by Cindy Wiggins Tapia
What can you say about a man who abandons his children on Father’s Day?
That his ancestors rode with Jesse James. That he was a Korean Vet. That he tooled saddles at Bona Allen Harness Shop. That he sang and played the guitar. That he loved Lake Lanier and Budweiser.
That he hated the Beatles, my longhaired boyfriends and miniskirts. That he had little respect for family. That he was jealous of Pete Wallis because in his capacity as youth minister Preacher Wallis was more a father to us girls than Daddy ever had been. That he used the Bible to back his opinions, but dismissed verses contrary to his thinking. “I don’t care what that says!”
That one evening on Hamilton Mill Rd., he was laying on the couch with his head propped on the arm while I combed his hair. A tooth broke off, and I accidentally on purpose stuck it in his ear. He shot off the couch.
“Jimmy!” Mama cried. “She’s just a baby!” (A fact she forgot when she was mad.)
Fortunately, when she said jump he hopped. She was meat, and he was milquetoast. Add that to his womanizing, and the drinking, and you get a look-see into their decaying marriage.
That one night on Hill St., while Mama was at work at the Lumite Plant, the baby’s foldy walker fell forward. I bent toward it, and Daddy smacked my butt.
“You better not ever push her down again!”
“I was picking her up.”
“You deserved a spanking, anyway.”
That we were living on Shadburn Ave. when I graduated from Bona Allen High in 1974. I had been accepted to Tennessee Temple University, but was in talks with a friend about applying elsewhere. We were eating dinner when I allowed as how I might go to Mercer University. And he allowed as how I wasn’t.
“Why?” Mama asked.
“Because you know what’ll happen down there.” In other words, I would likely shack up with some long haired wild thang in Macon, but remain celibate in Chattanooga. Go figure.
That right before graduation, Mama and we girls stepped in from church when the phone rang. Mama answered and started taking on. The caller was a Sunday School teacher (from another church) who thought it was just peachy orange dandy to mess around with Daddy.
He left, came back, and left for good that Father’s Day.
That in 1977, while I was living in Eagle Creek Apartments, he called up to say he’d been born again, and then commenced telling me that the affair hadn’t started until after he and Mama divorced. I knew better and silently scoffed at his Christianity, ignoring my own iniquity.
That in 1978, they had the little boy he’d always wanted.
That in 1982, Daddy dropped dead.
I walked into Tapp’s and avoided his coffin. Mary Swanson led me over.
I looked down at Daddy. And found peace. Not in his death. It’s one of those things you can’t explain… but Hebrews 12:1 hints about those in heaven witnessing what is happening on earth… and… maybe… just maybe… Daddy had at last found such a peace that it radiated down on me like the sun beaming through a break in storm clouds.