Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 19, 2016

Thankful for lessons my daddy taught me

Father’s Day reminds me of my indebtedness to my daddy. He taught me some valuable lessons about life.  

Dad was born May 7, 1901, in Fort Mead, Florida. His parents named him Walter Matthew Albritton.  His education came from the School of Hard Knocks. His first job was in a phosphate mine near his birthplace. Later he worked as a plumber’s helper and picked up some carpentry skills.

Soon after marrying my Mama, Caroline Johnson, Dad moved to Alabama and began farming. He learned to farm by trial and error during the Great Depression. The skills he acquired in farming led eventually to his being hired to manage the Elmore County Farmers Exchange in Wetumpka.  

I never called Dad “father.” To his children he was Daddy and when we were growing up Daddy was our Rock. He was always there. The farm was his life. He worked from daylight till dark. He and Mama grew most of the food we ate and canned vegetables with a passion.

Daddy had strong moral convictions. Having seen his own father die of alcoholism, Daddy was a teetotaler all his life. He was strictly opposed to drinking, smoking, chewing tobacco and cursing. Mama shared his convictions and those beliefs became rules for our family.

Daddy died of “old age” January 24, 1995. He was 93. He and Mama had been married almost 68 years. They took their marriage vows seriously. None of us can remember them speak of divorce. Marriage was a sacred bond, a covenant with each other and God.

Though Daddy lived 93 years I still miss him. I wish I could talk to him one more time. There were conversations we never finished. But life is like that – one relinquishment after another from the cradle to the grave. One by one we must say goodbye to the family and friends we have loved until it is our turn to embrace death. 

On this Father's Day I am thankful for the love and respect of my children and their mother. Simple Father’s Day gifts are nothing compared to words spoken with love. The scent of Aqua Velva is soon gone. An expression of love remains in the heart.           

Daddy left no inheritance for us to squabble about. He simply left everything to Mama. I wish he had left me a watch or a pocket knife or a walking stick, but he did not. He left such decisions to Mama.

Mama gave me one of Daddy’s old walking sticks and I cherish it. She said it was the “last one.”  I don't need “stuff” to help me remember Daddy.  His wisdom is stored in my memory bank. Though he had little formal education, he was one of the wisest men I have ever known. So I will carry his sage advice with me to the grave. Many of his words are etched indelibly in my mind. Here are a few of Daddy’s lessons that impacted my life:
          1. "Money is not the secret to a happy life.” Daddy grew up poor and raised his five children during the depression. He was not miserly but he taught us not to expect something for nothing. Only those who work hard will ever have any money; it is the fruit of labor. He believed that. His strong work ethic inspired us all. Daddy taught us the value of a dollar.
         2. "If you can't do it right, then don't do it at all." Daddy was never satisfied with shoddy work. There was a right way to do everything and he insisted on doing any task the right way. Do your best – always. Never settle for anything less. If it means tearing something down and starting over, then do it.
      3. "Always check the oil before you start an engine." To this day I cannot crank up a piece of machinery - whether a tractor or a chain saw - without checking the oil level. Take good care of what you have, he insisted. 
        4. "Alcohol makes a man a fool."  Daddy drank tons of coffee. That was his favorite drink, with "just a little cream, not too much." He never used sugar in his coffee.  His dad’s alcoholism inspired his rule to have no alcoholic beverages in our home. Having seen so many lives ruined by alcoholic beverages, I am thankful for the way I was raised. Daddy was not a diplomat nor did he believe children had a vote about house rules. He laid down the law: "As long as you put your feet under my table, you will abide by my rules." His word was law. Was he wrong? You decide. All of his five children have practiced total abstinence.
         5. "Never talk back to your mother."  In his presence none of his children ever "sassed" Mama. If we did, Daddy did not spare the rod. We grew up understanding that Mama deserved our respect.
         6. "Hard work never killed anybody." Daddy worked from sunup 'til sundown. He had no tolerance for laziness. He worked hard all his life and he expected the same from everyone else. No exceptions. In his late eighties he worked a two-acre garden and wished it was bigger.
         7. "A man's word is his bond." Dad valued honesty. Keep your word. If you tell someone you will do something, then do it or die trying. Dad had no respect for a liar.
      8. "Always put tools back where they belong; they have a way of walking off if you leave them lying around." A job was never finished until tools had been cleaned and returned to the place where they belonged.
         9. "Pick up that string; you may need it." Notice a nail, a screw, or a piece of string – then pick it up and save it. Even the least little thing may have value later on. Daddy never felt comfortable with our "throw away" society.
         10. "Study hard so you can get a good education." Daddy worked hard for a reason. Not for a "place on the lake." He wanted his children to have a college education, something he never had. As I grew up there was never any doubt about my going to college. He promised to help us financially - as long as we remained single. "Once you get married, you are on your own." I got married when I was a sophomore at Auburn, and he kept his word.

          Daddy was impatient and hard as nails at times. But we knew he loved us and we loved him. His good qualities outweighed his weaknesses. A list of them I will not compile in the hope that my sons will do me the same favor.

Daddy was not liberal with compliments but he did give them occasionally. So I remember with joy those times when he blessed me by saying, "I'm proud of you, son." Sage advice sprinkled with a little praise. Not a bad legacy. Not bad at all. And a walking cane to boot. 

A final word: if your dad is still alive, tell him you love him, while you can. That will mean much more than a bottle of Aqua Velva.  + + +