In previous installments of this series, I have hinted about my disdain for our father. He was a disgusting and heartless individual. He ridiculed and mocked his own children. He was cruel, sadistic and a drunk. Those were his good qualities. His most dire quality was the fact he was a wife beater. I can’t tell you how many times, as a little boy, I wanted to get my .410 shotgun and kill him. But, he was not worthy of the heartache that would surely have come my way had I acted on that impulse. His family (grandmother, uncles and aunts) excused his behavior due to his participation in WWII. Even that is dubious, at best. I received his military records once about five years ago. The only ship he served on was a supply ship in the Pacific. He had always claimed he was at the Invasion of Normandy in the Atlantic. He made people believe he lost part of one lung to enemy shrapnel. That is not true. He lost part of a lung due to Tuberculosis. I had to get checked for that dreadful disease as a result. If a person is wounded in combat, as my father claimed, they get a Purple Heart. Knowing the kind of man my father was, he would have had that Purple Heart in the living room of every house we lived. But, he never mentioned anything about receiving the Purple Heart, nor was there anything about his wounds or a Purple Heart in his military records. My father was a braggart. Braggart that he was, he would have constantly bragged about that medal. Again, he never mentioned receiving such a medal or any kind of medal for that matter.
But, none of that really mattered while we lived in Woolmarket, MS. Things were tough enough without an alcoholic coming in each night disturbing us on school nights and spoiling our weekends. He came in drunk an average of about 4 times a week. Friday and Saturday nights were the worst. There was a “beer joint” about 2 miles from where we lived in Woolmarket. I can’t remember the name of the place. But, that was his favorite watering hole. He would come in so drunk, he would pass out after he opened the door. But, what was worse, we were all fearful he would start an argument with our beloved mother. On top of everything else, he was a wife abuser as well. Every time he hit my mother is etched forever in my mind. The first time I remember it I was about 4 years old. That’s right, 4 years old. Like I said, you never forget it when your father abuses your mother and siblings. We were so very fearful, so very scared of him starting something with our mother. Our mother was the world to us. We loved her and she was our rock during those difficult times. Mother endured so much for us in Woolmarket and elsewhere as we grew up with this monster we called our “daddy.” He was never a father to us in Woolmarket or anywhere else. I could forgive him for the ways he scared us and caused us so much fear during our time in Woolmarket. But, I was never able to forgive him for hitting my mother. That was an unforgivable sin to me.
My mother eventually left my father in Woolmarket. For our sake and with an uncertain future, we moved out on our own to Mobile, AL. Even though we were no longer in Woolmarket, that place haunted us as we struggled to adjust to city life. We struggled financially as well. Times were almost as bad in Woolmarket. At least, we didn’t have to put up with our father for a period of time. That’s his picture above. I suspect he was about 20 years old or still a teenager. Don’t let that genteel looking picture of him above fool you. That face would later become the face of a monster that harmed his wife and his own flesh and blood children in ways that still resonate with us today. On May 8th of this year (2017) that monster met his maker at age 91. I wish I could say it hurt me to hear that he had passed away. But, I didn’t feel hate, love, anger or any other emotion about a man who caused so much heartache in our family. I felt nothing. Myself, along with my brother and sister did not attend his funeral. That sent a loud, clear message to those in attendance.
I don’t know what is on his tombstone or if he even has one. But, this quote would have been perfect….“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”—Theodore Hesburgh. If only our father could have loved our mother, his other transgressions in life would have been overlooked. But, now, with old age tapping me on the shoulder, I will remember him for those times in Woolmarket and the way he treated his family, especially our beloved mother.