Tomorrow, April Fool's Day, would have been my father's 108th birthday, Bless him.
He was born in Waiteville, West Virginia, a place that had only dirt roads when I was a teenager, to a farm family. He was the youngest of 4 brothers and a sister. The sister died before I was born but the three brothers--Del, Russel and Sid--were major parts of my youth and upbringing. Del and Russel were merchants--Russel owned grocery store and dry goods store in Anawalt and Del (Adelbert, if you were wondering) owned the Esso station across the street from the H&S grocery and 'department store' that Russel owned.
Sid lived in Princeton, a town of 20,000 24 miles away where my parents moved when I went to college.
Sid was an insurance salesman.
Roxie, their sister was the oldest and died when her two children--Billie LaFon and The Rev. Pat LaFon where teens. Pat even lived with my parents and me when I was a baby. When he left, I moved into what my parents always called "Pat's room".
God, I could get into culdesacs of memory we'd never get out of here!
Virgil Hoyt Bradley grew up on a farm where the cash crop was turkeys. So he didn't eat turkey until he went to McDowell County to be a coal miner. He didn't believe it could be turkey until he saw the carcass since they had been told as children that turkey was tough and tasteless and only city folks liked it.
From the coal mines he went to war--old enough to not go, but he went anyway, marrying my mother before that, and spend four years in Europe.
He was in the Engineering Corps and landed on Omaha Beach on the second wave. The rest of the war he helped build bridges for Gen. Patton to drive tanks across and then helped blow those bridges up, since they weren't going to retreat.
Back in WV after the war, he owned a bar/restaurant until he had to pull a gun on a drunk friend.
By then, I was a kid--the only one they had, the result of 14 years of marriage. Surprise!!!
Then he worked for Uncle Russel, then he drove a dry cleaning truck around the county and then he became--like Sid--an insurance agent (passing tests as an 8th grade drop-out that college kids couldn't pass).
My mother died when I was 25. My father over a decade later, after senility embraced him and I moved him to CT.
He was a self-made man.
He was never sure why I was an English major in college. "What will you be when you graduate?" he asked me.
"A gentleman," I replied. (What a jerk I was.)
And this Episcopal priest stuff was totally out of his wheelhouse. He'd never met an Episcopalian (besides my cousin Mejol, who preceded me into Anglicanism) until I became one.
And he was dear and sentimental and loving and sweet.
And Tegan 'Hoyt' Bradley, our 6 year old granddaughter carries his name. Bless her.
Happy Birthday, Daddy, wherever you are.
I love you now the way I should have loved you while you were alive.
I'm sorry it took so long for me to love you the way I should have loved you always.
Fathers and Sons. Who can figure that out?
Happy Birthday, Daddy.
I love you so much.
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