The event written in the following words happened in 1959–1960. I was a junior at Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida. I was the fourth generation being raised on the old family property that was homestead by my great-grandfather and my great-grandmother not long after the Civil War. His son, my grandfather, was a part-time Methodist preacher. My mother was a registered nurse who served in New Caledonia during World War II.
I was working on the gate at the cow pen on the pond side of the road.
My father was somewhat a taciturn man. He didn’t say much, which was typical for a man who had been in both Europe and Panama in World War II and survived the Great Depression. His mother had perfected the art of taking cornmeal, a little grease, some water, lots of hope, and made a meal fit for a king. This is all over a wood-burning stove.
He had a strange sense of humor, but occasionally lit up when a joke was told. He was short in his instructions and long on expecting his children to do “as you are told, when you are told” and the word “discussion” wasn’t in his vocabulary.
One day, my dad came up to me in the pasture and had his “work” Thermos with coffee in it and two cups. I knew that I wasn’t in any particular trouble because of the Thermos. “Let’s sit over there in the shade and have a visit.” He spoke.
The first thought that ran through my head was somebody must have died or was gravely ill. My dad never came to just visit when I was doing chores.
“You are about to turn 17,” he said, “you will be going off to college. You will be a man, (but) long after you think you are. Probably you will have to go to the skirmish in Indochina [later called Vietnam] because General Eisenhower seems to be heading that way.
“There are a lot of things that I could tell you that could be called advice, and I could tell you about the birds and the bees, “he said. “You don’t need that. But you do need to know a few things that are just ordinary things that will show respect for your mama.
“The reason that I say them is because I will not last as long as her. I figure she will make a good 20 more years than me, and that is a long time to be a widow woman. She might want to remarry some gentleman who could keep her company and be someone who will last the rest of her life. It will be up to you to be sure that the person would be a gentleman of quality.”
That’s when he pulled out his matchbox, this where he always wrote his temporary notes.
His points included:
“Get an education and never accept anything in your life but total self-sufficiency. If you don’t have one, he might think that your livelihood is so fragile that he could be forced to choose between helping you or lose his wife. A good education is important, whether it is college or a trade school. Always remember, a journeyman plumber will make more money in his lifetime than a college professor if he is any good at it. The education is not the driving force behind success. The educated genius who is lazy will be a bane to an embarrassed family while an ambitious person with an eighth-grade education will have far more money and happiness.
Get a job with a lifetime pension for you and your wife. If you can’t find one, stay in the military. When you are my age, you will appreciate the fact that at 49 years old, I can retire and my wife and I will have a pension for life if something happens.
Never have more children than you can readily support without the help of commodities or assistance. If you don’t have a place where you can grow all of your own food and have a good income, you can’t support very many without a good job. If you get yourself in this position, what man is going to marry your mama for fear of having to eventually have to assist in supporting your children if something happens to you? Remember, it is you who should help your mom in case of her having problems, never you being the recipient of her help.
Don’t count on your wife’s income, you should always put it in savings for a rainy day or to help when you send your kids to college.
Never, ever, date a woman for any reason unless you would be proud to take her home to see your mama or take her to the covered dish suppers at the church. If you do, you may have to do just that.
Never curse in front of your mama or any lady. If you do, that only shows you have no respect for her and even less for yourself. If you do it in front of your children, they will get in trouble in school.
When I die, your mama will get all that we have. You will get my firearms and pocket knives. You should remember, she is smarter than you and I. We have what we have because of her money savvy. If you hope to inherit anything from her, you will have to live your life in a responsible manner. If you don’t, you will inherit a dollar from her so everyone will know that you weren’t left out.
Remember, your mama and sisters will love you unconditionally. Your daddy and your friends will respect you only when you earn it.”
Note: She outlived him by 17 years, I did as he suggested, I am a retired Jackson, Miss., firefighter, sell insurance on the side. Wife and I always raise a garden. We are debt-free. We had two children, we have one granddaughter.
J. Allen Sandifer, Mississippi
What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?
We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong, and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time, and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.
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