By Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC Date Published June 12, 2019
What is a legend and A Hero?
Some people think a Legend is a story or a person that has been exaggerated or is not true. However, according to most dictionaries a Legend could be a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated; or an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field. Whereas, a Hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
I guess you could say My Legend, My Hero is none of the above while being all of the above.
He was born on April 3, 1929 – at the beginning of the great depression in America. He was one of four siblings – he had 2 brothers and 1 sister – all of which were born and raised in Alabama. His father, a long-haul trucker was not home much, so it is almost as though he was raised by only his mother … a “God Fearing Church Going Woman” of the south.
As I was growing up … My dad was my disciplinarian – the thorn in my side – he seemed to always getting in my way. Once I grew up he quickly became My Legend and My Hero. For some reason, it seemed the older I got (especially into my 30’s – the smarter he became). Not quite sure why this happens … but it happens.
His younger years
Dad never talked a lot about himself, he seemed to be more interested in others than in himself. However, from what I was able to gather from my Uncles, and Aunt – my Grandmother and Mother – he was always a hard worker but also tended to get sick more often than others in his family … though he rarely complained about it.
I remember he once told me he always wanted to go into the military, but for some reason, he never explained to me, he was denied by the military due to health reasons. However, I think his desire to serve is what made him so proud of me and my brother who did eventually serve.
He was not a smart person as it relates to books, but was able to scrape by and graduate Elementary School with average to below average grades. If I recall correctly, dad quit school in the 9th or 10th grade and went to work full time to help his mother with family finances. He seemed to like work more than school.
Somehow he and my mother met when she was 16 years of age and he was about 19. Within about 3 to 4 weeks they tied the knot and was able to live together in a solid marriage for 50+ years. Mom likes to remind everyone that the exact day they met was May 8, 1948. This will become significant later in my story about Dad.
Dad was able to give mom three children. The first was my sister, Sandi (Sandra Jean Nix) – born July 27, 1949. I was the second, Jerry (Jerrell Dwight Nix) – born April 21, 1951. My sister and I were followed by our younger brother, Eddie (William Edward Nix) – born October 14, 1952. Then, all of a sudden, like turning a light switch off, mom and dad simply stopped having children.
Early in Dad’s life … after my sister was born but before I was born … my dad decided that he should quite “working for the man” and “work for God.” Being raised by a “God Fearing Church Going Southern Woman,” some of it must have rubbed off because he decided to try his hand at preaching. From what I understand, that did not work out so well for him. He was not an outgoing person – rather shy at an early age – and much too introverted to be a great public speaker. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying my father could not lead people to the Lord … he certainly could … but as you will learn he did so more with his actions than with his words.
I’m not really sure where my dad got his shyness from as a young man. To my recollection my grandmother, my uncles (Herman or Buddy) or my aunt (Doris) was not shy. People certainly knew when any of them entered a room … but dad … someone else would have to announce that he was there for anyone to even notice he was. I did not know my grandfather that well (he died when I was about 8 or 9) so, perhaps he got his shyness from his dad, who as a long haul trucker did not have to talk much. As Dad grew older his shyness did tend to leave. Perhaps he simply became more comfortable and self confident.
After a few months of trying to preach and almost going broke (if not actually going broke) my dad decided it would be best for his family if he went back to “work for the man and benefited from a steady income.” I know he worked in the Iron/Ore mines of central Alabama for a while. Then he worked for T. C. I. Steel Mill for a year or two.
However, unlike his older brother – Herman – who had built up some seniority, my Dad kept getting laid off at the plant and there was no such thing as “unemployment compensation” back in those days. Dad was not making a whole lot of money in the state of Alabama … not enough to provide for his family … the military would not take him and from what I understand, mom would not let him drive a truck … something else he would have liked to do … so he decided (he says with the help of the Lord) that it was time to move to a state that had greater promise of income to raise a family on.
He headed north to Chicago, Illinois. Why on earth he chose Chicago of all places I cannot say … but I do know it wasn’t long before he landed a good job and sent for mom and his kids to come join him.
His young adult years
We began our life in Chicago living in a three story apartment building on Garfield Boulevard. I don’t know how many miles it was for my dad to get to work at the Western Electric Company … but I know for what seemed to be a long-time (several months) he would ride the bus either to, or from work, depending on the weather (rain or not) and walk the other way. Snow did not seem to phase this man from the south. He could only afford the bus ride one way, if he was to feed his family on the little money he was making, pay the rent, and save for a car. This is probably why it did not concern him in the least as we kids were growing up that we had to walk to school. I like to tell my kids, “I had to walk three miles in the cold blowing snow, barefooted, and it was uphill both ways.“ Kids today simply do not know how lucky they are to have school buses or parents to take them to school everyday.
My dad was a meek man (I did not say a weak man), but at the same time a very brave man. I remember one winter night he came in after dark from work and his thermos bottle was full of broken glass (yea, they were lined with glass back then – not steel). Mom asked if he dropped it and broke it. He said, “Nah honey … a dog tried to take a bite out of me and I had bust him upside the head with my thermos to get him to leave me alone.” Dad went the rest of the winter without any hot coffee for his one sandwich lunch – but he never complained.
We eventually was able to move out of the city, into a suburb (really just a smaller city) named Argo, Illinois; and Dad was able to save up enough money to buy an old 1949 Ford that was all beat up. He loved that car. It was his ticket to work and to church. You see, he never gave up his religion and his love for his Lord even though he was living in one of the most crime ridden and corrupt cities on the face of the earth (in my opinion).
For years I thought all my dad cared anything about was going to work and to church. We three kids were in church (whether we wanted to be there or not) every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. If there was a Revival going on (whether for one or two weeks) we were in church every night during that period. Dad could care less about the homework his kids had to do … church was much more important. If you were in church, God would see to it that you would pass in school – “His will be done” – according to Dad.
I said earlier that my Dad was shy. However, he could pull into a gas station to get gas – back then they were all full service – and before he’d pay the gas station attendant the money he owned him he’d strike up a conversation about the healing power of God Almighty and ask the attendant, “If you died tonight do you know for sure that you would go to heaven?” I was so glad when we drove out of the gas station and I am sure the gas station attendant was as well.
Dad, for all the time I can remember, was our song leader at the church. Yes, Dad was rather introverted and shy in the early years … but not when it came to church and discussing God. He was shy when it came to discussing work, his family, or what was going on in the news … but when he got behind that pulpit and lead the hymns on Sunday morning and night, and Wednesday night, all that shyness seemed to disappear. He loved to sing and raise his voice to the highest decibel possible for him. He and mom would also be our special singers from time to time with mom either playing the accordion or the piano. She would sing alto and dad would just sing loud. If he ever got off key he would simply say he was making a “joyful noise for the Lord – Amen.” They would practice in our apartment building before church and believe me … the entire population of the building knew it (and probably the entire city block). At the time I was simply too young to be embarrassed by it. Us kids would even join in the singing from time to time.
When it came to teaching us, mom would always help with the homework because Dad could not. Like I said, he was not very book smart. He could read okay (especially the Bible) and could write some. However, when it came to spelling … he would always spell the way the word sounded. As for math, no way. He was not very good at that at all. To him 1+1 was 11, and 3+3 was 33. Well, maybe it was not that bad … but don’t ask him what the square root of a number was … he’d tell you rather quickly that trees have roots not numbers. He was the disciplinarian in the family. He did not have a problem teaching his kids right from wrong – and if he had to tell us more than once about wrong he would spell it out on our butts with a belt – and like I said – he was not good at spelling.
Dad was sick from time to time … but when it came to those whooping’s he would give us he was never short on energy. We always wore out before he did. I could dance around yelling for it seemed like 10 minutes and he was not even breathing hard when the whipping was over. Though he only stood 5′ 7″ tall and at the time may have weighed 135 pounds my dad was the strongest man I knew.
Just how strong was he?
Strong in Illness
I remember when I was about 10 years old my dad came down with an illness that we were quite sure would finish him off. Dad started having bouts of “chills and fevers” much like the flu. However he was also losing a lot of weight, was turning jaundiced and simply had a problem eating and holding it down. His breathing was very shallow. Mom took him to the doctor and they immediately put him in the hospital. Their first thought was that he had come down with pneumonia.
It was determined, after multiple tests, that he was suffering from Histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings. Histoplasmosis is most commonly transmitted when these spores become airborne, often during cleanup or demolition projects. The problem is that Dad had not worked with birds since he was a kid. As a kid he worked on a chicken farm. The doctors felt that the disease had been lying dormant in his body for a number of years before it was activated by something (possibly by a parakeet that we had in the house as a pet). Dad did not work on cleanup or demolition projects. Back in the early 60’s there was not much known about this disease other than most people who had it ended up dead.
The most severe and rarest form of this disease is Disseminated Histoplasmosis, which involves spreading of the fungus to other organs outside the lungs. This is the kind my Dad had, I believe.
Disseminated Histoplasmosis is fatal if untreated, but death can also occur in some patients even when medical treatment is received. Itraconazole is one type of anti-fungal medication that’s commonly used to treat Histoplasmosis, but it was unheard of back in the early 60’s. Depending on the severity of the infection and the person’s immune status, the course of treatment can range from 3 months to 1 year. However, as I stated, this is all known now … it was not known in the charity hospital my dad was in back in the early 1960’s. We were simply told to plan for the worst.
Dad was in the hospital for several weeks shrinking away to nothing. They actually ran tests on each of us kids to see if we had any signs of the disease. I could write another story about my brother and me spending time in the hospital for these tests (about a week) but will hold that for another time.
I remember that all hope was gone. Dad had shrunk down to about 89 pounds, and his organs were shutting down. The minister was called in to pray for him. That was one of the longest prayers I remember ever hearing. Not only did the minister come …. he also brought in several church members, and they all had to talk to God individually. I thought my dad was dead, that I would see him no more, and I was very scared. Being the oldest son – I was simply not ready to take his place. I was only a kid of about 10 years old – I think.
Then all of a sudden he opened his eyes, said hello to everyone and looked at mom (her name is Edith) and he said, “Eat (that’s what he called her), I’m awful hungry, could you fix me some bacon and eggs.” We knew then that everything was going to be okay.
When the doctor came by later to visit dad he could not believe how good he was looking. The color had returned, the appetite had returned (and he always had a great appetite). Within a couple of days he was discharged from the hospital and had no illnesses that I knew of for the rest of my childhood. To this day the doctors cannot explain how he was suddenly cured of this dread disease (though they were sure it was some experimental drug they had given him) … but the people in the room with him that night knew exactly why he was cured … It was God’s Will! Now even I was becoming a believer.
Strong in disagreements
As my brother and I moved into our preteen years … Dad decided it was time to move the family again. This time we were moving out of an apartment building – one of many we had lived in – into a Mobile Home Park and into used Mobile Home that he was renting. I was in the 7th grade and Ed was in the 6th. Sandi was in high school and would be required to take the bus each day to Argo High (unless she could find a boyfriend with a car).
In this mobile home park – Sterling Estates – my brothers best friend was a guy named Danny. Danny and Eddie were more like brothers at the time than Eddie and I were. Those two were together all the time. Wherever you found one you found the other. They would spend the night with each other often – especially in the summer when they did not have to worry about school the next day. They were never allowed to spend the night on Saturday night because Eddie was required to be in Church every Sunday morning and Danny’s parents were not big on church. They remained close to each other throughout their adult lives until Danny died just a few years ago.
One day Eddie came home after spending the night at Danny’s, and he was just not himself. Mom asked what was wrong and Eddie said that he and Danny had gotten a whipping by Danny’s’ drunk father the night before. This did not set to well with my dad – especially when Eddie said they had done nothing to get a whipping for. Dad did not believe that, so he said he would get to the bottom of it.
If he did not deserve the whipping he would straighten things out. If he did, then Eddie should get himself ready for another one. That is the way our dad was. It was perfectly okay for the teachers in school to whip us, or other kids parents … but we had to understand that if he found out about it we were going to get another one when we got home because we must have deserved it. To him, no one could whip us the way he did. He also firmly believed that it was the father’s job to be the disciplinarian in the family. I don’t know what brought on this belief since he was raised mostly by his mother … but he believed it nonetheless.
When Eddie learned that he could end up getting another whipping he said to mom, “See this is why I don’t want to tell you anything. You are just going to tell him and he is going to whip me again.”
Well I remember that Dad and Eddie went to Danny’s house. I don’t know exactly what was said since I was not there … but what I am going to tell you is pretty close to it according to what I was able to learn in later years.
Dad knocked on the door and the door was answered by Danny’s dad. My dad asked if he’d whipped Eddie the night before and if he did, why did he do it. Danny’s dad said something like – “Yea that’s right I whipped him like I did my son because I thought he needed to be whipped. Now, if you don’t get off my porch I will whip your ass too.”
When I heard my dad did not do or say much to the man, and just turned and walked away, I was furious. You have to remember I was about 14 at this time and thought I had control of the world. There is no way that I would let a grown man or a kid speak to me that way. One of us would have ended up in the hospital. I was a fighter that did not believe in “turning the other cheek,” but that was not my dad though. I argued with Dad constantly about the bible stating an “eye for an eye” is okay, long before it stated to “turn the other cheek.” A lot of good that did! It was always the Bible’s Way, His Way or the Highway!
Dad did not talk much about the incident; and in later years when I would bring it up he would simply smile and say, “You can beat a man down without making a fist and hitting him.”
It was several years later at Danny’s wedding. Eddie was the best man and Mom and Dad had already moved back to Alabama. Danny’s dad, Tom, came to the table I was sitting at and said to me, “Could you please give me a phone number for your dad so that I can call him and speak with him.” I said I’d be glad too … but needed to know why he wanted to talk to him.
“Years ago,” he said, “When I was drinking way too much I took out some of my frustrations on Danny and Eddie. When your father came over to talk to me about it I literally threatened to finish the job on him. Your dad, at the time, shook his head and turned around and walked off my porch. I thought it was all over. But later that day I ran into your father at the local gasoline station. He came over to me and offered to forgive me and asked if he could pray with me about my temper. Again, I told him off … but it has bothered me everyday since. I’d surely like to call him and let him know how appreciative I am that he was able to hold it together better than me. I’d like for him to know just how much his actions meant to me then and still mean to me now.”
I started to choke up as I gave my dad’s home phone number to this man that I despised up to that moment. I do not know if they actually talked or not, but I do know that just a few years later Danny’s dad passed away and they say he was a changed person before his death. Earlier I said … “Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying my father could not lead people to the Lord … he certainly could … but as you will learn he did so more with his actions than with his words.” This is the kind of actions I was referring to.
My dad was beginning to mean more to me than he would ever know.
Strong in Emergencies …
Shortly after the incident with Danny’s dad I was playing with my buddies along the railroad tracks that ran behind the trailer park. We were about a mile or so down the tracks when we heard the voice of a young kid yelling.
I turned around and realized it was my little brother, Eddie, yelling for me to come home NOW. I kept walking away from him … who was this little punk to be telling me what to do.
He finally caught up to us panting – completely out of breath. “It’s daddy, it’s daddy,” he kept saying. Eddie was probably about 11 or 12 at the time.
“What about dad,” I asked?
“He’s on fire,” Eddie screamed!
“What the F**k,” I yelled as took off running trying to make sure I did not trip over railroad ties. As I ran it seemed my feet were landing on each railroad tie they needed too and I made it with no sprained ankles or broken bones. I was not near as fat then as I am today and made pretty good timing right up to our small mobile home yard where I saw a trail of burnt grass that was almost a perfect figure 8. My brother as small as he was, and even though he’d ran to get me … was right by my side.
“Where’s dad,” I asked? At about that time the neighbors wife came out and said her husband had taken my dad to the nearest clinic … the she said, “And they just called and said they sent him to the hospital.”
I then asked my brother, “What happened exactly.”
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I was in the bedroom and I heard Dad scream FIRE. I ran out and was able to see him kick the door open and jump out onto the yard. He was on fire and the coffee can he was holding was on fire. He screamed for me to go find you so I did.”
I ran into the house and could see the stove top was scorched in the kitchen and some of the wood on the cabinets above the stove was scorched.
About that time mom drove up and gathered me and Ed up and took us to the hospital where dad was. We walked into his room and my heart sank. His head and arms were wrapped in white gauze like some kind of a mummy. He had second and third degree burns over most of his face, head, and arms and hands – and his hair and eyebrows had been burned off. The doctor told us it could have been a lot worse had he not been of mind to roll around on the grass putting the fire out on himself.
When he was able to talk a few days later we found out what happened.
Dad decided to clean the grease off the vent fan above the stove top. In doing so he put some gasoline in a coffee can and grabbed a cleaning cloth from the shed outside. That’s right … gasoline on a stove top. I told you he was strong … I never said he was the smartest kid in his family. Well apparently, he also failed to shut down the pilot lights on our gas stove. The next thing that happened, some of the gasoline ran down his arm, dripped off his arm and happened to land on the pilot light flame. This caused his sleeve on his shirt to catch on fire (dad usually wore long sleeves when he was cleaning stuff) … he dropped the cloth which caught on fire next and unfortunately dropped it right into the coffee can that was half full of gasoline. This caused the can to go up in flames.
Dad saw that he was in trouble … but remained strong and must have also remained calm. He knew that if he did dot get that can of gasoline outside the entire trailer would go up in flames and once that happened everything he worked all his life for would be gone in less than five minutes. Have you ever seen one of those “cracker boxes” catch on fire? It doesn’t last too long. Most are burnt to the frame before the fire department has arrived.
He took the burning can in both hands … screamed FIRE for Eddie to get out of the house just in case he did not make it … kicked the trailer door open and dove for the yard with the can at his belly. You should understand that from our front door to the yard was about 5 or 6 feet of concrete patio that he had to get over. He landed on the can and smothered the fire … and then began to roll around the yard screaming for help to try to put the fire out. According to our neighbor who heard the commotion, he said dad had the fire all out and was writhing in pain by the time he got there. He helped him up and into the car. In doing so some of the skin on my dad’s arm came off in the neighbor’s hands. Actually, my dad had asked my brother to go find me after the neighbor had put him in the car … but Eddie at his young age must have been in shock and not realized this order of things.
Yes, even in pain, my dad remained strong enough to think clearly and remove the danger from the mobile home. He and I just wish he would have thought before taking the danger into the mobile home. As I write this and think about it … had the military accepted my father I might not remember him at all. He would have been the kind of Man, a Hero, that would have dived on the hand grenade to save his fellow combatants.
The respect I had for my dad continued to grow … What a man!
Strong (headstrong) in his opinions of right and wrong
Once my dad determined he was right and someone else was wrong he was strong to the point of stubbornness about changing his opinion. When he made a decision he normally stuck with it … especially if he prayed before making the decision.
There was a time in our family life – and I probably should not be telling this – but it is the truth – that my sister became a little bit rebellious. All kids – except my dad apparently – goes through similar phases. Dad never admitted to being very rebellious other than I think he smoked from the time he was 16 until he was about 18. That was it for his rebellion.
My sister and her boyfriend was caught by little brother “doing the nasty” in her bedroom. She was 15 and he was 17 at the time. This was in the middle of summer and Mom and Dad were at work. Sandi was supposed to be keeping an eye on Eddie and me. Keeping us out of trouble. Eddie, being the kid he was, could not keep a secret and within hours was telling dad all about “the nasty” he was aware of. I think in his on mind, Eddie was tired of getting most of the whippings and Sandi hardly ever getting any. Of course Eddie did his wrongs openly and Sandi was very secretive about the things she did. She could also lie with a straight face … Eddie, on the other hand, would turn blood red when he attempted to tell a little lie.
Being as religious as he was Dad was not going to have “fornication” in his house. He immediately required my sister and her boyfriend to get married. As a matter of fact, they had to drive to St. Louis Missouri to tie the knot since that was the closest state that would allow a 15 year old girl to get married with parental approval. As I recall, Dad did not ask the boys parents … he told them this is what was going to happen and they simply agreed with it.
My sister and her husband Larry were able to live together for about 10 years before their divorce. She ended up having two granddaughters for my dad (his first two granddaughters of a total of 8 grandchildren) – and he was very grateful to her and never stopped loving her. Whether dad ever thought this was a bad decision on is part I will never know. At the time he thought marriage was the best decision of all that could be made.
The one thing my dad did best, in my opinion, is that he made decisions quickly, then took action quickly and rarely wavered from the decisions he made – right or wrong. If he had to ask for forgiveness – he had no real problem with it. He’d rather take action and be wrong than to take no action at all. I guess this is why I grew up to believe it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. I was asking for forgiveness a lot as I grew up.
Hard work – Low pay
My dad was one of the hardest workers I ever knew. When he would go to the factory to put in his 8 hours he gave 100%. Being a non-smoker all of his adult life … he rarely took a break, even though breaks were provided. If he had a 30-minute lunch break he rarely took more than 15 minutes of it. It did not take long to eat one sandwich and drink a cup of coffee or thermos of sweet tea.
When he was not at work for money … he was at home “piddling” with something, and usually having to get help from a professional to straighten out what he screwed up. Later in life he stopped piddling and started watching more TV. He could even mess that up.
My dad had a number of jobs during his life and rarely made any large amount of money. I asked mom the other day the most he ever made in a year and she told me it was about $16,000 per year. That was the year before he retired in 1994. That works out to about $7.69 per hour. Incidentally, he was working as a custodian for Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls Texas at the time. He had decent benefits … but not much in the way of hourly income.
Now there are times he could have made more … time and a half … for working overtime. But dad always said … “Why work overtime. Uncle Sam will take 50% of everything I earn.”
“He may, Dad,” I would say … “but you can keep the other 50% which is a lot more than you would have if you don’t work overtime!”
Like I said, not the smartest and very opinionated … but that was my dad.
My dad was not a risk taker and did not feel anyone in his family should be one.
I remember when I had worked about 4 years at the Burlington Northern Railroad … making good money and raising my new family of Le, Linda and myself … I decided to quite and take a position with Investors Diversified Services selling financial investments on a straight commission basis. In other words, if I did not sell … we did not eat. I had just completed my apprenticeship an received my Journeyman’s card and was willing to give it all up.
When dad found out (from Mom) he rode his bicycle to my house to ask why.
He knocked on the door and I answered it.
“Boy, have you completely lost your mind? Why would you give up a guaranteed income like you have (a lot more than he was making at the time) to work for possible commission if you sell something,” he asked?
I tried to remind him that when he ‘worked for the man’ there was no guarantee that the work would continue and that if I worked for myself (which is what working on commission is) then the only one responsible for my failure would be me.
“Well I’d be surprised if you last one month. You will sell until you run out of friends and family,” he yelled. Shaking his head, he left, mumbling … “I thought you had more sense than that. I thought I raised you better than that. I would hope that you would care more about your family than that. You don’t have the sense God gave a Billy Goat!”
Dad always used that phrase … “you don’t have the sense God gave a Billy Goat.” Where he picked it up from I have no idea. I smiled and made a private decision right there. I would not attempt to get my friends or family to invest with me until I had proven myself by being involved in the business for at least five years. In a way I was really upset with my dad and angry because he did not seem to support me in what I wanted to do. I mean after all, he did not have to agree with my decision … but why couldn’t he at least support it.
Dad eventually did become a client of mine … but it was many years later. I spent the next 42 years with a company known as Investors Diversified Services, then IDS Financial Services, then American Express Financial Advisors and finally Ameriprise Financial. All but 2 of those years (those when I was in management as a Field Vice President) I worked on straight commission.
After 40 years of being on a straight commission going from “busted” to being able to retire comfortably and staying retired comfortably I realize I owe it all to my dad. Yea, that first year I was in the business … I sold a lot. I sold a car I did not need. I sold some furniture we could do without. I sold a stereo I know longer had time for. My wife took a lot of my clothes to goodwill and exchanged them for clothes for Linda. I was not able to sell a lot of financial product but I was able to feed the family one way or another.
Commission work was either “Boom” or “Bust” and each time it was BUST … the only thing that kept me from leaving the company and going back to the railroad (since I was a journeyman car repairman and with union help could get a job) I would think about my dad telling me I did not “have the sense God gave a Billy Goat” and decided to hang in there a while longer.
So, I guess you could say with his way of using Reverse Psychology – which I am almost quite certain he was not aware he was using – my Dad … the Risk Averse man that he was … was the reason for my long-term tenure and success in a career that provided no guarantees other than “if you don’t sell you don’t eat.”
Dad was getting a little concerned about having all girls for grandchildren. My sister gave him two granddaughters, Debbie and Lisa. I gave him a granddaughter, Linda. Then Eddie gave him a granddaughter, Kimberly – and he was beginning to wonder if he was going to have any grandsons to carry on the family name when he, Ed, and I were gone.
Finally, in 1977 Le and I was able to give him a Grandson, David. Later in 1981 I gave him another grandson, Jeffrey. Then Eddie provided him a grandson, Joshua and I provided him another granddaughter – Samantha a short time later.
So he had a total of 8 grandchildren; 3 boys and 5 girls. Dad, in his later years, when he was not at church or work, was spending time riding his Motor Scooter, Bicycle or playing with the grand kids if they were around. I don’t know how many grand kids he taught to ride a bicycle … but I know he taught me when I was young and most of my kids as they got old enough.
More days of bad health
Dad was about 55 when he had is first heart attack. He was driving down the road in an old pick up truck when it hit and he was able to get pulled over into the median strip and asked someone to help him.
I remember days before this occurred (I was in my 30’s by this time) we had a discussion and he told me, “Son if I am ever on life support, please pull the plug. I don’t want to live with the help of a machine.” I assured him I would.
When he had this heart attack he was living in Wichita Falls Texas. So was I living there, but at the time, I was working in Fort Worth Texas. I got the call that he’d been rushed to the hospital with a heart attack and was in critical condition. I hopped my old car and drove like an Indy 500 race car driver from Fort Worth to Wichita Falls. The one time I wanted and needed a police escort I could not find a cop. I broke every speed limit set on that highway.
I got to the hospital about the time they were taking him off the respirator in intensive care. I reminded him (he was conscious) that he was pretty lucky because if I’d gotten there any earlier I’d have unplugged the respirator that had been keeping him alive as he had requested about 3 weeks earlier. He smiled and said, “No son, I mean if I am in a vegetative state pull the plug.” I told him it was a good thing I was late so that he could clarify that for me … and we both laughed.
Then dad found out he was in a room (intensive care) that was costing about $10,000 per day. He yelled, “Doc get me out of here before I have another heart attack. I can’t afford this!”
My dad was told by his heart doctor in Texas that he should not have any bypass surgery if he thought it would make his heart stronger, because he has lost 40% of the muscle in his heart in this attack and all the surgeries in the world (other than transplant surgery) was not going to help him. Heart Transplant surgery at that time was very new and out of the question.
Well a couple of years later dad retired and moved back to Alabama. The next thing I knew he was undergoing the knife with bypass surgery at University of Alabama Medical Center. I’m not sure why he felt the need to do this other than his brothers had done it and told them how much better it made them feel. Dad would tend to want to do whatever his brothers did, or was trying to do (with the exception of computers and golf). If they were buying land he needed to buy some … just less. If they were buying a new motorcycle, he needed a new motorcycle … just a smaller one. But he was not going to mess with a computer or chase a little white ball around a field.
I was there for that surgery too … and could have swore that we lost him that day … and we did … it just took awhile for him to leave.
A time for Apologies
After his bypass surgery, Dad in all his faith, continued to go to church and ask for God’s will to be done. He got involved with a group known as “Promise Keepers” an Evangelical Christian Organization for men. They are dedicated to helping men grow stronger in Christ – and I really thought my dad could not grow any stronger in Christ than he was already.
For some reason after Dad joined this group he decided that he needed to meet with his children one at a time to apologize for the times he felt he had wronged them. I was living in Louisiana at the time and I remember him and mom came to visit with us. I thought they were coming to spend time with the grandkids … but in fact Dad wanted to apologize to me for some of the times he whipped me out of anger rather than for something I had done to deserve the whipping.
I got very upset with him and told him that I thought he was being brainwashed by the Promise Keepers and that I never thought he whipped me when I did not deserve the whipping. I told him there were things I did that he would never know about … so if he gave me a whipping I deserved it for one action or another that I’d done, and was thankful for it. He had nothing to apologize for and I recommended he get away from the Promise Keepers. They were wasting his time.
I spoke out of turn. The Promise Keepers meant a lot to him and I should have accepted his apology gracefully and moved on. I realize this now that it is too late. Learning when not to speak is just as important as learning when to speak. As I think about it … Dad may not have been shy at all. He simply may have understood God gave him one mouth and two ears and he should be listening 66.67% of the time and only talking 33.33% of the time. I’ve since learned this as well.
Death comes to us all
My dad’s health continued to decline over the next couple of years. It was downhill since his bypass surgery which is why I said that is the day we lost him – it just took a while.
My oldest son was getting married and mom and dad came to Louisiana to the wedding. Dad was so sick that he could not hold his head up … but he was intent on going to the boy’s wedding. Not only was his heart bad … his kidneys were also failing and he had to go to dialysis every other day.
Just as the ceremony ended I was informed by mom that I needed to take her and dad home. He was so ill that he was suffering from incontinence and was in the back of the ceremony area in tears. Fortunately, the wedding was outdoors. I cried as I took my mom and dad back to my house so that she could clean him up and put him to bed while I went back to my sons wedding. I believe this was in 1997.
In 1998 I moved my family to Clinton Mississippi and my wife almost immediately found a mobile home for mom and dad to buy and move close to us. We moved there in 1998 and we were able to get mom and dad to move there in January 1999. My wife adored my dad. She always went to him when she and I had problems. Being from Vietnam, she never had a mother she knew and with her dad being in the military she never got very close to him. We hoped we would have a few years with my dad. I personally hoped that he would get better and be able to join me in learning to play golf. But that was not going to happen.
My mom and dad met on May 8, 1948 (remember I mentioned that earlier) and was married in June the same year. So, in 1998 they were celebrating their 50th anniversary. My brother and his wife bought them a cruise and went with them to help mom with dad for their 50th wedding anniversary celebration aboard a cruise ship. This was be my dad’s “last hurrah” so to speak. He was so ill with major organs shutting down … but made this trip in spite of his illness. He really wanted it for mom since he rarely took her anywhere that was noteworthy during their 50 years of marriage.
About one month before my dad died my first granddaughter, Kylie was born. I remember she was about two weeks old when Dad was able to hold her in his arms. He was in the hospital and we were able to roll him down to the reception/waiting area in a wheelchair so that he could meet his newest great grandchild. Since Kylie was born April 7 this must have been around April 21st (my birthday) or so. Just a couple of weeks later Dad was gone. The last conversation I had with this doctor at the hospital after his passing told the story of my dad. My mom had stepped out of the room for a moment and it was just the doctor and my dad before my family and I got there.
He looked up at the doctor with tears in his eyes and asked the doctor one question before he closed his eyes for the final time (this was not his last breath, he took that right after I got to the hospital, but it was his last words to his doctor). This was his question:
“Doctor would you promise me that before it is your time to part this world you make sure your heart is right with God?” “Your Dad,” said the doctor, “had more faith than any patient I’ve ever had and you should be very proud of him.”
My dad passed away 51 years to the day after he met my mom. He died and went to Heaven to live with his Lord on May 8, 1999 (remember he met mom on May 8, 1948). Not a day has gone by for the past 20 years that I have not thought about My Dad, My Legend, My Hero. He taught me so much about life. He gave me so much of his life. I gave him very little of mine and will always regret it.
In Loving Memory April 3, 1929 – May 8, 1999
I love you dad, and I always will. We will soon be celebrating Father’s day in America, so here’s wishing you an early happy fathers day in Heaven, Dad, and Thank you so much for all life’s lessons you taught me during your short-time here on earth. I cannot take the time to cover them all here … but let me assure you Dad … I will never forget them or you.
By: Jerry Nix, Freewavemaker, LLC