To honor the day I am republishing this post from a few years ago.
My wife and I have been busy sorting through our accumulated stuff these days as we plan to downsize from our house in suburbia to a loft in the downtown Kansas City area. And as I sorted through my stuff I recently came across this picture in the basement.. and I grinned a big smile
The photo is one of my dad back in the 1980s making his famous stew - and yes.. that is a boat paddle that he is using to stir the stew that is cooking in a cauldron heated by a propane flame. He made the stew each year for the family reunion.
My mom and dad were divorced in the early 80s after 40+ years of marriage and my dad left his home of 40+ years in the New York/New Jersey area to return to his childhood home in Mississippi. It amazed everyone when he did it.
After Dad moved my wife, children and I would regularly visit dad once or twice a year. We were the geographically closest to him and were able to drive to see him (my brother and sisters had to fly). That went on for a few years - I especially enjoyed going there on Thanksgiving.. my dad was a great cook.. he was a chef for a colonel when he was in the army (before World War II) and seemed as comfortable cooking for fifty as for five.
A few years passed and my dad remarried a wonderful woman and I was honored to be his best man.. it was a strange experience standing beside him when he married again.. a time I will never forget. A year or so past and my dad began working with his niece and nephew to put on a family reunion that the family simply called "The Stew". Upwards of 50 or so of my Mississippi family along with my sisters would attend it on the last weekend in September. The timing was great because it was close to my dad's birthday.
I have great memories of meeting my Mississippi relatives. I had never met any of Dad's siblings and it was a wonderful feeling getting to know them and a bit of my southern heritage. It was a strange feeling seeing Dad's younger brother - they looked so much alike.. I got my middle name from Uncle Fred. The move was a good one for Dad.. I saw a lot of change in him over the years.. he began going to church and one day moved me deeply when he spoke to me about loving the Lord.
When I think about Dad's stew I reflect upon how much his life was like that delicious soup. Like that wonderful red stuff, Dad was a blend of different ingredients - Dad was a blend of the best of the South and of the North. He was the most loving man I have ever known - like the savor of that stew his life had a sweet aroma.. people who knew him loved him.. he was such a friendly man. Dad was a kind man.. a southern gentleman who was not corrupted by the crassness of the world.. he emanated a quiet dignity I appreciated so much.
Thinking about Father's Day always brings me back home to my dad. He passed away over eight years ago and I still think of him a lot. Like my wife Ann's dad, who passed away a few years ago, he was part of what has been called the greatest generation. Men like these two, who were both named Lawrence, are a part of what makes our nation great. They are a major part of this wonderful melting pot.. a stew if you will.. that we call America.