Daddy’s lasting gift to me

Ronda Rich's picture

Often, I find myself thinking of the wisdom of my daddy. His observations and experiences continue to guide me daily 11 years after his departure from what he sometimes called, “this ol’ vale of tears and sorrow.”

I was probably 12 or so years old when I overheard him and Mama talking while sitting around the kitchen table, sipping on cups of coffee. It was a Saturday afternoon and Daddy had just come in from a hard day on the farm. He was talking about a newly purchased tractor and he kept using the pronoun “we” such as, “We brought the tractor,” “we thought it was a good buy,” etc.

Mama was listening quietly but finally asked, “Who’s ‘we’? Did you buy the tractor with someone?”

“No ma’am. But I say ‘we’ because it sounds a whole lot better than ‘I.’ Nothin’ sounds worse than someone goin’ around saying, ‘I, I, I.’”

Probably at that moment, “we” became the more prominent pronoun in my vocabulary because Daddy was right. If there is blame to be taken, it is “I.” If there is praise to be received, it is “we,” to the point that it makes absolutely no sense at times such as when someone compliments a book that bears my name.

“Thank you. We’ve been blessed with that book. It’s done well for us.” It shows how influenced a child is by the words and actions of her parents.

There is a moment with Daddy, though, that sticks like glue to my soul and always, without fail, brings tears to my eyes when I recall it.

Daddy had a secret praying place. Its location, he said often, was just between him and the good Lord. Whenever the trials and tribulations of this life got too much for him, he’d take himself out to that praying place and talk it all over with the Lord. No one knew where it was and it never occurred to any of us to infringe on Daddy’s privacy by snooping to find out.

It was close to the end of his life. He was frail, weak and a stroke had left him a bit feeble of mind. One day while I was visiting, Mama and I were in the kitchen, cooking. She took an iron skillet out of the cabinet then turned, with a worried look, to face me.

“I think you’d better go check on your daddy. He’s outside and he’s been gone for a while. I’m getting worried about him.”

As soon as I stepped out of the back door, I saw him across the yard, near the pasture. He was leaning on an overturned barrel, his head hung low. When I got to him, he looked up, tears in his eyes and whispered sadly, “I got down here and I couldn’t get back.”

I smiled weakly. “That’s okay. Here, let me help you.” He was a tall and a handful for petite me. As I struggled to steady him, I glanced around and caught sight of his secret place.

There, in a corner between the cattle corral and behind a small storage building, was Daddy’s praying place.

He had situated cement blocks where he could kneel, put his elbows on them and fold his hands under his chin. Tears welled in my eyes when I saw that where he knelt so often to pray, was nothing more than bare ground. He had worn away the grass with the repeated weight of his knees.

A parent who wears away the grass by repeatedly kneeling to pray: Can there be any greater gift to a child than that?

Just the other day when sorrow clouded my heart, I found myself at that place while checking on the cows. I stopped and took the time to pray in that hallowed spot.

And there I found not only the good Lord, but Daddy, too.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” Her newest book is “What Southern Women Know about Faith.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.]

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