McKeithan Column|Daddy was one of a kind

Published 2:31 am Friday, June 19, 2009

By By Ray McKeithan
Taught respect for others
My father wasn’t perfect, but he had fewer flaws than most.
A lot fewer.
I called him “Daddy.” Of course, in our family – in the typical Southern way – it sounded more like “Deddy.” He died just over three years ago, and his brood of six kids, many grandchildren, one great-grandchild, in-laws and his devoted wife, my “Mama,” still feel the deep loss of the patriarch of the McKeithan clan – a void in the collective soul of the family.
I can say, without regret or jealousy, that I wasn’t my father’s favorite child. It just didn’t matter. He had plenty-enough love for me. His supply of compassion and support was inexhaustible. (By the time I came along, that tank MUST have been about empty though.)
You see; I was a mistake. (Most readers, and my employer, wouldn’t argue this point.)
I joke about this indisputable fact with my mother now. I’m the second-born twin and therefore an unplanned “surprise” to my parents, and the doctor who delivered me.
Apparently, sonograms or even common-sense-o-grams, were not available to birthing doctors in the early ’60s; at least not in Laurinburg. The doctor – who told a very pregnant Norma McKeithan that she was absolutely not having twins – also told her we were identical.
Wrong again.
I can’t imagine any two humans … having been born into the same family … at the same time, being any more different than my brother and me. We don’t look or act alike. (Clay, my twin, is happy about that.)
Even though I’m a mistake, the youngest child of six, my parents never made me feel like an afterthought.
I am in awe when I think of how difficult it must have been for my parents to raise such a big family. My father taught us invaluable lessons by the way he treated and respected others, regardless of race, position or background.
One of my older brothers tells a story about a day working at the drug store with our father (when my brother was young). It reveals more about Daddy than my writing ever could.
On that day, an elderly customer needed my father’s close, personal attention (because she couldn’t read). This made an impression on my brother.
After she left the store, my brother made a comment about how “stupid” that person was. “She’s not stupid,” my father said, “Look how she’s been able to live a long, happy life without being able to read … she’s pretty smart if you ask me.”
I love that story.
My wife and kids are sure to do something thoughtful for me on Sunday, though I really don’t deserve it. I suppose the memory of my father is so strong, so profound, that I don’t even think of Father’s Day being about me. In my mind, this is HIS day … always will be.
Though I do it frequently anyway, I will take time on Sunday to remember a man who made a deep, lasting impression on his youngest son, his family, his friends and a community:
I’ll remember the man who was chairman of the school board during the turbulent days of integration.
I’ll remember the man who supported my dreams, no matter how bizarre, with encouragement and understanding.
I’ll remember the man who worked 70-hour weeks at his small drug store so he could support a big, needy family.
I’ll remember the man with a laugh so hearty, infectious and genuine that it made you smile (even if you were in another room and didn’t know what was so funny).
I’ll remember the man – a doting husband – who fully appreciated his beautiful wife and showed it through loving attention revealed in the “little things” he did for her day-in and day-out.
I’ll remember the man who didn’t quite “get” my sense of humor, but smiled anyway, shook his head and said, “Lord” under his breath.
I hope to become the father to my young sons that my father was to me. There is much work to do to meet this standard. I’m no Herb McKeithan. It saddens me to confess that I have never heard anyone say, “You’re just like your father.”
But I’m trying.
I just hope and pray that my kids will grow up happy and well-adjusted … and always call me “Deddy.”
Ray McKeithan can be contacted directly by e-mail: