by Walter Redden, Jr.
My dad, W. S. Redden, could have been a Marine. He was rugged and tough on the outside, but as sweet as a piece of cake on the inside.
Dad had been living in a Jackson retirement center for several months. It was home, as much like home as that could be for him.
Sitting on the front porch of the retirement center, rocking in a big rocking chair, he spoke with a quivering chin and a raised voice, saying, “When is enough really enough? Are you going to take my car keys?”
By the pitch, tone and volume of his questions, it was evident Dad was emotionally out of control. He had been diagnosed with a serious macula problem. I broke the news to him in a gentle way -- he could no longer drive his car. I’d pondered this ordeal in my mind many times. I knew it would create a major problem with him.
I confronted him with a smile on my face and love in my heart. But the conversation was blunt and to the point. I told Dad: “You can not drive your car any more.” Words do hurt.
It was better that I present the bad news rather than for a member of the Highway Patrol to confront him. Be that as it may, he was upset. His manhood had been stripped.
I quickly assured Dad that though he could no longer drive his car, I would gladly take him any place, any time.
Now that the difficult task of telling him he could no longer drive, I thought this problem was over once and for all, forgotten and placed on the back burner.
About six weeks later, I picked him up at the retirement center and we went for a “joy ride.” I had no idea a small emotional bomb was about to explode. After a couple of hours touring Jackson, he wanted to stop at a local hardware store to buy a knife.
”Dad, you have had a knife in your pocket since you were five years old.”
”True,” he said, “but I want another one.”
I stopped the car and parked at the front door of the hardware store.
Dad knew exactly what kind of knife he wanted, and, inside the store, described it to a rank stranger clerk. In a most stern manner, he said, “I want you to meet my BOY (I was 52 at the time), who will not let me drive my car.”
I remained still and silent. My cheeks turned red and there was a white ring around my mouth. I was frustrated.
After the purchase, we walked to the car. We each got seated, and before I started the car, I took a deep breath. Knowing that Dad was very upset about not being able to drive his car, I asked in a joking manner:
"How old must I be, Dad, to be your SON?”
Dad, with a wink, jokingly replied, “A HECK of a lot older than you are now.”
We both had a good laugh. And this, too, shall pass . . .
Walter Redden, Jr., born in the Mississippi Delta, is a graduate of The University of Mississippi. He served as a linguist in the U. S. Air Force (Japan and Korea, 1951-1952), and taught English at Cleveland (Miss.) High School. He then worked as a representative/consultant for Educational Textbook Publisher (Scott Foresman & Co.) for 33 years, retiring in 1990. He and his wife Annette have a son and daughter-in-law, and one super bright granddaughter. Walter is a volunteer reader for Radio Reading Service for the Blind and is choir director at four retirement centers. He also volunteers as a clerk at the gift shop at the Methodist Rehab Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi.
Alas, the man has no e-mail savvy or access, but you may reach him through Ye Editor, one of his brightest (?) 7th grade English students at Cleveland High in 1956-1957. [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Please write Ye Editor at email@example.com.
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