“Well, I reckon it’s time fer a little music,” Daddy said. He took his banjo down off the wall and headed fer the front porch as Mommy cleared the last of the blackberry cobbler dishes from the table.
The six of us tailed Daddy out the screen door to the front porch like baby ducks followin’ their Mama to the pond. Daddy took his place in the rockin’ chair Grandpa had built for Gran several years back and tuned up the strings on his banjo.
“Play the one about the old yeller dog, Daddy,” Mary Sue said, bouncing the baby on her hip.
In a minute or two Daddy’s toe went to tappin’ as he plucked the strings and played out that old familiar tune. I leaned over the porch rail, listenin’ to the music and watchin’ fireflys and thought…this must be the closest place to heaven here on earth.
We had us a good life back then. Mommy could take a fresh kilt chicken, throw it in a pot with some of her hand-rolled noodles and some broth, bake up a skillet full of cornbread and finish supper with an apple pie and we thought we was millionaires compared to most of the world.
Daddy worked the mines and came home dog-tired most days, but just sit him down to one of Mommy’s feasts and he was a revived man, hankerin’ to play with his children til bedtime.
Life was good and for me, just 10 years old and full of wonder, life was as good as a game. I did my chores in the mornin’, played hard all day and slept easy all night. At least I did until the day Daddy didn’t come home.
It was a cave-in at the mine that took him - took him and 37 of his friends and left most of the town in a sorrowful state of being.
Mommy was brave. She called all us children together, bowed her head in prayer, then promised we’d make it through and then she did something that changed my life. She took Daddy’s banjo down off the wall, handed it to me and said, “It’s yer turn, John.”
I worked hard from that day forward to fill our home with love and music the way my Daddy had done, and his Daddy had done before him. It weren’t easy but Mommy was right. We made it through.
As I stand here waitin’ for the principal to call my name so I can walk across that platform and git my 8th grade diploma, I realize that life is not a game – it’s a gift and the love you leave behind is the only thing that matters.
Thank you, Daddy.
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