The above photo lives on my refrigerator because it brings me joy whenever I see it. The smiling boy is my dad; the laughing boy is his older brother James. The baby on the right is my cousin Eddie. I don’t know who the girls are, but I’m guessing they’re the reason James is giggling.
One reason I like the photo is that I can see my dad’s brogans. He told me once that he was self-conscious about wearing those shoes to school. He was never a clothes horse, so this seems out of character to me.
Colman and James were the youngest of five siblings who were raised on a farm in Mount Juliet, just east of Nashville. Their parents were soybean farmers. But my grandfather was a high school principal, and my grandmother, who was born in 1897, attended college, so I’m guessing they were better educated than many of their neighbors.
One of my favorite stories about my dad is how he decided to go to college. He was working in the field with my grandfather the summer after high school graduation. During a break, Grandpa asked, are you planning to go to college? Dad said, yeah, I guess so. Grandpa said, well, I guess we need to get you registered. That was it.
Dad told me this story when my oldest was applying to and visiting colleges. He seemed to think we were working way too hard. He probably thought the same when we loaded a U-Haul and drove Josh to school. Dad hitchhiked from Mt. Juliet to UT when he was 17.
When I was a kid, I thought my father was just like everyone else’s. But I was wrong. Dad spent his entire career working as an electrical engineer at Y-12 in Oak Ridge. After work, we’d all sit down for dinner, then he’d head out to work in the yard. When I was in elementary school, he bought a Roane County farm with a friend. He said it was an investment, but it was really a hobby. He didn’t go to bars, play golf or drive a sportscar. He liked being outside, building stuff and being with his family. And he rarely missed a church service.
Dad passed away the day before Thanksgiving. He was 85 and wasn’t aware of all the difficulties of 2020. He was a favorite at the assisted living facility where he lived because he was always a gentleman. I can’t imagine what he would’ve had to say about the current level of public discourse in our country. He had a much higher standard of behavior for me and my brother, that’s for sure.
It’s a shame that his voice is gone now because what we really need at the end of 2020 is a little more Colman. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak (which is natural if you’re from Mount Juliet). We should resolve disagreements with a glass of wine and another log on the fire. And if we don’t have anything worthwhile to say, we should just go fishing.
I hope that we do better in 2021. For Colman’s sake.
Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.