Today is my father's birthday, and I want to wish him a very special one. He's a true member of the greatest generation (as is my Mom!). The oldest of five on a farm in west Tennessee, he fought in Europe, came home, and went to college (President of the Senior Class for the first group of students to go all four years to the University of Tennessee at Martin). He had a distinguished career as a County Agent (later "Extension Leader") with the University of Tennessee Extension Service, first in Henry County (Paris), where I grew up, then in Madison County (Jackson). Perhaps that's where my interest in education began -- the extension service is one of the most fabulously successful educational programs ever, and, for men like my father and my father-in-law, the late John Brower, it was a mission.
We had some severe weather last night, and T and I were up until almost 1:00 am watching the weather to make sure we didn't need to get Tyler up and get down to the basement. Having lived through the tornado that hit downtown Nashville a few years ago, we take these things seriously. Anyway, that reminds me of how Dad met Mom.
Dad, home from the service, was visiting with his family at the home place just outside of Bolivar, TN, when they heard the "sound like a freight train" as a tornado passed within 300 yards of their house. The tornado devasted a swath of Hardeman County, and Dad was up all night looking for survivors and helping transport the injured to hospitals in Memphis. Mom was a nurse at the VA hospital in Memphis. She remembers seeing him, unshaven (a real rarity for my Dad!) that next morning.
The next weekend brought another disaster, and one even closer to my family. A gas explosion at a church fish fry burned a number of attendees, including Dad's brother-in-law, Gordon Ross. Uncle Gordon had been both a tail-gunner on a B-17 and a cook during the war. He was cooking the fish and was severely burned. The doctor in charge on Mom's floor liked working with burn patients. So, when he heard what had happened and realized the burn unit would be overwhelmed, he sent an orderly down, saying, "Get the worst case. No, wait. He won't live through the night. Get the next to the worst." That was Uncle Gordon.
Again, Mother saw Dad unshaved and running on no sleep. I'm not sure what her impression was then, but, at some point during Uncle Gordon's recuperation, she apparently decided she liked something. As she tells the story (and, even if he thought of it, Dad's far too much of a gentleman to ever offer a different version!), one day he was sitting in the hall reading a book (sounds like Dad! -- and me!) and she just reached down and flipped it closed as she walked by. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last Fall.
Dad has been remarkable in many ways:
* Not naturally a "public speaker", he not only took Dale Carnegie courses, he bacame an instructor.
* I remember so much time invested in his Masters thesis when I was young, I once said perhaps I should "go ahead and get started!"
* He stood up almost all night to keep a tarp from leaking on me and my younger sister once when we went on a saddle club trail ride.
* One of his sayings is, "Work hard and have a good time." As a teenager, I stayed with my Dad's parents once for a few weeks to help out after they had been injured in a wreck. As I left, Pappaw said, "Work hard and have a good time." !! But, what really got me was the first time I heard myself saying it to my older son! WOW. And I think of that saying a lot when I think about the "strategy statement" I've adopted about education, "Quality learning through quality work, every student, every day."
* As I've mentioned in another post, he, like Pappaw, has been a Deacon in a local Southern Baptist church most of his life. One thing that stands out about that is that he was twice asked to chair search committees for a Minister of Music. This was, I can assure you, a tribute to his leadership and people skills, not his (non-existent) musical skills. (Although I do remember him occasionally while working around our little farm, singing a bit of "He's the Lilly of the Valley."
Well, I could go on. And, if this post were as long as he has been good, I might use up my disk allotment. But, I'll stop. Dad, I didn't call today, because I suspect you'll use your new computer/cable connection and take a look at this. I'm later in the day finishing than I meant to be, but then I really didn't start out to do this. It just sort of happened. Dad, I love you. Happy Birthday!