I'm thankful for the positive response to my Presidential Trivia series. Rest assured that - yes- I will continue until every President has been addressed. But at present I find myself in an introspective state of mind, so I thought - for better or worse - I'd provide a rare glimpse of my serious side.
I don't have many memories of my dad, because he died when I was quite young. But from older siblings, mom, aunts and uncles, I've learned much about him over the years. I knew that he had a hard life, having not much of a childhood himself, and later on having to struggle often to provide for his family. I knew my parents' marriage went through many rough patches, and that mom even had to kick him out of the house a few times.
I discovered that his relationship with his brother was based on unhealthy competition rather than brotherly love. He could never measure up to his older and only brother, even though the man turned out to be a cold and calculating white-collar crook.
Perhaps this is why he drank so much. But he was my dad, and the adoring eyes of a son saw nothing but the good in him. Even today, so many years removed from my childhood and with the benefit of maturity and pragmatism, I can only remember the good times.
One father-and-son moment in particular still reverberates with crystal clarity in my mind. Dad had a rough week, having put in over 50-hours on a construction project through that Thursday. As if my prayers were answered, dad's boss gave him that Friday off, and - bless his heart - dad vowed to keep me out of school so we could have a "boys' day out".
Now, for my last birthday, dad surprised me with my very first hunting rifle. It was a rite of passage for many youngsters growing up in the south. But I hadn't been able to use it. Until this day. Because finally MY dad was going to teach me how to shoot. He would patiently show me how to calibrate the gunsights, account for wind velocity and direction, and gently squeeze the trigger in order to "maintain your bead on the target".
So we got in the car and headed to a railroad yard where we could line up a slew of tin cans along the top of a fence. It was perfect for target practice! Dad and I carefully placed the cans and affixed paper bullseyes to the fronts of each one. Then he and I measured exactly fifty paces from the fence line to our firing spot. I could barely maintain any reasonable semblance of composure. The anticipation was too much. I would finally get the chance to fire my weapon and show my dad what a naturally great shot I was.
Then the moment had arrived. I steadied myself and took careful aim. Slowly and deliberately I squeezed the trigger, and the first shot was on it's way. Then another. Then another. After that, it all seemed like a dream. I could imagine that the cans were more than cans. They were adversaries, and it was "kill or be killed". I convinced myself that there were screams as my shells found their mark. It felt as if each moment was playing out in slow-motion, frame by frame.
As I later found out, Dealey Plaza and - unbeknownst to us both - President Kennedy's passing motorcade lay just beyond that fence. One life touched many that afternoon. A rite of passage for one resulting in last rites for another. Needless to say, dad and I never spoke again of that day. And it would be close to 5-years before I could bring myself to shoot that rifle again, and only after departing the haunted memories of Dallas for new beginnings in Memphis.
I regret that I cannot admit to where I was and what I was doing when President Kennedy was shot, other than to say - proudly - I was with my dad.
Finding My Way Back...
2 weeks ago