The Gospel According to Daddy
Daddy was “the Boss.” God put him in charge, so we didn’t have to worry about what God wanted. If we had any questions, we could go straight to Daddy. He always had a Bible verse at the ready to back him up, if needed. Most of them sounded suspiciously fresh-coined and self-serving, lacking book, chapter, and verse. Not having memorized the entire Bible, it was hard to prove they didn’t exist, like the one that forbade men to milk cows, “You cannot take what you cannot give.” Please. You didn’t have to be a heathen to see through that one. Actually, Daddy anticipated our needs, requiring no effort on our part. Permission to visit a friend, attend a school activity, or socialize had to come from Daddy.
Well, this is not strictly true. Mother was free to say, “No” any time she chose. The answer for visiting or socializing was easy. “No. You don’t need to go. Tell so and so they can come here.” “No you can’t go to that party. You don’t know who will be there.” Or even more emphatically, “NO! ………..will be there!”
School activities were usually okay in theory…… 1. If we weren’t grounded. 2. If one of the other kids in the family wasn’t grounded. 3. If nobody in the family had C or lower on their report card. How often would a family with five kids not have at least one doofus with a C or lower on their report card? This ruled out most opportunities to attend school activities, and “It’s your own fault. You shouldn’t have even have had to ask.” Of course, the answer was “No.”
School dances were off limits. We were Baptists, and at that time, in addition to preaching the Ten Commandments, Baptists preached against dancing, drinking, and wearing shorts. Even asking to go to a dance was a sin. The sermons didn’t hold the other Baptists back, Daddy always made sure we didn’t do those things expressly preached against. I didn’t have too much trouble with the Ten Commandments, never having coveted my neighbor’s wife, committed adultery, and so far hadn’t killed anyone, but I wanted to go to dances. There was no commandment forbidding dancing, but dancing would have incited lust. If Daddy had bothered to check out the kids we went to school with, he wouldn’t have worried too much about lust. Most kids were hayseeds, skinny, pimply, and inbred. In the early sixties, we had no access to mind-altering substances to make us look better to each other.
In the unlikely event everyone had perfect grades, the activity didn’t break a commandment, and our plans could still wash out at the last minute if Daddy was in a bad mood, or one of the neighbor’s kids had behaved outrageously, causing Daddy to require us to be a perfect example. In addition to the opportunity to provide a perfect example, we got to stay home and luxuriate in the added bonus of their lecture by proxy.
As all parents do, Daddy invoked his miserable upbringing, replete with selective memories, to reinforce whatever point he was making at the time. If he needed to point out we were being selfish, “Once we went three days with nothing to eat!” If Mother didn’t want to make ice cream, “One thing we could always count on. Mama always made ice cream on the Fourth of July.” He looked injured and almost tearful. He wanted dessert after every meal. “My mother made a cake every day.” He may have thought I wasn’t listening, but I pondered every word in my heart. The next time he rolled out, “Once we went three days without eating.” I shot back, “Why didn’t you eat one of those cakes your mama made every day.” I got a quick lesson in the difference in smart and smart-aleck and secondly “silence would have been golden.” My life would have been so much easier if I had just followed these commandments.
I. Thou shalt not do anything without my approval. This includes failing to anticipate what I might want you to do or having to be told twice. God help you if you anticipated wrong. There is no recovering from that. About fifty-percent of the time, I’d say, “I thought you would want………” with the resulting reply, “That’s what you get for thinking.” Growl, growl , growl, growl, growl.
Approximately forty-nine percent of the time, I’d defend myself by saying, “I didn’t think…….” To which the response w.as
“If you aren’t going to think, you might as well be alike on both ends. Growl, growl, growl, growl, growl.”
If there appeared to be no retribution headed my way, my eyes glazed over with the first growl.
About one percent of the time I didn’t mess up.
II. Thou shalt not sass. Sassing includes anything from actual speech to questioning authority.
Sassing meant failing to say, “Yes sir” or “No sir,” eye-rolling, or being sullen. One should snap into a jolly mood as soon as punishment was complete show appreciation for discipline. Sometimes, I had a little trouble with this one.
Obstinance could be anything from pouting (sticking one’s lip out and refusing to speak), eye-rolling(God help you), to disputing his word. (But I didn’t leave the gate open, whether you had or hadn’t.)
III. Thou shalt not think bad thoughts. Bad thoughts included harboring anger toward parents, thinking of doing something wrong, or keeping secrets. If I knew one of my siblings had done something wrong, I was as guilty as they were if I didn’t tell. If he knew I knew Billy stole a gumball, I got my rear whipped, too, when the truth came out.
IV. Thou shalt not ask to do things. School dances, wearing shorts, causing boys to lust (this was never a big problem for me) or asking to stay over with friends could get you quite a lecture. If other kids got in trouble and he learned of it, they got lectured by proxy. I guess we were free to pass it on if we wanted. He assumed every kid who got in trouble was our dearest friend.
V. Thou shalt not be lazy. There were cows to be milked and hogs, chicken, and other livestock to be fed daily. Then there was the seasonal work; haymaking, clearing land, piling and burning brush. Daddy was generous toward his women-folk. There was no work they couldn’t do. Daddy and my brother couldn’t do “women’s work.” It was demeaning, fit only for women. Doing men’s work improved women and kept them humble.
VI. Men shall not milk cows. Thou canst not take what thee cannot give. The Chapter, Book, and Verse of this injunction was never sited. Daddy just knew it was in the Bible somewhere. He couldn’t risk messing up on this one.
VII. Thou shalt not be trashy. This one was directed to women and girls who without his guidance, have flaunted themselves. They must wear knee-length dresses and not flirt or do anything to make the neighbors think ill of Daddy. The worst insult he could hurl at a girl was “fix your clothes.” God forbid, at best, a girl’s dress was over her head, or at worst a girl might have humiliated him by intentionally soiling her skirt, a premeditated insult to his dignity.
VII. Thou shalt never utter sexual innuendoes or dress in a way that would lead any man or boy in considering you in a sexual context. This would be the ultimate insult to his dignity and authority.
VIII. Thou shalt not be trashy. This embarrassment is the worst a man can suffer, trashy women in his family.
IX. Thou shalt be grateful thee has a father to raise thee right. Thee would be in the street if he weren’t here to guidetelling ten commandments thee.
X. Thee should always come to me with thy problems. (Fat chance)