I just have a lot to say.

Archive for the ‘DADDY’ Category

November 26th, 2017 by

War Eagle, Daddy

I miss Daddy most when Auburn wins.

I miss him every day. I miss him when I sit behind the desk he built for Mama. I miss him when I smell Vick’s Vapor Rub. 

But I miss him most when Auburn wins, especially when they win spectacularly.

He was a likeable feller who was passionate about Auburn University in the 60s and 70s, when it seemed everybody was a Bama fan. We listened to “Your Auburn Radio Network” from our backyard on Decatur Street, while Daddy cleaned the catfish that he caught that morning, which Mama would later fry for supper. Auburn would score, and he and his three girls would whoop and holler. He would throw his arms up, dance a jig, and yell, “Touchdown, Auburn!” His right arm was crooked from a childhood break that was set incorrectly.

He was devoted to his Tigers (both Auburn and Dothan High), but he was generally and genuinely a fan of football. He shouted “Roll Tide!” at least twice. He and Mama went to New Orleans with Bama friends to watch Alabama win the Sugar Bowl in 1975 (v. Penn State) and in 1977 (v. Ohio State). I remember watching the game at home with Little Granny and cheering for Penn State. He taught me later, “We want Bama to win. It’s fun to beat them, because they’re good.”

He was a gracious loser and a gosh-awful winner. He could take it (he was faithful in 1976 when Doug Barfield’s team won only three games); but, boy howdy, he could dish it out. (God bless the friends who suffered through “Punt, Bama, Punt!” ad nauseam in 1972, when Auburn won 17-16.)   

The friends, in turn, righteously harassed him the next year when Bama won 35 to zip. 

He never saw an AU win in the Iron Bowl again.

He never heard Jim Fyffe holler, “TOUCHDOWWWN AUBUUURN!!! He never said, “Fear the thumb.” He didn’t know Bo.

“If Daddy had lived . . .” is the mantra my sisters and I have hummed for four decades. If Daddy had lived past 1978, I am certain that he would not be alive today. I am certain he would not have survived past January 2011. First, his Auburn elected one of his granddaughters (whom he never knew) to be their Miss Homecoming that season. Then, they rallied from a 21-point deficit at halftime to surprise Alabama (and everybody else) with an Iron Bowl upset. Finally, they went on to beat the Oregon Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl for the BCS National Championship.

The jubilation of those combined events would have taken him straight to Glory; for without a doubt, life on Earth could not surpass that. He would not have lived until 2013 to fall to his knees at the Hail Mary against Georgia nor praise the miracle against Alabama. He would not have been here to toot his horn over the triumph of the Great Comeback Year.

Auburn football soars and plummets. Yet, it is when it rises that my heart aches.  

‘Cause I miss Daddy most when Auburn wins. 


June 17th, 2017 by

Character Marks

“Character marks are part of the dappled beauty and authenticity of natural materials that are unrepeatable in man-made surfaces. Often, marks highly desired by some are considered defects by others. For many designers the natural appeal of veneer is in its irregularity—the marks that tell the tree’s unique history over decades. The general appearance of the veneer and its character are considered in the grading process which can be somewhat subjective.” (

Phillip graduated from high school at 7:00 pm Friday May 19, 2017. He moved his tassel with one hand and picked up his welding torch with the other. He walked off the stage and straight to the local community college, where he began welding classes at 7:00 am Monday morning, May 22nd.

He was so excited about going to school and working with his hands. He cannot imagine ever sitting behind a desk again for the remainder of his life. He wants to learn all the trades. He wants to take things apart and put them back together. He wants to fix things and sweat.

But, if you ask him what he wants to do MOST, he will say, “I want to build things with wood.”

His response scores a point for Nature over Nurture.

Phillip’s daddy is a businessman. Phillip’s daddy loves the art of the deal and the rush of the sale. MY daddy fixed things and built things with wood. MY daddy sanded and stained. My daddy, named Phillip, never met his grandchildren. He never taught them the things he loved. Little Phillip never toddled in the shop of his maternal grandfather nor played in the sawdust pile in the backyard.

The summer before his 11th grade year, Phillip’s guidance counselor advised me to put him in agriscience (basically carpentry class).

She said, “That’s where I’d put my boys.”
I said, “Then, that’s where he’s going.”
He said, “I don’t think I want to take that class.”
I said, “Give it a semester. If you don’t like it, you can change after Christmas.”

After the first day of school, he said, “I think I’m going to like that class.”
After the first week of class, he said, “Mama, please email my counselor and tell her thank you for putting me in agriscience.”
After about a month, he said, “I’m going to build furniture for a living.”

For four semesters, he learned.

And he learned.

And he learned.

And he learned.

On the first Wednesday in May of his senior year, I began to think about decorating his table at the senior luncheon at our church. It’s tradition for the mamas to set the tables to honor their child. I pillaged Phillip’s room for treasures to display to represent the boy he was and the young man he had become. It was easy. But I needed one more thing . . . .

Hmm . . . .

I saw some tree rounds at Walmart for $15 each. I texted him a picture.

“Can you make me some of these by Sunday?”
“Maybe. How many?”
“No way.”

On Thursday morning, he texted, “Coach says we can get them done.”

He coated and coated and coated and coated the cherry tree slices in polyurethane. He applied one last coat Saturday evening. His table was handsomer than I’d imagined.

Later, I set our dining room table in preparation for a post-graduation brunch with family. We talked about giving the tree rounds as party gifts to the ones who’d shaped him most:

one for him to keep
one for Chuck and me
one for each of his sisters
one for each of my sisters
one for Papa Chuck
one for Miss Jordan.

The night before graduation, he noticed they had begun to split. In all that quick polyurethaning, he had not covered the backsides. The moisture had to escape. Like an ice cube tray in hot water, each tree round cracked, almost identically.

He was furious at himself. He wanted to trash them. He wanted to start over. He wanted them to be perfect.

Of course, I had a story to tell him.


It was warm outside. 1976, 77, or early 78.

Daddy had taken the front doors down to refinish them. He put them on sawhorses in the driveway. He sanded and sanded and sanded and sanded. I be-bopped up and uttered the phrase that sends shivers down the spines of parents on a mission.

“Can I help?”

“Sure,” he answered. “But you have to be very careful. You have to sand along the grain of the wood. If you sand across the grain, you will ruin the door.”


I picked up the sandpaper and sanded across the grain.



“Only the good die young,” crooned Billy Joel in 1977.

I think folks who’ve lost Beloveds too young—parents or friends and especially children—want to believe this is true. Maybe it is. It seems unfair, but maybe the not-as-good get a little longer to straighten up, like Mr. Scrooge. Tiny Tim’s life was better in the end, because Uncle Ebenezer lived long enough to confront his ghosts.

That’s preposterous pondering, but my point is that 40 years gives a dead man’s family enough time to turn him into a saint. And Daddy wasn’t. But he was a good man. This is the only time that I remember him yelling at me. I remember lots of cross looks when I had just said something I shouldn’t have—or was about to. But not yelling. Not many times.


Daddy took a deep breath. He showed me what I had done. He made me watch him sand and sand and sand and sand to remove the blemish I had carelessly created.

Then, he let me help him again.

I did it right a few times. ~~ Oops. ~~ I quickly glanced at him to see if he had noticed. He hadn’t. I tossed my sandpaper and hopped on my bike to go find Becky and/or Evelyn. I didn’t tell him what I had done. I didn’t want to be yelled at again. He’d never notice anyway. He’d way overreacted, I thought.

I’m sure he was thrilled to see me go.

He stained the doors and hung them back up. I came home. He said, “Come here.”

Uh oh.

He pointed to the scratch, much darker than the rest of the door, clearly visible, seemingly screaming, “Look at this shoddy workmanship!!!”

He said, “When you grow up and don’t live here anymore, I will think of you every time I see this scratch. I will remember all of the life you brought to this house. And I will miss you. I am so glad to be your daddy.”

He didn’t live much longer. I am the one who lives in the house. And it is me who misses him.

At some point, the doors needed redoing again. Mama chose to have them painted. It was the 80s. I guess that’s what folks did.


Standing at the front door, holding a cracked tree round, I told Phillip my story. I told him the scratch is there underneath the paint. He promised to find it for me one day, and to not fix it.


Chuck has three scars on his right shoulder from three surgeries. They form a Z. He claims he was slashed by Zorro. Emma’s TMJ Disorder is outwardly visible along either side of her jawline.

It’s the scars that refine us. It’s the struggle through the hard class—even if it’s merely for a passing grade—that makes us proud of ourselves, not the easy A, as much fun as those are to get. Exercise strengthens us, not eating ice cream, as giddy as that makes us at the moment.

Phillip will be a better builder the next time, because of those cracks in my tree rounds.

I hope he makes eight more for my dining room table. I hope they are shiny and perfect and just like he wants them. But in a few years, check underneath his groom’s cake at his wedding reception, and then a few years after that, look under the floral centerpiece, surrounded by casseroles, at the dinner on the ground after my funeral. You’ll find a tree round with a great big crack in it.


October 29th, 2014 by

Daylight Savings Time and the Night I Missed Carol Burnett

“Y’all have to go to bed early tonight.”


“Because the time changes, and we have to move the clocks forward an hour.”

“No, we don’t. We turn them back an hour. We get to stay up an hour later.”

Evidently in the mid-70s, spring forward and fall back had not been coined yet. If so, my daddy had never heard the phrases.

Kristi was spending the weekend with me. She moved to Dothan when we were two-year-olds. Her daddy was the minister of music at our church. Her mama played piano, taught children’s choir, sang in the soprano section and an occasional solo, and did about 1000 other things. We lived near each other and attended the same elementary school. We were sidekicks, soul mates. We were both the babies in our families, so we had that in common. We were babies with a big age gap between us and the next older sibling, so we had that in common, too. We probably had the same personality, because we argued with every breath. Mama said about us, “They are miserable when they are not together, and they are miserable when they are.” Folks often called us the other’s name. Old folks at church occasionally slipped and called me Kristi even as a young adult, long after Kristi and her family had moved.

They moved the summer after we completed second grade at Girard Elementary School. Church members were saddened by the news. Kristi and I were heartbroken. Our parents vowed we would stay in touch. Many times, we make promises in life that with every fiber of our beings we intend to keep, but life pushes in and good intentions get pushed to the side.  Our parents were true to their word, though. If Mama heard of someone going to Birmingham for the weekend, she would call Mrs. Andrews while she was packing my bag, and vice versa.

So, Kristi and her doll Humpty were with me this particular weekend. Daddy let us watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show, but he sent us to bed BEFORE The Carol Burnett Show. We were outraged. He had NEVER sent me to bed before Carol Burnett. We slung our hair and stomped our feet down the hall to my room. We discussed the unfairness as we snuggled in my double bed and took turns tickling each other’s backs.

Sunday School began at 9:30. To our neighbors, the Pitmans, that meant leave for church at 9:00. To the Kings, that meant leave for church before 9:30. Yet, the next morning, as Kristi and I climbed in the rear-facing backseat of Mama’s blue station wagon with the brown paneling down the side, we noticed that the Pitmans’ cars were still in their driveway. Somebody was obviously sick. But why would everyone stay home? Why would both cars be there?


“Sissy, go call Time,” Daddy said.

I ran to the kitchen, to the only phone in the house (the one attached to the wall, the one with the long curly cord), and dialed the numbers on the rotary phone. I knew them by heart: 794-8441. I heard the familiar voice say, “Don’t bank it in a sock; sock it in the bank. Your Colonial Bread time is 7:27. Temperature—.” I slammed down the phone. I didn’t care about the temp.


Angie got out of the car and returned to bed. Starla probably went to study her Sunday School lesson. Kristi and I went to downstairs to play Barbies. I imagine Mama started lunch or called Little Granny. I picture Daddy sitting in his chair, sipping a bonus cup of coffee, reading the Dothan Eagle, and grinning from ear to ear over the new tale he had to tell on himself.

I bet you money (to quote Little Granny) that we were still late to church.

with Kristi 2 - Copy

Kristi with me at my cousin’s birthday party.

April 19th, 2014 by

A Story about Angie, Daddy, and Annie Armstrong

During football season of 1971, when I was in 1st grade, the TV repair man came to the house and declared the black and white television “Unfixable.” Mama and Daddy had just finished building a house and had no money for expensive extras. So, we did without. The only memories I have from this Unfortunate Experience is that occasionally my friend Becky Byrd would say, “Did you see that on TV last night? . . . Oh, I forgot.” I played outside until dark. I guess my family actually had conversations in the evenings. Maybe Mama played piano. I know I read a lot as a kid. Back in the day, people saved for what they wanted. So, we saved. By springtime, we had enough money for a new television.

Good Baptists give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. We post in the weekly bulletin how much our church’s goal is and how much we have collected. In GAs (currently Girls in Action, formerly Girls’ Auxiliary–for my non-Baptist friends), we learn about who Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong were and why we give money to missions in their names.

Angie, the middle King Girl, has always been a Goody Two-Shoes. She cried in 2nd grade when her entire class at Selma Street Elementary School had to stand in the hall for misbehavior, and she “didn’t do anything.” She never once got “talks too much” on her report card. When the church started pushing the Easter offering, Angie told Daddy, “I think we need to give the TV money to Annie Armstrong.”

What was he supposed to do? How could he set an example for his daughters by picking “The Idiot Box” (as HE called it) over Jesus? We cried a little on the inside as Daddy put the money in the offering plate.

September came around again. Example or no, Daddy was not going through another football season without television. We went to Sears and bought a deluxe color console that took up the whole corner of the den.

Auburn beat Alabama 17-16 that season. It’s a shame the game wasn’t televised.

Easter, 1969ish
The picture is not 1972. It’s probably 1969. But it’s Easter. And we’re adorable. 😉

April 6th, 2014 by

Because He Lives

FBC 1976

At 43 years old, Daddy died suddenly, unexpectedly, and far too young. Mama married him when they were both 19. He was all she had known for 24 years. She had three daughters to finish raising (two in college and one in junior high) and their small business to run. How could she could she go on without him? How could she face tomorrow on her own?

At Daddy’s funeral, the mourners sang:


God sent His son. They called Him Jesus.

He came to love, heal, and forgive.

He lived and died to buy my pardon.

An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.


Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives.


The Gaither song was popular in the late 70s, frequently sung at the 11:00 am service at First Baptist Church. It was not a hymn, but it was worshipful enough for the old folks to like it–or not to mind it too much. At least, that’s what I remember.

For years after Daddy’s funeral, I hated seeing the song listed on the Order of Worship. I didn’t cry much then, since Mama cried all the time, but I couldn’t sing this song. Tears welled in my eyes; my throat closed up; I struggled to catch my breath. As the worshipers sang, I shut my eyes and sucked my cheeks.

Fast forward to 1997, Chuck and I lived with our twin daughters in Birmingham. Granny had just survived a quadruple heart bypass. Mama, an only child, had just received an “atypical Alzheimer’s Disease” diagnosis. While raising our own children, my sisters and I were laden with the two older generations as well. (As members of the “sandwich generation,” the King Girls were handed a hoagie.)

Starla assumed responsibility for Granny.

I assumed responsibility for Mama.

My pregnancy test was positive.

What should have been a highlight of my life–and it was–seemed an insurmountable burden. How could I do it all? How could one young woman take care of a mentally diminishing mother, two preschoolers, and a newborn?

The Sunday following the positive pregnancy test, “Because He Lives” was on the church program. I didn’t attempt to sing or worship or even pray. I grasped the back of the pew in front of me, intending to hang on until it was over. The pew supported me through the first verse; however, the second verse is this:


How sweet to hold a newborn baby

And feel the pride and joy he gives.

But greater still, the calm assurance

This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

I folded into the pew behind me. With folks around me standing and singing, I sat and sobbed.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives.


By their mere existence, babies bring newness and hope. Baby Phillip, named after my daddy, was a gift to our entire family during the nightmare, but he was Mama’s joy. He brought light and laughter to her gloom. He was her 7th grandbaby, and he was the reason she got out of bed every morning.

Mama died three years after her diagnosis, 17 months after my family moved into her house to take care of her.  Steve preached at the funeral. William spoke at the graveside. Chuck played guitar. Angie sang “There Is a Fountain.” Little Granny cried throughout, but she wasn’t really sure who died. Phillip stayed with a sitter. He told me, “Mama Nell’s dead. She got shot by a gun.” (Mama would have cackled loudly at her 2.5 year-old boy who found cowboy violence more exciting than dementia.)

My sisters and I had not asked the organist for any specific songs. We simply asked her to play uplifting music, for we were not dreary and downhearted. We were rejoicing for Mama that her struggle had ended, that she was whole at the feet of Jesus, the One who had sustained her in her agony and for many, many weary days.

And so, of course, as Mama’s worn-out body was wheeled from the sanctuary, as her friends and family rose to watch her leave, as her Beloveds followed her out, the pipe organ bellowed:


And then one day, I’ll cross the river.

I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.

And then as death gives way to victory,

I’ll see the lights of glory, and I’ll know He lives.


Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives.


I still don’t sing the song with the congregation, but I do listen and worship. I don’t cry through it anymore. Now I cry through “There Is a Fountain,” but that is a story for another blog post.


April 3rd, 2014 by

Never the Same

Early in 1976, Daddy came home and said to Mama, “I bought something today.”

“Uh oh.”

“It’s not for us. It’s for our grandkids.” (His daughters were 10, 16, and 19.)

“Uh oh.”

“I bought that lake cabin.”

He had a wooden sign made that said, “The King’s Inn” and hung it over the fireplace (the placement of the apostrophe bothers me), and he and Mama set about teaching our friends to ski. He drove the boat, and Mama floated with a ski belt and held the skis together. They were patient. They were relentless. Mama would nag a reluctant kid to try until the kid’s only choice was to make an attempt just to hush her. And you might as well get up, because there was no quitting, even if you cried. Especially if you cried.

“How are you, Phil?”

“Man, if things get any better, I’m gonna grow hair!”

Daddy worked in the family business building church pews from the time he was yay-high until 1972 or 73. There was family drama that I was too young to understand, and Daddy left to start his own business with Mama as his secretary, office manager, Girl Friday: Phillip King Church Interiors. He was the middle man for pew cushions, baptisteries, stain glass windows, etc. His CB handle was Circle City Steeple Man. Most of his business was in Birmingham and Mobile. He received a letter from a pastor in Mobile asking for some literature. At the bottom of the letter, the man hand wrote “P.S. Are you the Phillip King from Pinckard? I used to pastor there.” As a matter of fact, he was. This man was the preacher who baptized Daddy when he was a 16-year-old new believer.

“How are you, Phil?”

“Man, if things get any better, the Lord’s gonna have to take me Home!”

Sometime in the afternoon on Wednesday, April 5, 1978, Daddy met with the preacher and his wife at the pastoriam in Mobile about redecorating their church. They caught up on Pinckard gossip, conducted their meeting, and said their goodbyes. Daddy walked to his Suburban then came back and rang the doorbell. He told the preacher, “Call an ambulance. I think I’m having a heart attack.” Daddy died in the arms of the man who baptized him all those years before.

He was 43. The King Girls were 12, 19, and 21.

Mrs. Lynn finally found me with my girlfriends in the bathroom at church, skipping whatever activity we were supposed to be participating in. Obviously flustered, she said, “You’ve got to go home; there’s something wrong with your daddy.” Angie was there, so we rode home together. Starla was in Auburn, and her roommate drove her to Dothan that night. Our preacher announced it at prayer meeting, and for the entire service, our church family wept and prayed together.

The Dothan High School Concert Choir that Mama and Daddy adored sang the Hallelujah Chorus at his funeral. Dr. Driggers played the brand new piano in the sanctuary publicly for the first time. Always composed, Dr. Marsh choked on his words once and stopped speaking for a few seconds to catch his breath. At the graveside, we sang, “Let’s just praise the Lord, praise the Lord. Let’s just lift our hearts toward Heaven and praise the Lord.”

Back at the house, Mrs. Andrews tore up the piano, and everybody sang and laughed. The frivolity angered Little Granny.

It was the most significant day of my life; not to diminish my wedding or the births of my children, but you’re “supposed to” get married and have babies. Actually, day-to-day life didn’t change that much. Mama continued to dabble in church furnishings. I went to the college of my choice and even spent a semester in London. I had a big ole church wedding. My BFF Earl Pitman walked me down the aisle, and Daddy King “stood up with me,” as he said.

We still own the lake cabin that my children and my sisters’ children like to point out was bought for them in the first place, and the King’s Inn sign still hangs over the fireplace . . . . However, life has always had an underlying sadness to it. Mama was never the same. She grieved for the next 22 years. I have no doubt that her perpetual grief contributed to her confusion and early death at 65 years old.

I am beyond grateful that I had a great daddy for 12 years. I get that. I grasp that some people crave to have for a few minutes what I had from conception. Knowing that doesn’t erase the sadness—that, of course, has eased—yet is always lurking. Chuck had to ask Mama for her blessing on our marriage. Daddy is not here to teach my Phillip to fish or to whisper to my girls separately, as he did to his own daughters, that each is prettier than the other and his favorite.

I have lived back in Dothan since 1999. Not a year has gone by that I have not heard, “Your parents taught me to ski!” My family lives in the house that Daddy built. (When I say built, I don’t mean called the contractor. I mean, he took 6 months or so off of work and poured the concrete and hammered the nails and laid the brick. Mr. Chapman and Shuck from King Church Furniture Manufacturing Company helped him, and a one-armed man built the stone fireplace.) We moved in to take care of Mama after she got confused. Mama was an only child, and Granny was still living. She moved in with Starla and her family for 3 years. She spent one year in a nursing home. She died days after her 89th birthday, 10 months after her daughter.

I enjoy something about every day. I let my children cry to me about a bad day, and then I say, “Tell me something good about it.” I can always find a silver lining. Maybe it’s an inherent gift. Maybe it’s my birth order. Maybe it’s because I learned about the preciousness and the fragility of life while still so very young.

April 5th never sneaks up on me. I always know it’s coming. But the azaleas and the dogwoods are blooming.

The Kings Inn