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Thursday, October 22, 2009

He Sat At The Head Of The Table......

1960's My daddy could grow or build anything. He built houses and furniture and he loved to grow things. He always had a garden and muscadine vines. He planted pecan trees and collard greens. We always ate supper together at the large table my daddy made from a door. He took the legs from an old oak table and attached a 3'/7' pine door to it . It was barely large enough to hold all ten of us. On either side he made 2 simple benches for all the children and he sat at the head and mama sat on the other end. I always sat to his right. That was my place. I wanted to be as close as possible to the most important man in my life. I adored my daddy. To be at his right side was to be in the center of everything. The conversation started after we all said the Blessing together. A simple prayer my mama led before every supper meal.

"God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen" A child's prayer really. A prayer simple enough and short enough for the younger ones to say. I can't remember exactly where everyone else sat, but I think Steve was across from me on Daddy's left, then Mike and Tim and Jeff were next on that side. Next to me was Susan, then Melanie and Todd. We always sat in the same place for supper which was filled with talking, tattling, spilling milk, and sometimes important announcements about the day.

The food was passed around family style. One time when Mama was sick , daddy cooked supper. When we all got to the table, we saw a huge bowl of what looked like mashed potatoes. Daddy was so proud of those mashed potatoes. He encouraged all of us to get several large heaping spoonfuls. I thought they looked kind of different from mama's mashed potatoes, but I didn't dare say anything. I saw Steve take a bite and the look on his face was of shear revulsion. Soon others were trying their potatoes and the reactions were disturbing. I took a small bite and the taste was not what I had expected at all. Soon protests started and potatoes were spit on plates. Daddy started laughing " What's wrong? Ya'll better not waste that after I cooked it. "

Turns out they were Rutabegas, cooked and mashed to look like potatoes. Related to the turnip, the lowly Rutabega has a white flesh similar to an Irish potato, but the taste can only be described as somewhere between rotten cabbage and molding cauliflower. Used as cattle fodder, I'm sure it must have been a staple during the Great Depression and daddy had such fond memories of it, he couldn't deprive his own children of the delicious memory.

Strange and funny things were always happening at the supper table. After daddy got a job with Seymour Foods and traveled during the week, his chair at the head of the table was empty except on weekends. We missed him terribly, but then as time passed the boys fought over the extra hamburger or pork chop that was there because daddy was on the road. Mama made just enough for the meal. She always made one for daddy even when he was working. One Friday night for supper we all sat down and just started to eat when the phone rang and daddy left the table to talk to whoever was calling in the den. He had already started to fix his plate and he had put a big nice looking steak right in the middle of it. Some how the meal started and daddy kept talking on the phone and I guess we forgot that daddy was home, because the next thing I knew he was back at the table looking at his now empty plate. One of the boys had gotten daddy's steak and summarily eaten it. " Martha, what happened to my damn steak?' All conversation stopped, all eyes got wide and mouths quit chewing. Several large swallowing gulps were heard and we all realized that somebody had eaten daddy's prize steak. We tried not to laugh, but it wasn't easy. Mama eased the tension "Here David, you can have mine", mama said.

"No, no you eat yours, I can just eat vegetables", replied daddy.

"Ya'll ask before you get somebody's food next time" We couldn't believe it. Somebody had eaten daddy's steak and lived to tell about it.

1970's In 1973 daddy sold the farm. It almost broke my heart. I loved that place. He was ready to retire and while I was overseas with Allan it was sold. The day I left home to go to be with my husband who was in service was the last time I was home. I left that day March 14 ,1972 my birthday to fly to Japan. I never went in that house again. When I got back home Daddy had built a new house.

1980's Daddy survives a heart attack and open heart surgery and mama survives cancer. Much to be thankful for.

1993 October 17, Papa Butler's birthday. Daddy died of heart failure. The Wednesday before he died he had a continuous stream of visitors. He counted everyone of them. He told me he couldn't believe he had 4 preachers come to see him. All of us got to see and speak with him before he died. On Thursday he was unconscious most of the time. I was sitting there with mama and a few others when he suddenly rallied and said" I just flew over ya'll so fast, it wasn't even funny." Now my daddy did not have any fascination with the afterlife or out of body experiences. I know that day he drifted away and came back to tell us. We all laughed and cried at the same time. My daddy was funny, and loving, and stern, and wise, and upright. I know he loved us and we still love him. Submitted by Lydia Butler Anderson

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