“The command says, “Honor your father and your mother.” This is the first command that has a promise with it… “Then everything will be well with you, and you will have a long life on earth.” Ephesians 6: 2-3 (NCV)
Today, March 5, 2020, marks the fifteen anniversary of my dad, William L. Chever’s, transition. I talk about mom a lot in my blogs; but, not so much about dad. Well, today, I think it’s time. As I think about the man who raised me and my siblings, I realize how blessed we were to have such a strong, male force in our lives. Like I’ve mentioned before, dad went from being a sharecropper in Georgia to a machine operator in Florida. He was a hard worker. I often think about how mom described him when they met as 9-year old’s in Sumner, GA. Mom said dad was big for his age and stood out among the other boys. She said he worked so hard that she felt sorry for him. Not pitying him but wishing he didn’t have to work like he did. But dad didn’t feel that way. He said if he wanted something, he had to work for it. Dad was a man of many faces; he could look at you as if he was either reading your mind or looking straight through you. He could talk to you with a faraway look in his eyes that made you want to go where-ever his mind was taking him. For example, dad said when he first met mom, she was 9 years old and had just moved into town with her grandmother. He said he knew when he first saw her at Miller’s Chapel in Sumner, GA that he was going to marry her or as he said, “she was going to be mine.” With that look in his eyes, I wished I could have gone where he had gone in that moment. I often marveled at how a 9-year-old could know who was right for him. Later, when I asked dad about this, he said, “I just knew.”
Fast forward to years later raising five children. My dad wasn’t perfect. No one is. But, to me he was the perfect father. He always worked more than one job. He cleaned an ice cream shop out on Tyrone Blvd. Dad would take each of us, one at a time, with him. He left the house around 4:00 am. I remember him waking me up to take me to work with him. I slept outside in the car as he cleaned. Then, he woke me up, brought me inside and made me an ice cream sundae. I ate the ice cream and went back to the car to sleep. The next thing I knew, he was waking me up again because we were back home. Dad’s main job was working for Morris Septic Tank on 22nd Street. On Saturday, he would take us to work with him. We played in the mounds of gravel and dirt as he worked. But he had lots of side jobs from mowing yards to working at the Times. Many times, we went with him to these jobs, also. While these were great times, Fridays were the best. Dad came home from work with apple pies, doughnuts and cinnamon rolls from Green’s Bakery also on 22nd Street. However, if you asked any of our neighbors around 624 Jordan Park, they would say any time dad came home after work was the best. No matter what we were doing, we would come running home when we saw him pull up. He also took us to the drive-in movies on Friday nights and for rides through Zephyrhills and other little towns in rural Florida on Sunday afternoons. (At least, they were little towns back then.) Oh, and I can’t leave out the county fair. Every year dad took us to the county fair. He gave us money for rides and told us when and where to meet him. We always knew that the meeting place would be near the grilled Italian sausage booth, his favorite. I also remember when Benjamin Edwards, a now deceased classmate, asked me if we were rich. I asked him “why” and he said, “because y’all have a quarter every day to spend.” Well, dad gave each of us five kids 25 cents a day while we attended Jordan Park Elementary School; 20 cents for lunch and 5 cents for an orangesicle. I thought we were rich; but, not in the traditional sense. Dad made sure we always had something extra; treats, movies, rides, special time with him. Mom said dad always had the leftovers growing up. I guess he wanted to make sure we had a lot more than leftovers.
I also owe my ability to speak up for myself to dad. In 1970, at age 20, I bought my first car, a 1967 mustang, from Ross Chevrolet on US 19. After the purchase, dad went over the car with me and made me write a list of everything that needed to be fixed by Ross Chevrolet. With list in hand, we went back to the dealership. I assumed dad would go in to explain what needed to be done or at least go in with me. Well, to my surprise, when we got there, I looked at dad and he looked at me. Then, I said, “dad are you going in?” He said, “no, it’s your car and you have the list. You go in.” Begrudgingly and nervously, I went in and told them what needed to be repaired. Well, thank God, I walked out half an hour later and told dad they were going to take care of everything. He taught me I could get results on my own; all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and try.
When I attended University of South Florida (USF), dad drove me back to campus; just the two of us. We often stopped at a shop in Tampa to get root beer floats before he took me back to campus. I was a co-op student when I attended USF and would work alternate quarters in Baltimore, Md. Dad drove up with me and a girlfriend, then took the 20+ hour bus ride back to St. Petersburg, FL. Dad did this alone, although he rarely traveled long distances without mom. When we were little, Dad combed our hair, he made the best collard greens. He even fried pork chops and cooked grits for breakfast when my friends spent the night at our house after the prom. When my prom date’s car wouldn’t start, dad let him use his car. I could go on and on. I am sure my siblings would have their own, completely different stories of their personal time with dad. That was the type of father he was to us.
When we moved to Trenton and dad was in his 70’s, he climbed on our tin roof to fix a flashing because Larry, my husband, was hesitant to get up on the roof. Lastly, and most cherished, would be dad sitting under our pole barn when I came home from work. After mom died, dad spent a lot of time back there.
So, today I want to honor “G” as he was fondly called by many. I love you and miss you. Whenever I go out in the back yard and feel the breeze kiss my face, I see you.
Thank you, Dad, for being the best father anyone could ever want.
Dear God, send out a special breeze of love to all fathers, on earth and in heaven. Let them know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. They have left a legacy that lives on and on through the lives of their sons and daughters. And, God, let the sons and daughters here on earth feel that breeze of love the fathers in heaven are sending down. For those who are blessed to still have their fathers with them, God, encourage them to show their fathers unconditional love, here and now. Thank You!! Amen.