Number 8 in the Norman Rockwell inspired blog series
His name was Basil Carlton King. He was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. With his wife, the former Bernie Gentry, he moved to Birmingham, Alabama.
At some point, early in their marriage, Bernie and Basil determined they needed a fresh start. That included new names and from that point, to the end of their lives their names for each other were George and Ann.
A lot of people called them by their new names. Others stayed with their old names. For me, they were simply Mama and Daddy King. There were four grandchildren in the family. Of the four, I was the oldest, and I was the one closest to Daddy King.
As I look back on that time, from seventy years down the road, I realize that neither my mother or my uncle held their father in very high regard. I suspect it was because of his tendency to drink to excess in his younger years, but I don't know for a fact that was the reason, and frankly I don't care. I held him in the highest regard, and and I always will. As far as I'm concerned, he walked on water.
When I was born, my daddy was on board a submarine in the South Pacific. Mother and I lived with Mama and Daddy King. That might explain our attraction to each other, but I think it was more than that. Daddy King was a gentle soul, who cared about everyone. Mama King used to laugh at him when he choked up watching a melodrama on TV. That didn't bother me. I was choked up too.
He served in World War One, driving an ambulance in France. Can you imagine the things he saw and lived through? He never talked about that experience though, and after serving in Vietnam, I have complete empathy with his decision to remain silent about that experience.
When I was in the first grade, Daddy King gave me a rod and reel for Christmas, and then he taught me how to use it. For almost twenty years, we fished together at every opportunity. There is a key word in that sentence and it isn't "fished." It's "together," coupled with "at every opportunity." We spent thousands of hours together, fishing. Not talking or philosophizing, we fished, and we were together. I've only spent more meaningful time with one other person, my wife, Christina.
Every adult in my life felt they had a duty to teach me, preach to me, advise me, admonish me, and on occasion praise me. Not Daddy King. His job was to be with me, and he was: totally and completely with me. Spending time with him began way before he gave me the fishing tackle. Near the top of my list of early memories was sitting on the front porch with him on summer evenings. Just the two of us, and the massive old radio with the green lighted dial, spewing forth radio dramas and Birmingham Baron Baseball games.
Many nights Mother and Daddy, my Uncle and Aunt, and Mama King went to shows leaving me with Daddy King. Those nights were wonderful. We didn't do anything special. He certainly felt no need to entertain me, and I didn't want him to; we were happy to be together.
As I look back on all the time we spent together, I have to report there wasn't a moment, not a single moment, when I was ready for that time to end. That is so special, I don't have anything else to compare it to - being with Daddy King was perfect time. I can't imagine my life without the time I spent with Daddy King. I know how very special every moment was, and I'm thankful to have had the time with him.
Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, Number 9 in the Norman Rockwell inspired blog series. I call it simply, Christmas. I'll illustrate it with this well known Norman Rockwell painting: