Honoring the man down the hall

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

One thing about this job is that when I get a

column on the brain, I have to write and run it pretty quickly.

It's like a force that drives me.

I've written about my dad before and his great omelette skills, but after listening to another writer speak about his own father, I realize now how lucky I have been in my life to be the son of Sylvester Thomas.

I was nearly 35 years old before I saw my father cry.

It was the night my mom died and when I walked into their home, the look on his face will be something that I'll never forget.

There was a look of terror in his eyes ,and I saw my father's fear.

Dad has never been one to show emotion.

Yes, he could get angry, but he was not the type of father who would strike one of his children in anger.

That just wasn't proper. More that once I've made him mad enough that he would walk off some place and cool down.

Once it happened, it was over.

Nothing more was to be said about it.

I have also been blessed in my life with a sober father.

I have so often heard people talk about how their fathers stayed drunk or never came home.

Not mine.

I don't believe I've ever seen him touch a drink in my life.

He'll drink a non-alcoholic beer, and that's about as exciting as that gets.

Dad worked for 27 years for the City of Montgomery.

He would leave home each morning well before we'd get up for school, and he would get home around 4:30 in the afternoon.

In his younger days, the work was hard.

As he was promoted and progressed throught the ranks, his wardrobe changed into slacks and dress shirts.

There are often times that I'll work here at the office until the early morning hours.

This work ethic is something else I got from my dad.

Daddy is just an extraordinary individual. A human being; a man of compassion; yet all the brawn a person could muster.

It's funny as well that growing up, after a long week, he and Momma would go to whatever faraway place we needed to go for football games.

On Friday night, it was because my sister was cheering.

On Saturdays, we'd be at games for the termite or peewee teams.

Then he and Mom got involved with the quarterback club, and their time at the game was spent working in concession stands with an occasional look outdoors to check on their children.

Those days were fun.

Oddly, now in hindsight, I realize that he didn't have to go to those games.

He could have just as easily sat at home.

But he didn't

because I realize he knew it was important to us.

In these days when people talk about the family unit and how it is in crisis I just think back to my own childhood and teen years and smile.

As a child, I needed him every day.

As a teen and young adult, I thought I knew it all.

Mid 20s to now, I have come to realize that Dad is a pretty intelligent man.

I just had to learn to listen.

I will say that I'm sad that for all the years he worked in order to retire, he and Mom only got to spend a few of those golden years together.

As for that look of terror he had that night. He had lost his soulmate. As I've said many times, if you ever wanted to see an example of true love, you just had to look at my parents, the man and woman who lived just down the hall from me for so many years.

That man is my hero, and I have probably never told him that.

But sometimes you grow up, and you realize it demands to be said.

Thanks, Pop! For everything.

Jay Thomas is managing editor of the Greenville Advocate and be reached at 334-382-3111, ext. 136.