I imagined Daddy as a strong man, both physically and in character. He wasn’t tall, dark, and handsome. He was prematurely bald, fair haired, but there was something about him that made him appealing and good looking. Perhaps it was the kindness that radiated through his smile and actions. He had a charm about him that made a beautiful town girl fall in love with an ordinary farmer who dropped out of school.
Through the stories Missy told about Daddy we know he is respected by everyone. If Daddy took up a cause, others backed off. He was the protector of so many. But there was more I wanted you to see. I gave you a few glimpses into who he was before he met Melanie, and the man he became to deserve her.
We see the remnants of a rough farm boy a couple times in the story. When he goes to meet with Daniel’s father, he joins the man for several drinks to build trust. Melanie’s shock, “You’ve been drinking,” tells us this is out of character for Daddy. His reaction leads us to suspect that once upon a time maybe it wasn’t. Another time we see this church going man get angry at the men trying to hurt Daniel’s family and for a moment the more polished man disappears. Finally, in the hospital he goes after Uncle Roy with such fierceness that even the town bully is afraid of him. These incidents are all clues to a younger Daddy, rough around the edges, but who changed to win the woman he loved.
Although it was common for a farmer’s wife to work the fields alongside their men, it was not a role he would allow for Melanie. In the middle of the country he was trying to give her the refined town girl life she deserved. In part it was for Melanie, but also a result of the attacks he suffered at the hands of her mother, Grandmother Gordon. Amidst a community of people who looked up to him and admired him, the one woman whose respect was critical had denied it for more than twenty years. She made him feel inferior, and perhaps not worthy of Melanie.
Missy’s stories depicted a man to be admired. A good husband and father, but also a leader in the community who was known to stand up for what was right and good even against the pressures of the Jim Crow South. Daddy worked hard to become a man Grandmother Gordon could accept and be proud of.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana