Meet the Lites – Daddy III
Good morning, y’all. It’s 44 days and counting to the return of the Red and Black to Sanford Stadium. It’s so hot here the corn is popping in the field, and in just 12 days the Dawgs will start doing two a days in this heat. Lord help ’em.
When we left Daddy last, he had just lost his insurance agency over “an accounting error”, and had signed over everything of value to Mom on the promise she would stand by him. He was then served divorce papers and notice to vacate the house. Daddy left the house but he didn’t go too far. By staying close by, Daddy was able to chronicle the comings and goings of one A.C. Down. Turns out, Mr. Down was making frequent and regular visits to Mom. When confronted with the evidence, which included pictures, Mr. Down felt that a fair trade was the files for TackyToo. Daddy moved into Number Two at TackyToo, and my brother Jackson and I started visiting on weekends. It wasn’t long before the weekends became all week, and before you knew it, we had changed parental custody without using the courts. I was 10, and Jackson was 6, when Mom relinquished control of her sons to a man she felt was the Anti-Christ.
Our living situation changed a number of times between the move to TackyToo and the end of high school. We lived for a while on the farm with my grandparents. We lived for a while in Atlanta while Daddy was courting a woman down there. But through it all, the touchstone was TackyToo. Daddy would gamble away anything he could lay his hands on, but not the trailer park. We changed cars like the Pope changes hats. When I started driving, Daddy gave me a car. A few weeks later, I didn’t have car. Rinse and repeat until I was able to buy my own car and put the title in my name. I started working after school when I was 13. I would routinely “loan” at least half of my pay to Daddy. Jackson started a paper route when he was 10 or so. Daddy took all of the paper route money and gave Jackson a trip to the candy store in compensation. Looking back, Jackson and I were handling the groceries and Daddy was handling the rent. We were poor, but we knew a lot of poor kids, so we had friends.
We didn’t see Mom for another seven years. While Daddy could barely take care of himself, he had to be father and mother to me and Jackson. Thank God for Ozzie and Harriet, June and Ward Cleaver and Dobie Gillis’ parents. If not for them, I’m sure Jackson and I would have started a Manson like cult and wound up locked away forever or worse. As it was, my brief skirmish with the bumble bee was our first felony.
Daddy was still a young man when all of this went down and he was still very interested in the fair sex. If I had a stick of gum for every time I heard Daddy ask some lady if she wanted to “rub Buddha for luck”, I’d own Wrigley field. He had the gift of gab, and could tell who to approach and how to approach them. The older he got, the more he looked for women of means, as opposed to “lookers”. He loved to brag on the gifts he received from his girlfriends, and the older he got, the higher his expectations were for his girlfriends.
About the time I left home, Daddy hooked up with a woman he wouldn’t have looked at twice five years before. Inez had a good job, with a good retirement, and she loved to buy Daddy clothes. It was painful to watch, and I’m glad I only had to watch it from afar. Jackson, on the other hand, was in the thick of it until Mom came back around.
Mom had married a fellow with means and was enjoying a new life. When the other women in Mom’s social group found out she had two boys living with their Dad, Mom felt her new friends were being judgmental. Mom made connections again with Jackson and I, lest she be looked on poorly with the country club set. Eventually, Jackson went to live with Mom, and Daddy was released back into the wild.
Contact between Daddy and me through the years was sporadic. There were no Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday celebrations. Like two islands in the Philippines, we might both be Philippine islands, but we’re thousands of miles apart. Daddy died in 2001 at 78. He left me TackyToo in a protected estate with a bunch of clauses. I guess he didn’t want me to gamble it away.
I’m going to call my sponsor now. I hate to wake him up, but it beats the alternative.