Creative Thinking with Mark Ballard – Leaving a Legacy - January 22, 2012
When I first received the news, I had to go and sit in our sunroom. In the stillness, I could almost hear the clanking sounds hammers make when they come in contact with a nail head. Steady and sometimes in unison, my family was very familiar with that sound as two men worked on our sunroom for several weeks. I looked around the room carefully trying to remember every detail of the construction. Some of my memories were clouded by time but they played out in my mind like a motion picture does on a screen.
The men were not professional construction workers. They were just best friends who were both retired and loved a project. So my wife and I enlisted their help almost 19 years ago when we decided to close in our side porch and make it into a sunroom. “We would love to do it!” they both said at the same time. There was no doubt the two men were very special to us. One was my daddy and the other one was Curtis Clinard.
Every morning just after daybreak for weeks, they came to our house with their individual trucks loaded with tools and supplies. Each one wore a pair of coveralls and brogans that, from the looks of them, had seen all kinds of terrain. You would have thought they had a time clock to punch because they were never even so much as a second late while their pay was just a hot lunch.
Each day began the same way with my daddy whistling as he always did reminding me of the old children’s song, Whistle While You Work. As the sunroom came together, there was lots of laughter, talking, kidding around and disagreeing on how something should be done just like you would expect of best friends. Maybe that’s the reason the job took a little longer than they had originally planned. They were in no hurry. They just genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.
Like two brothers who had gotten up in years but still thought they were youngsters, Daddy and Curt were true testaments of good, hardworking men who brought out the best in each other and those around them. After all, they had a lot of practice because they had been friends since long before I was born. Curt’s wife, Dot, and my mother, Jo, were also the best of friends. The four of them loved to travel, cook and be in each other’s company. They seemed to always be together when I was growing up. In fact, as I sat in the sunroom going down memory lane, there was not a time I could remember when Dot and Curt weren’t a part of our family’s life. I even have proof because they are in just about every photo with one of us in my box of old pictures.
We all attended the same church where Daddy and Curt served as deacons and on any other committee they could possibly find time for. They loved to eat fried fish and many Friday and Saturday nights were devoted to their favorite cuisine. When they weren’t eating fish prepared by someone else, they were catching their own at any lake where they could drop a fishing line and hosting their own fish fry. They also loved to have a garden and kept one planted most of the year yielding all sorts of produce.
Curt and Daddy loved to cook. I especially remember several things they prepared as if it were yesterday. Homemade ice cream of any variety your mind could conjure is one of them. There was hardly a summer weekend that passed where we didn’t partake of home-churned ice cream they made. Curt even introduced us to a “Tutti-Frutti” version of ice cream that contained a bottle of Orange Crush and a can of pineapple.
Another of their specialties and favorite past times was barbequing chicken. For almost every social we had at the church, you would find Daddy and Curt perched around a large open grill in the church’s back yard. You could hardly see them because of the smoke billowing from the grill but you knew they were there because of the wonderful aroma that also escaped.
Curt was also known for his homemade lasagna. I loved it when we went over to their house to eat what he prepared from scratch. In fact, he was thrilled when I featured the recipe in the first cookbook I published.
Several days ago, Curtis Clinard passed away. He was the last of the foursome to go. It was very difficult for me because it was like losing another father and closing the chapter on a period of my life that spanned from childhood to middle age.
One thing I dislike about growing older is that we have to give up those we love who are older than us who played key roles and made a difference in our lives. One by one they leave and we are left with mighty big shoes to fill. It is like passing the baton to someone else. Actually, it’s called the circle of life.
The legacy we leave behind is what we will be remembered for. The difference we make defines who we are and what we did while we are alive. Mother and Daddy and Dot and Curt Clinard definitely left handprints on my heart that will never leave. I can only hope my legacy will be as strong as theirs.
Sitting on the sofa in our almost 20-year-old sunroom, I smile as I remember each of them and give thanks for having been blessed to be around them! They were the fabulous four and that are finally together again.
More with Mark:
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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to (478) 474-4930; call (478) 757-6877; e-mail to email@example.com; or subscribe to Mark’s page on Facebook.