Contact Us    
A Flag for My Father

Commemorating Flag Day and Father's Day

by Rita Ayers
June 14, 2006

Bookmark and Share
A Flag for My Father
Once upon a time my parents went over to my aunt's house to play cards and left me to take care of my baby sister. They did not give me permission to have a friend over, but Martha came anyway. After making all the usual prank calls and eating everything we could find, Martha noticed that the car key was in the ignition. We were both thirteen and had been behind the wheel of a car only once, so we immediately decided to go for a drive. We agonized over what to do about the sleeping baby; we finally bundled her up and sat her on the seat between us. Our house was only one block off the highway, so we circled the block in the opposite direction once, twice… sixteen times. We switched drivers every other round. On the seventeenth round, we casually glanced at my house and saw my father's pick-up in the glare of the naked carport light. I could make out the outline of Daddy's crew cut through the cab window and knew that every one of those little hairs was standing on end. I did not know how to put the car in reverse, so an eighteenth round was necessary. When we at last pulled into the driveway, Daddy yanked open the car door, jammed his big body between mine and the steering wheel, and snatched the baby, all in one swift motion. He cradled her gently on top of his beer belly and stalked into the house, baby blankets flying. He did not speak to me for three weeks, and I lay in bed every night, crying and cursing Martha.
Several months later, I was still thirteen and it was Father's Day. Even though it was Sunday, Daddy had to work. I went with him to make sales calls on oil wells all over South Mississippi. Sometimes, when we stopped, he would visit the trunk of his car. Late in the afternoon, after one particularly long such visit, he crawled into the back seat of the car and slept. I drove the 200 miles back home.
Daddy enjoyed taking my brother and me for rides in his pick-up. When we were little, we rode in the back with our hair flying wildly about. Later, we rode in the cab with him and listened to eight-track tapes of Richard Pryor. We rode aimlessly sometimes; other times, he would take us to the river to shoot bottles with his rifle. He would give the winner a quarter.
On Christmas Eve, Daddy happily sang "Jingle Bells" in an off-key voice. When all the relatives came for dinner, they knew to wait for him to pick his favorite dish and help himself. The first time my husband-to-be ate at our house, he was very disappointed when Daddy ate all the cabbage. The next time, he ate all the chocolate pie. He was as faithful to his dish of the day as he was to my mother.
The men of the community, from the mayor to the wino, gathered daily around Daddy's cab stand to drink coffee and listen to his off-color jokes.
He fed the birds and squirrels in the yard until they became his pets. He took one of the squirrels to my sister's first grade classroom for Show and Tell and was embarrassed when the squirrel first tinkled in the bottom of his cage and then danced furiously in it, spattering the teacher's desk. When he found our dog Smike shot to death under my window, he cried as he dug the shallow grave in the sandy creek bed that ran around our yard.
I looked in vain for my father's rough face in the crowd at parades, dance recitals, football games, talent contests at the fair. He got tired of waiting for my name to be called when I graduated from college and convinced my whole family to leave. He did manage to carry me into the gym when I was first grade Halloween princess to keep my cousin's borrowed formal from dragging in the mud. And, even though he thought church weddings were a waste of good money, he proudly escorted me down the aisle in the only suit he owned. Just before we entered the church, he looked at me, and I looked at him, and we both grinned our toothiest grins. He said, "Ain't this some s**t?" This saying is now a tradition at family weddings.
When the doctor told Daddy he would die if he drank one more drop, he chose to live.
I remembered all of these things as they folded the flag from my father's casket and presented it to my mother. She clutched it tightly to her chest to try to make him breathe again, but I didn't need the flag.

Comments (3)

Post a Comment

Phala Partin Hay from Bedford, TX writes:
June 16, 2006
Rita, what a wonderful story. I enjoyed it so much I've read it three times. Keep up the wonderful column.

Rita Ayers from Fairhope, Alabama writes:
June 17, 2006
Thank you so much for the feedback and the encouraging words, Phala! It helps to know someone is out there reading the column - I'm already working on the next one, which I believe may interest you as well. Thanks again!

Catherine from Spanish Fort, Al writes:
June 17, 2006
I delayed reading this one because I knew it would probably make me cry. I was right. What pushed me over was the end and the flag. I am proud to have the flag which was given to my grandmother when my Uncle Ray went down with his ship in the Pacific in 1943. My mother has told me so many times how she remembers my grandmother holding the flag in its wooden case, staring down the long dirt road that led to their Clark county farm and waiting in vain for Ray to come whistling down the drive. When she finally accepted that he wasn't coming home, she made her peace with God, packed away the flag, and from then on, smiled as she told my mother stories about your big brother Ray. My mom has passed them on to me. Thanks, Rita, for passing on your stories.

Send Us Your Opinion
(Comments are moderated.)
Your Name:*

Your E-Mail Address:*
(Confidential. Will not be published.)


Note: In order to control automated spam submissions, URLs are no longer permitted in this form.

Please type the letters you see above.


Bookmark and Share

RSS Feed for Rita Ayers: RSS Feed for Rita Ayers
Sign up to receive an e-mail notice when new articles by this author are published. Your address remains confidential, and you may cancel at any time. A confirmation email will be sent.

Your e-mail address:
po Books
Now Available!

Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

More Information.

More by Rita Ayers
What Would Dr. King Do?
A look back through new eyes.
by Rita Ayers, 2/20/08
Two New Gadgets Bring Fun Back
You can teach an old dog new tricks!
by Rita Ayers, 2/6/08
I Need a Christmas Break!
Without Christmas In It.
by Rita Ayers, 1/9/08
I Just Thought I Missed Ma Bell!
Enjoy it while you can - the competitive market is coming to an end - again!
by Rita Ayers, 12/12/07
More on MySpace
A response to readers' questions and comments
by Rita Ayers, 11/28/07
MySpace is not MY Space
And you won't find my face on Facebook, either!
by Rita Ayers, 11/14/07
Living Close to Home
When the big picture gets you down, take little snapshots.
by Rita Ayers, 10/31/07
» Complete List (41)

RSS Feed for Rita Ayers: RSS Feed for Rita Ayers

Recently Published
View Article Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out
The transgressions of youth and social media follow us
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 10/12/18
So Who are We to Judge?
A timely question
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 10/4/18
Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright
An amazing comeback for a disgraced golfer
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 9/28/18
Bert and Ernie are Not Gay!
Attempting to make sense of a senseless claim
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 9/21/18
A Prayer for Hurricane Victims
Asking God to calm the storm
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 9/14/18
Are We Ready for Some Football?
A rhetorical question as the NFL season kicks off
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 9/7/18
A "Dear John" Letter to Senator McCain
An expression of thanks for a remarkable leader
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 8/31/18

Get the Partial Observer's
'recently published' headlines via RSS.

RSS Feed for Recently Published PO Articles    What is RSS?
Reproduction of original material from The Partial Observer without written permission is strictly prohibited.
The opinions expressed by site contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the editors.
Copyright ©2000-2018 partialobserver.com. All rights reserved.
Home · Site Map · Top