By Joe Rector
You’re where you are in life through a series of events. I suppose the fact that for every action there is a consequence comes into play. At this point, I’m pretty sure that one major event in my life dictated what paths I’ve taken.
The most serious event that changed my life was the death of my dad. Jim and I were only 13 when he passed, but for an entire year he’d been sick and searching for a doctor who could tell him what the problem was. On the first day of school when we were in the 8th grade, our teachers came to get us to deliver the news.
Because he died when we were so young, neither Jim nor I ever learned to do things like carpentry, plumbing, or simple electrical skills. After we became adults, our efforts in those areas led to haphazardly-constructed structures. On one summer job, I was in charge of maintenance. Amazing! A leaking toilet challenge led to my putting half a container of some goo on the water supply line. I’d also installed the wax ring upside down. Another job opportunity came soon, and after I left, that toilet erupted and flooded the bathroom and another room below. It wasn’t until midlife that Jim and I became “competent” in dealing with the simplest home projects.
Jim and I weren’t angels during high school. Mother held our feet to the fire and meted out punishment swiftly. Still, we did our share of drinking and carousing, and, in Jim’s case, fighting. Daddy would have put a quick end to some of that behavior because a team of parents can better sniff out the wrong doings of their children. It must be said, however, that we refrained from doing many things because we understood the tough life Mother led and never wanted to disappoint her with dangerous or illegal activities that were available during those years. That includes drugs and dangerous stunts to which many teens are drawn.
Mother was the single parent in a house with 3 teenaged boys. Decisions had to be made without Daddy’s input. It’s because he was gone that I feel sure that Mother insisted that we go away for our first year of college. She felt that we needed to learn to be on our own and told us we could return home to attend school after that one year. She knew in her heart that none of us would move back. More than likely, Daddy would have had us stay home and attend UT to save money and keep us from doing anything stupid.
Because she insisted that we become independent, all three of us worked hard to earn college degrees and find secure jobs. Dal and Jim married early; both they and their wives were only 19. However, those marriages always remained solid; Dal’s illness posed problems, but Little Brenda stayed by his side until the end. Jim’s marriage to Big Brenda will reach year 44 in August.
It was at college that I met Amy. She was a Cookeville girl, and the minister of the church harassed me until I asked her out. Because Mother insisted we go away to college, I was able to find Amy and marry her 41 years ago. The chain of events that occurred after Daddy’s death led to that marriage, the birth of two children, and the presence of grandson Madden.
Although I’ve been a slow learner, Daddy’s death was partly responsible for my giving up smoking. He died of lung cancer, as did Mother and Dal. I can still remember vividly each illness and the devastating effects the disease inflicted. That first loss of Daddy set in motion the eventual decision to give up such a devilish habit. Of course, I suspect that the smoking that I did for so many years was the result of watching both parents puff away for years.
I’ve often wondered how life might have been different if Daddy hadn’t died at the age of 53. No doubt, many of the things that are part of my life would not exist, and I am sure Amy and I wouldn’t have met, a fact that would have erased Lacey and Dallas’ existences. What I wish is that Daddy could have watched what we boys became and have had the opportunity to meet his daughters-in-law and grandchildren. I suppose that he might have had that chance in the place he’s been for so long. Life’s path often takes a direction after the occurrence of just one event.