Vignette’s of life.
All it takes is a nudge, and a memory is expelled into the world like a cat’s hairball.
My dad owned a moving company in the 1950’s (aka one moving truck and anyone he could hire as a helper at the time). Some months, he had several jobs. Other months: Nothing.
Once, he was fined the entire amount he had received for a move because a road said: NO TRUCKS ALLOWED.
In the 1950’s, not even SciFi writers had envisioned the internet. Dad had asked his client — over the phone before the move — if there were any restrictions. Mom called the city to ask if there were any restrictions on moving trucks, giving the specific name of the road. No.
Unfortunately, nothing in the contract covered this situation, and nothing in writing allowed him to charge the customer for such an infraction.
With no way of knowing that a police car was ready and waiting in a high-end part of town, my dad received a ticket.
The person he’d moved shrugged his shoulders and said something like, “That’s your problem.”
To most southerners, all you needed was a handshake and a promise. He soon learned a lesson, and from it he created a rule-of-thumb that isn’t always true: Northerners have no honor, and you can’t trust them.
That experience was one of the reasons he hated people from “up north.”
When you live in Florida, everything in the USA north of Tennessee and west of the Mississippi river is “up north,” but he especially hated New Yorkers.
In my father’s words, “They treat you like garbage.”
Dad was very specific about the men his daughters were allowed to marry. In a nutshell: Any southern man with blue eyes who was of Irish descent and not a northerner.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself — a sort-of mental yoga.
You have to understand how experience molds a man.
Because of people like Mr. ThatsYourProblem, and never knowing when or if someone needed a mover, he had to supplement his income so that his family wouldn’t starve.
He did this by playing cards at the worst bar in the city.
He had a 5th grade education, but that didn’t matter in the 1950’s. What you knew mattered. If you could do the job mattered, not a piece of paper that said you had the “training.”
Being able to count cards? I have no doubt that mattered to someone who lost a game.
He’d often come home with $100, more or less. During a time when the cost of a modest 3 bedroom home was around $5,000, that was a lot of money.
Sometimes, there were fights, started by a “sore loser.”
…and sometimes there were fights over other things.
My dad’s youngest brother was, for lack of a better word, a scoundrel. Uncle Jack walked into bar. This might sound like the start of a bad joke, but not to the man whose wife Uncle Jack was, uh…doinking.
Being a good brother, my father threw a fist at the man, had him on the floor, and was pummeling face when he missed and broke his hand on the concrete floor.
He was more than a little unhappy when he found out he should have stepped aside and let the man teach Uncle Jack a rather painful lesson.
The next day, my father had a moving job, and his brother refused to help. He had to hire an extra man to get the job done, possibly while Uncle Jack spent time with a married woman whose husband was in the hospital.
Human trash comes in many sizes, shapes, and shades. Did I mention his brother had blue eyes? No?
My father was an amateur boxer in the military during WWII. His face resembled John Wayne’s, and his body — for that time period — was well toned.
Even at the age of 51, he wasn’t someone you wanted to meet in a dark alley if you’d tried to hurt his family.
Did I mention that my 2nd husband, Larry, (my children’s father) was from Brooklyn? Or that he was Jewish?
And yet my father never treated Larry with anything less than respect.
When Larry was dying, 10 years after my marriage, Mom and Dad immediately traveled to Wisconsin to take care of the kids, ages 5 & 7. I hadn’t eaten for a week, and during that time I was the brunt of his family’s verbal attacks. Larry’s family said I killed him by feeding him southern food. The doctors said it was the diabetes, kidney failure, and the packs of cigarettes each day that he couldn’t stop smoking.
Even in a semi-coma, Larry became agitated when they attacked me. It was the time his mother shouted at me that he was calm until I walked through the door — and his agitation mounted — that I made the decision to wait until his death before going to the hospital again.
As you can imagine, I was a mass of ambivalence. I can’t remember the many words my father said to provide comfort, just the soft, loving reminder that I was not the reason for my husband’s agitation, or his death.
I understood that people are often at their worst when someone dies. My dad, with quiet empathy, said it well, “They ain’t thinkin’ straight.”
That is the legacy of a true southerner: You don’t need a college degree to treat everyone you meet with respect, try to find the best in people, take care of your family, and put your country first.
As the years went by, he settled on a new rule-of-thumb: Not all northerners were scum, not all southerners were honest, and it helps to have a good right hook.
That’s more than most of us learn in a lifetime.