September 26th, 2015 was a very long and emotional day. My Dad finally rested with Mom. Together once again Dad, just like you wanted.
I told a story at the cemetery on that Saturday, that I call “The Parable of the Sweet Potatoes”. It was hard to get through that story, but, with many pauses in between, I got through it. I share it with you now, as a testament to how stories can positively affect, and change us.
When I was 12 years old, in 1964, my parents bought a house in Hialeah, Florida. $11,000. Yes. You read that correctly. A 3 bedroom 1 bath, newly constructed starter home. $325 down, $68 per month. Unbelievable, huh? I grew up in that house. Dad still lived there 50 years later.
The front yard was “sodded” with little clumps of St. Augustine. The back yard was just white sand. Soon after we moved in, the back yard was a mass of crabgrass and weeds. Green, but very, very weedy.
One day, Dad calls me out to the back yard and hands me a long pole with a metal blade-looking thing on the end. I asked, “what’s this?” and he said “a hoe”. “What is this for?”, I asked. My blistered hands soon found this to be to an extremely dumb question to ask. Live and learn!
Dad proceeded to explain what my goals would be. I was to remove a rather large section of the weeds growing in the back yard. This was called, “preparing”. Once I “prepared” the ground, we would spread rich black dirt. Then, we would plant sweet potatoes. Then, we would fertilize, and water, and weed periodically (like daily!). The “we”, obviously, was my brother and I. “Follow these steps, and wait to see what happens”, Dad said.
- Sow (plant)
This, my Dad explained, was how the whole process worked. You could not reap until you sowed, and then in-between, completed all the remaining steps. After the sun, rain (or good old Hialeah well water!) and God, we would see the “magic”.
My father was essentially, a formally uneducated man, having only gotten through the 6th grade. But he was extremely intelligent, with a huge amount of common sense and worldly wherewithal. Despite his lack of a formal education, he became the production floor supervisor for a very large shoe manufacturer. He was operationally sound, and a born leader. He could spot issues in a flash, and was quick and decisive with solutions. And people naturally followed him.
I did not know this at that time, as I looked down at my blistered and aching hands, but he had just taught me one of the most valuable life lessons one could ever learn. The law of the farm. He may not have realized the informal education he was imparting to me, but nonetheless he must have instinctively known that I needed to learn that you prepare, plant, fertilize, water, weed, and let God do the rest. Only then could you reap what you had sown.
In the end, we ate sweet potatoes for months! And boy were they big, and did they taste good, no matter how Mom chose to prepare them. We enjoyed them, blistered hands and all.
This is the Parable of the Sweet Potatoes. Old Salty was one smart and loving man.