In the thirty years I spent with my Daddy, I saw him embarrassed only three times.
The first was when he delivered a Wednesday evening Bible lesson at church. He didn't find public speaking any easier than I did. But we both learned.
The second time I saw him embarrassed was at skating rink. He, mother, and two other couples were chaperoning a group of kids. As the night grew older, Daddy rediscovered his old skating skills. According to family stories, he had worked, as a kid instructor, in a huge skating rink in Birmingham.
Most of the group was sitting, watching the few skaters still on the floor. One of them, an eight year old, blonde haired girl, was chugging around the outside edge of the rink like The Little Engine that could. The rest of the skaters were on an tighter track, moving at a faster pace, but not anything out of the ordinary.
Suddenly a scream, followed immediately by the sickening sound of a young butt slapping the wooden floor, silenced the onlookers. The little blonde was down. Daddy had just rounded a curve and only the empty straightaway was between him and the downed damsel. I saw his eyes flash, and he was instantly transformed into a Bay Area Bomber. He literally leaped forward five feet landing in a ground eating low crouch. In less time than it takes to tell it, he was at the accident scene, moving fast. He bent even lower, scooping up the little girl, and without slowing, set her on her skates, pointing the way she had been moving before she fell.
However, Daddy didn't account for her cap, which she had lost in the crash. Just as he released the little girl, his right skate ran over the cap, and instantly he was on his backside, sliding toward the railing.
Obviously, it wasn't his first high speed crash. As he slid under the railing he grabbed it, pulled himself up, and with little loss of speed, he was upright and skating. Seconds later, he was skating slowly beside the little blonde who looked up at him like he was the reincarnation of Sir Lancelot - if the legendary knight blushed. It was at least thirty minutes before the bright red left Daddy's cheeks - the applause from those watching didn't help, but he kept skating until he forgot the incident.
And then there was the third time. I must have been ten, maybe eleven, when, one morning after breakfast, he told me it was time for us to have "the talk." Then he told me that would happen that very evening after supper. I spent a good part of the day thinking of all of the things that he might be planning to talk to me about. Finally I gave up, having learned years before it is never smart to give up a position until I knew I had been discovered. The truth is, I could have examined every possibility I knew and never guessed that the conversation was going to be about girls, and sex, and "staying pure" for my wife - hell, I was ten years old, eleven tops.
At the appointed time, Daddy told me to meet him in the living room, which by the way, was never used, except when company came. I sat in the empty room for a few minutes, taking a last minute mental inventory of various events I knew could be the reason for this summit meeting. Finally the door opened, and Daddy entered with a plain wrapped package under his arm and the same red countenance I'd seen on his face at the skating rink a few months earlier. He sat beside me on the sofa, took a deep breath, and began removing the brown paper from what turned out to be a book. I glanced at the cover, and picked up three words; "reproduction, sex education, and Christian,” though probably not in that order.
The slot machine in my head clattered and the dials began spinning. One by one they stopped, a bell in my head rang, and I got it. This was the sex talk. I glanced at daddy, who didn't make eye contact, but rather focused on the book as he began explaining it to me.
I couldn't believe this was my Daddy. He'd been overcome by a book. He managed to stutter and stammer his way through a half-hour presentation, closed the book, and managed to spit out his last comment, "And, Son, that's why you can't do "the thing" with a girl until you're married. Now, go finish you're homework."
I was glad "the talk" was over, but not nearly as glad as Daddy was. I never told him that I didn't understand a word that he read from that book, and he never mentioned sex again. School started a few weeks later, and I came into possession of a small, black and white comic book called "Maggie and Diggs." I had to fight to retain possession of it, but that was a small price to pay to learn the "real story" about sex.
Facts of life. I'm not sure we handle it any better these days, regardless of the information that is in our faces every day. I'm sure Maggie and Diggs, or the equivalent, still furnishes the basic information to today's youth. In a poorly thought out strategy to make up for my "talk" with Daddy, I gave my son a beautifully, illustrated copy of the Kama Sutra, and what I considered a beautiful, presentation on the subject. That turned out to be far more information than he needed or wanted.
Tomorrow I'll post the twenty-second in the Norman Rockwell inspired blog series. I call it Wichita Lineman and this is the painting that I'll use to illustrate it.