Daddy in his twenties.
Mama and Pop
If my father were alive today to drive through a fast food joint with my son and me, he would shake his head in disgust. Noah can choose chicken strips or nuggets, hamburger or cheeseburger, usually with bacon, fries, onion rings or fruit cup, Sprite or Root Beer. He always orders no mustard, no onions and extra pickles.
When the Floyds drove through a Dairy Queen, we four kids would also inform Daddy of our choices:
“I want a cheeseburger and not a hamburger.”
“Can I have onion rings this time?”
“No onions on mine.”
“Let’s get Dilly Bars, too.”
Dad would glance at us as if listening and maybe even nod, but he wouldn’t say anything as we spouted our dining guidelines.
He’d then drive to the speaker and state in a low monotone, “We’ll have 6 burgers, 6 cokes.”
Lots of my memories of growing up in Texas occur in our 1969 Pontiac Catalina. Perry and Karen sat in the back by the doors, with Phil and me sitting in the middle and our parents up front. We drove two or three hours to see cousins or little weekend jaunts that centered on my dad and uncles making music. And we went grocery shopping in El Paso, two hours from Van Horn.
The four of us would often get in squabbles in the back seat and in midst of this, we’d witness a miracle.
Daddy’s arm, of average length and build, would stretch in Gumby fashion, reaching back from the driver’s seat. He would then slap all four of our faces domino-style. The car never slowed down.
Sometimes Daddy’s arm was not “slap-ready” and he would inform us, not warn us, but inform us that he would pull the car over if our squabbling continued. We would comply, but after a few moments of silence, Phil or I would draw each other back into brother/sister torture. As Karen and Perry joined in and venom spewed from our mouths, we each, one by one, would notice that the
Pontiac seemed to be slowing and veering to
the shoulder of the freeway.
My siblings and I would immediately engage in a love-fest. We hugged each other and promised each other our first-born children. But the love-in was to no avail. The car stopped.
My father would then tell us to get out. We knew to assume the position. He would take off his belt and administer blows to our behinds, even as station wagons carrying other fighting siblings would roar by.
If the same scenario occurred today, the authorities would haul Daddy off for abuse. But it wasn’t abuse by any stretch of the imagination at the time. It was love. I never heard the term corporal punishment as a kid. But I knew Dad would “tan my hide” if I disobeyed.
He taught. I learned.
In my new novel, Cecilia Jackson's Last Chance, the character of Vern Jackson has that strong and gentle outlook my dad had. I was blessed to have him as a father.
What was discipline like for you as a child?