My father went to Vidalia, Georgia one time. It was before he met my mother, after a hitch in the army, sometime between Korea and Vietnam. The onions impressed him enough that he decided to commemorate them christening his firstborn, me, Vidalia Mae Minzy.
He was a strict disciplinarian, prone to violent displays of displeasure. My sister, Rachel, ran the wrong way around the kitchen table and tripped over the coffee pot cord. Hot coffee spilled and burned her. She got herself burned and beaten too. That beating may have been a fright beating rather than the standard display of displeasure.
I was a diplomat growing up. I learned, from having to coax my father out of his unhappy moods, that it pays to listen. Regurgitating what has been said to you is the most successful form of flattery. I learned to put a positive spin on things before “spin” became part of the national vernacular.
Once I found him crying at the edge of the woods, just before the path to the river. When I asked him why he was crying, he told me it was for the persecution of Jesus and all the sins of man. He stopped crying and we had a Bible lecture. The Bible lectures were boring to me. It was challenge for me to be attentive for the entire presentation. I knew if I wasn’t, it would hurt my daddy’s feelings and I didn’t like to be mean.
An earlier version of this story appeared in Puckerbrush Review.