Pratt: Father, grandfather leave legacy of integrity, kindness

Dad wasn’t against gift-giving at Christmas or Valentine’s Day. The practice just wasn’t part of his life experience.

 

That Mother could reasonably expect a box of chocolate-covered cherries from the grocery store on these two holidays was little short of amazing. It helped that Dad had a real sweet tooth himself. Beyond that he didn’t shop.

His favorite boxed candy was Millionaires from the corner drug store. Later in life he loved to slip candy to his grandchildren whether they needed it or not. He was the one who would bring home a coconut and tell us all exotic lands where this unusual fruit grew as Mother punched holes to drain the “milk” and broke the touch outer shell so we could dig out the fresh coconut.

West Texas farmers who managed to hang on through the 1930s drought, dust storms and Great Depression saw holiday observances as least of their concerns when just having food to eat was a serious challenge. There were no pennies for candy or coconuts then.

When my brothers and I were growing up through the 1940s, , the larger family had more on their minds than holidays and World War II shortages of sugar, fuel, tires and more. My dad’s four brothers were in combat along with a brother-in-law who trained troops. My mother’s only brother old enough to serve in WWII lived with us to go to high school, and was sent to the Pacific war zone as soon as he graduated.

I recall Mother packing cookies (made from rationed sugar) to send to our boys on the battlefields. We gathered daily as a family around the radio to listen to the evening news broadcast.

We were blessed. The uncles all made it home after the war.

Just as the war was ending, I started first grade and soon was introduced to the classroom version of exchanging valentines with classmates. Mother loved celebrations, so would bake and decorate little heart-shape cakes to give to each of us and deliver to cousins or friends. She didn’t need a recipe to whip up a quick white or yellow cake or a delicious frosting.

She made cupcakes for school parties, and later birthday cakes and valentine cakes for her grandchildren. Times had improved.

I smile everytime I put on her four-diamond wedding band Dad purchased as a 25th wedding anniversary present. Diamonds were appreciated by my science-loving dad because he could explain to us how they were formed deep in the earth. I’m sure he wondered why she needed more than the small diamond solitaire wedding ring he ordered from Montgomery Ward catalog before they married.

Dad always had a firm hold on the difference between necessity and mere wants. In his own way, he was a romantic. But he wasn’t that great at expressing it in terms that would impress a woman. Which seems a bit odd to me since my paternal grandfather seemed always tuned to what grandmother wanted or needed. His pet name for her was “kid,” an endearment true to the times when their romance began. My dad, the oldest son, was less demonstrative, more reticent like his mother than his father in speaking of affection. But my dad and my grandfather adored telling stories to their grandchildren.

I still remember what my Aunt Dorothy wrote of their father when he took care of the entire family during a flu epidemic — “I don’t know how he did it,” Dorothy said, “but Papa was a friend of God.”

What a lovely way to be remembered. My dad’s gentle spirit came from him, I think. To be known by family members as “a friend of God” is the best tribute I can imagine. I think it fit his eldest son, my dad, as well.

Theirs is a legacy of integrity and kindness. Such are the valentines we should more readily give one another throughout our lives, lacing them with deeds and words of love.

BETH PRATT retired as religion editor from the Avalanche-Journal after 25 years. You can email her at beth.pratt@cheerful.com.

 

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