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A day to honor dads for being there for us

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Father’s Day, that semi-holiday stuck sort of in-between and around Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July will be celebrated Sunday, June 14.

It can apply to your biological father, stepfather, adopted father, grandfather, divorced father or your mother, uncle, cousin, brother, friend or neighbor down the street who raised you as if he were your real father.

My childhood family consisted of my daddy, Carl Barnes, (I don’t think I ever actually called him “father” except maybe when filling out an application), my mother, Alma Barnes, my younger brother, Tracy Barnes and myself.

My daddy was a tobacconist by trade and he worked on markets in Wilson, Georgia, Kentucky and Maryland, sometimes accompanied by the entire family.

Although our family was not wealthy, I never recall going hungry or not being allowed to do normal things like other children. I can’t provide specifics, but I feel certain some things we had or did must have involved major sacrifices on both my parents’ part.

During my early years sports were big in our family. Soccer was not yet the participation sport it is today, so my childhood consisted mostly of football, basketball, baseball and golf. In addition to hauling us to games and practices, just like parents do today, my parents added a few wrinkles that stick out in my mind.

When I was 8, we took a trip to Washington that included a baseball game between the Washington Senators (now Nationals) and the New York Yankees whose roster included Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and others.

All I can recall about this experience was a great big “Wow!”

In June 1964, Daddy was working on the Maryland market in Hughesville, Maryland, while the U.S. Open golf tournament was held at Congressional Country Club in nearby Bethesda, just outside D.C. He knew how bad I wanted to go, so he made some arrangements beginning with my going to Hughesville to spend the week with him.

I wasn’t old enough to drive, so every morning at dawn we left Hughesville with him behind the wheel bound for the tournament site some 65 miles away.

After battling D.C. morning commuter traffic, he dropped me off at the golf course, returned to Hughesville to begin work at 8 a.m. and worked all day before heading back to the golf course again after 5 p.m. to pick me up and return to Hughesville.

That was his daily schedule for an entire week.

I still don’t know how he did it, but in 1966, Daddy got four tickets for us to the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament held that year in College Park, Maryland.

While these examples were fairly big deals, they were no more important to me than the times I spent sitting with Daddy in front of the TV during the mid-1950s watching “Friday Night Fights” televised live from Madison Square Garden.

That was when I learned not only about the sport of boxing but also about how to eat sardines and souse, both soaked in vinegar with chopped-up bell pepper and onions sprinkled in, along with how one could make a complete meal out of only a large bowl of butterbeans.

On another occasion, Daddy was in Kentucky for the tobacco market and made his weekend trip home coincide with a varsity basketball game I was playing in Raleigh on a Friday night so he could attend the game.

His surprise appearance there was something I never forgot and was made even more significant by the fact we won the game.

Whenever the family went on out-of-town trips, I recall Daddy somehow always including a seafood restaurant in the itinerary so I could get my fill of seafood or lobster tails. (To be fair, I think my mother may also have been partially responsible for this.)

While some fathers may be accused of not being perfect, neither is anyone else, so let’s just leave it at that.

For the most part, my feeling is they were generally pretty good guys.

If you stop and think about the times you spent with your father and the many things he did for you, it might surprise you how good it makes you feel.

Here’s to a happy Father’s Day for one and all.

If you are a father, try your best to be a good one — because I assure you, someone will remember it years from now.

Keith Barnes is a reporter for the Johnstonian News. Email him at kbarnes.jhn@wilsontimes.com.

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