In Honor of Dad’s 94th!

Today, June 18, would have been my dad’s 94th birthday. I’m wearing his blue University of Kentucky polo in honor of him. Laurence Hubert Wolfe passed away on February 15, 2018. He was a man of God, wise, respected, and dependable.

I could write the facts about him, like how many kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids he had, where he worked… stuff like that , but that doesn’t tell you who my dad was.

My dad was a caring person. That seems kinda descriptively non-descriptive. But you see it entails a multitude of stories. He and my mom were married for 65 years before her passing. Her name was Virginia Helton, youngest daughter of Dewey and Nettie Helton, and a bit strong-willed and determined. Add her married name to her first name and she became Virginia Wolfe. As we would say in our teenage years, “Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” We would raise our hands. Not that my mom was mean or dictatorial, she just liked things done her way, like expecting all the dinner food to be consumed by us so the dishwater didn’t get dirty. There were more than a few times where I had another serving of mashed potatoes plopped on my plate in consideration of what it would do to the dishwater. The whole scenario was confusing to me, but now I rarely take a plate to the sink with food on it that I haven’t consumed. Wasting food was something you didn’t do, even if it was canned carrots (which I believed were from the devil).

Dad cared for my mom, honored her, sometimes let her talk to the point that she made no sense, before offering her his thoughts which always followed the trail of common sense. In her final years, struggling with Parkinson’s that gradually caused her to lose the functioning of her arms and legs, my dad and my sister (who lived down the street from them) became Mom’s caregivers. That required taking care of he diapering, feeding, keeping her hydrated, and listening to her conspiracy theories about things she had become confused about. The one that we’ll always remember is that Mom believed Dad was having an affair with Rachael Ray. She could see the TV personality reflected on the mirror in her bedroom off of the TV positioned a few feet away from her bed. It greatly upset her, so Dad, kind and considerate, solved the problem by draping towels over the mirror. He had to find a different mirror to stand in front of to comb his hair.

When the Parkinson’s also took Mom’s ability to speak, Dad became her conversationalist, talking to her about the kids and grandkids, what she’d like for dinner…even though she couldn’t tell him, and the latest news stories. He honored her in his caring, as he had committed on their August 13, 1947 wedding day, “for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” That’s who he was, how he was, and what he was about. His father, my grandfather, had been killed in a mining accident when Dad was still a kid. Perhaps not having him around, and the severity of the times in the late 1930s, caused him to help his mom and his two siblings keep the family together. He never really talked about those days very much, which tells me they were a difficult time, yet also a foundational time for him. They solidified many of his virtues and values.

He loved a good story. The front porch of the Helton farm home, outside of Paintsville, Kentucky, was a gathering place for stories listened to and told by Dad, my uncles, and my PaPaw Helton. I swear I heard some of those stories more times than God Himself, but they never became tiresome, and each telling prompted rebuttals and revisions from some of the listeners.

“Now, Milliard, that’s not how it happened. It was a Tuesday and he was driving a Ford pickup with one of the taillights hanging down from its frame like it was trying to get away.”

In his later years, with the front porch gang all gone on to Glory, Dad would pass on stories to us…again and again, always slapping himself on the leg as he came to the uproarious, humorous ending. My brother would offer his perspective as a result of 28 years with the Associated Press and several years as the speechwriter for the Kentucky governor, and my sister and I would sit there taking it all in, laughing at just the right moment to encourage the spinning of Dad’s tale.

And Dad was wise. Might I add, patiently wise. He’d hear my mom out: her struggles at her bookkeeping job at J. C. Penney’s that day, who said what to whom, should she go ahead and buy some Towncraft underwear for the boys for Christmas since it was on sale that week, and what did he think about how quickly her new shoes had started to wear out? Dad would listen and, not too soon, offer his thoughts and advice on the topic at hand. When I came home from college for my Christmas break with my hair grown out and parted in the middle, my mom’s reaction was “Lord, have mercy!” Dad’s reaction was to hug me since he hadn’t seen me for almost 5 months. I do recall him escorting me down to Morris’s Barbershop the next Monday morning, but the importance of having my hair trimmed and looking more like a Baptist was on a different page from letting me know how glad he was to see me.

So today would be his 94th birthday. I trimmed around the lawn today in honor of him. He liked a freshly-mowed and well-trimmed yard even more than a trimmed-up son. Maybe I’ll ask my oldest daughter to bring her hair clippers over tonight as a tribute to Mom. It would make her happy, which, in turn would make Dad happy.

Happy birthday, Pops!

Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: