“Baby, I wish you would slow down,” my soon-to-be 90-year-old father sometimes says to me while I’m driving him to his monthly doctor’s appointment. I glance over at him to see his right hand clutching the handle on the passenger door.

“Okay, Deddy,” I often mumble, releasing the gas pedal just enough to calm

his nerves.

“You got a heavy foot, chile,” he shoots back.

“I heard you used to have a heavy foot, too,” I said once.

“Well, times were different then,” he said. “There weren’t that many cars on

the road.”

How could I argue with that?

The response causes me to laugh a bit, as do many of his comments. My dad (whom I affectionately call “Deddy,” ’cause I’m country as collard greens and hog maws) and I have lived together for three years. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about this man, who grew up in the old, poor South, ran moonshine back in the day, lived through segregation, worked at Howard University’s morgue and was quite comfortable spending his days “piddling” in the yard when I was growing up.

Some people have offered their verbal and maybe even emotional support when they learn that Deddy lives with me. They think it’s commendable that a young single woman would take care of her father. But I think of it as being the laugh therapy we needed to help both of us ease the pain of losing a wife and mother and at the same time grow to love each other more.

“Deddy, why are you watching the Hispanic channel,” I said, thinking he had some knowledge of the language that I didn’t know about.

“Oh, I just like to hear them talk,” he responded, chuckling. “I like looking at the women, too.”

Oh, yeah, my daddy is a Mack. He charms the ladies with his smooth lines, such as “You’re a fine-looking woman.” “A nice-looking lady like yourself isn’t married?”

And he’s always flirting with his aide, who comes three times a week to help him with personal things he doesn’t want me to “bother with,” such as bathing.

“Y’all just want to see me naked,” he once said, after the aide and I convinced him that three days of not bathing is not attractive. He couldn’t help but laugh at himself.

But some of his best lines come from when he’s a bit perturbed at me for some reason. Seeing as though our roles have switched somewhat, I often find myself reminding him to brush his teeth, take his medicine, clean the cat box or wash the dishes. During one of our more recent reminding sessions, his response was classic Deddy: “Why you gotta be all up my business about this?” My serious drill sergeant demeanor broke instantly. All I could do was laugh.

And while he often says I’m nagging, it’s good to know he appreciates the things I do.

“You know, the other day, I got down on the floor and couldn’t get up,” I overheard him telling a friend of mine who was visiting. “The baby [at the age of 31, that’s what he still calls me] just picked me up. That’s why I don’t mess with the baby, cause she’s strong. She works out with those weights at the gym. But she’s a sweet chile.”

If only I could get the same confidence when I’m driving, Deddy.


Charlyne H. McWilliams