Meet the Lites – Daddy III

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. It’s 44 days and counting to the return of the Red and Black to Sanford Stadium. It’s so hot here the corn is popping in the field, and in just 12 days the Dawgs will start doing two a days in this heat. Lord help ’em.

When we left Daddy last, he had just lost his insurance agency over “an accounting error”, and had signed over everything of value to Mom on the promise she would stand by him. He was then served divorce papers and notice to vacate the house. Daddy left the house but he didn’t go too far. By staying close by, Daddy was able to chronicle the comings and goings of one A.C. Down. Turns out, Mr. Down was making frequent and regular visits to Mom. When confronted with the evidence, which included pictures, Mr. Down felt that a fair trade was the files for TackyToo. Daddy moved into Number Two at TackyToo, and my brother Jackson and I started visiting on weekends. It wasn’t long before the weekends became all week, and before you knew it, we had changed parental custody without using the courts. I was 10, and Jackson was 6, when Mom relinquished control of her sons to a man she felt was the Anti-Christ.

Our living situation changed a number of times between the move to TackyToo and the end of high school. We lived for a while on the farm with my grandparents. We lived for a while in Atlanta while Daddy was courting a woman down there. But through it all, the touchstone was TackyToo. Daddy would gamble away anything he could lay his hands on, but not the trailer park. We changed cars like the Pope changes hats. When I started driving, Daddy gave me a car. A few weeks later, I didn’t have car. Rinse and repeat until I was able to buy my own car and put the title in my name. I started working after school when I was 13. I would routinely “loan” at least half of my pay to Daddy. Jackson started a paper route when he was 10 or so. Daddy took all of the paper route money and gave Jackson a trip to the candy store in compensation. Looking back, Jackson and I were handling the groceries and Daddy was handling the rent. We were poor, but we knew a lot of poor kids, so we had friends.

We didn’t see Mom for another seven years. While Daddy could barely take care of himself, he had to be father and mother to me and Jackson. Thank God for Ozzie and Harriet, June and Ward Cleaver and Dobie Gillis’ parents. If not for them, I’m sure Jackson and I would have started a Manson like cult and wound up locked away forever or worse. As it was, my brief skirmish with the bumble bee was our first felony.

Daddy was still a young man when all of this went down and he was still very interested in the fair sex. If I had a stick of gum for every time I heard Daddy ask some lady if she wanted to “rub Buddha for luck”, I’d own Wrigley field. He had the gift of gab, and could tell who to approach and how to approach them. The older he got, the more he looked for women of means, as opposed to “lookers”. He loved to brag on the gifts he received from his girlfriends, and the older he got, the higher his expectations were for his girlfriends.

About the time I left home, Daddy hooked up with a woman he wouldn’t have looked at twice five years before. Inez had a good job, with a good retirement, and she loved to buy Daddy clothes. It was painful to watch, and I’m glad I only had to watch it from afar. Jackson, on the other hand, was in the thick of it until Mom came back around.

Mom had married a fellow with means and was enjoying a new life. When the other women in Mom’s social group found out she had two boys living with their Dad, Mom felt her new friends were being judgmental. Mom made connections again with Jackson and I, lest she be looked on poorly with the country club set. Eventually, Jackson went to live with Mom, and Daddy was released back into the wild.

Contact between Daddy and me through the years was sporadic. There were no Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday celebrations. Like two islands in the Philippines, we might both be Philippine islands, but we’re thousands of miles apart. Daddy died in 2001 at 78. He left me TackyToo in a protected estate with a bunch of clauses. I guess he didn’t want me to gamble it away.

I’m going to call my sponsor now. I hate to wake him up, but it beats the alternative.


Meet the Lites – Daddy II

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. It’s so hot here that I swear Satan has gone North for the summer. Of course Mulva’s pastor, the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread is convinced the devil is still here amongst us working his evil. We must remain ever vigilant.

When I left off last night, Daddy was returning from the war. I left out one very important point of historical significance. When Daddy was being transferred from the European theater to the Pacific he stopped by home long enough to impregnate Mom with my sister Charlotte. Daddy left to fight the Japanese and Mom stayed behind to begin her War of the Roses with my sister.

Daddy returned home along with tens of thousands of men all looking for jobs at the same time. As stated before, Daddy’s interests never fell towards manual labor, and even though he was able to make a nice living as a heavy equipment operator, he was always looking for better odds. During this time, Daddy contracted with Mr. A.C. Down to clear the land for TackyToo. Mr. Down was well on his way to becoming the Donald Trump of trailer parks. Sometime after the park was cleared, and the homes started to be drug into place, Daddy made a life decision. The story is told that after a particularly hot summer’s day, and an excruciatingly devastating bout with the hemorrhoids, Daddy climbed down out of the cab of the bulldozer to never return. During this lull in employment he created his greatest work, me.

Daddy could sell, his quick wit, good humor and desire to be well liked made his transition to the insurance business as slick as grass through a goose. He could add a column of three figures as easy as you or I recite our phone numbers. He could tell hundreds of jokes and was, as Mom said, “as funny as Herb Shriner”. Whoever that was. We prospered to the point that they added my little brother Jackson in the early 50’s. We bought a Cadillac, unheard of in our community. Mom bought a boarding house to run as her enterprise. Times were good, right up to when the wheels came off.

Daddy was an insurance man, and a gambler, he was a father of three, and a gambler, he was a Deacon in the church, and a gambler. Whoever Daddy was, part of him was always a gambler. If I view the situation from 50,000 feet, and use the cloudy lens of time, I can see how the War could have shaped someone who wanted the big score without the big effort. Groups of men confined to groups of men, all under high stress, are going to find their ways to deal with the stress. My Daddy’s personality and math skills pointed him to gambling.

Daddy’s willingness to have it all, and lose it all, were proof of his addiction as surely as my belief that I can take just one drink. You know that the only way to stop the pain of the addiction is to quit cold, but until Mom threatened to leave, Daddy didn’t know the pain. Once the pain started, it never stopped. With but a few minor victories over the course of his life, Daddy had peaked at thirty-four. The next forty four years were spent in brief ups and downs on the bottom rung of life.

Well, like they say, “Pain makes you stronger, tears make you braver, heartbreak makes you wiser, and alcohol makes you forget all of that crap.”

It’s late, we’ll plumb the depths of my soul some more tomorrow, right now I need to call my sponsor.


Meet the Lites – Daddy

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. I tell you what, it’s so hot that Mulva bought a loaf of white bread over to the Walmart and it had turned to toast by the time she got home. I reckon we’ll be having BLT’s for lunch today with fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Today we’ll climb up the branches of the Lite family tree.We’re going to go up one level, to a stout limb called Daddy. Bocephus Buford Lite, or Bo Lite to his family and friends, came into this life in 1923. He was born on a farm with seven siblings, four boys and four girls in all. He was the baby boy, and by all accounts, spoiled rotten. He was clever and funny and used his talents to avoid as many chores as he could. He grew up during the Depression. The times were very hard, and everyone was supposed to pull their weight. Aunts and Uncles relate that Daddy did the minimal required to avoid a switchin’ and pursued his own interests.

When the CCC came to our area, Daddy took a job for some spending money. As it turns out, he learned some journeyman skills in construction. His CCC experience came in handy when he was drafted into the Navy in WWII and was placed in the SeaBees. Prior to leaving for the war, Daddy married Mom. He was eighteen and she was fourteen. Fourteen was young even by mountain standards, and they had to go over to South Carolina were it was legal. Daddy used to say, “we were going to Greenville, but got to Aiken and had to stop”. I was older before I got the joke, but it was a joke that has played out as a tragedy for all of us.

The SeaBees were the Navy version of the “C”onstruction “B”attalion. Their job was to provide infrastrucure to the U.S. occupying forces as the U.S. retook hostile territory. Driving a ‘dozer with a rifle in one hand was a skill Daddy had to learn for survival. Everyone is changed by war, and Daddy was no exception. Daddy brought back a vice from the war, and a constant reminder of where he had been. The vice was gambling, the reminder was a full torso tattoo of Buddha with Buddha and Daddy sharing the same belly button.

I don’t know how long that tattoo took, but it was done while the SeaBees were tasked with building infrastructure outside of Hiroshima. There were people who wanted to measure the effectiveness of the Atomic bomb, and the SeaBees built Quonset huts for them to live and work in. Now, from personal experience I know that a tattoo of that complexity would have taken some time, and there’s no telling how many rads of radiation Daddy got while he was stationed there. While I’m curious about exposing so many of our own servicemen to a known painful death sentence, I’m equally curious about what Daddy was saying by the Buddha tattoo.

Daddy wouldn’t talk about it, and maybe he was drunk the whole time and doesn’t remember. It does seem to me like he could have gotten a smaller tat, and maybe bought a little Buddha statue for the mantle. Anyway, Bo Lite came back home, and brought with him two constant reminders of WWII. For the rest of his life, Daddy was addicted to gambling. The tattoo that prompted some folks to call him Buddha behind his back, was also a sign that Daddy was not “right”, when he came back home.

Well, I feel like I been chewed up and spit out. All of this remembering is painful. I’m gonna head back over to Number Two before Mulva sends out a search party. We’ll catch up with Daddy tomorrow.