I hadn’t been up most of the night trying to foil my dad’s fun and watched as he picked up the remote from where it sat on top of the TV the whole time and sat down in his chair and smiled. That night was the first time I thought that maybe this old man might just be a little smarter than his teenage son. There were a lot of moments like that to follow—a lot.

I continued to buck heads with my dad for a few more years as I tried to figure out what kind of man I was going to become, but I’m pleased to report that before my father passed away in 2002, he was not only the man I most admired in my life but my best friend as well. I’m 47 now, and I spend a lot of time telling my kids about the importance of family, about how at the end of the day they will be the only ones in your corner that matter. I tell them about my dream to settle in the North Georgia mountains with their mama. And I do my best to convey to them the sheer genius that is Waylon Jennings. They roll their eyes at me a lot. And that’s okay, because right now they know everything and I’m just a crazy old man—who learned from the best.

So, happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you and I miss you every day. But don’t worry. You did good. I got it from here and I’ll see you when I get there.

Article appears in the June/July 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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