A few days before the 101th anniversary of my father’s birth on February 23, I found an interesting bit of research while looking for a totally unrelated topic. The research justified Daddy’s penchant for teasing his four girls, although I’m pretty sure he didn’t feel the need for any validation. He was just having a good time with us. The research found that children growing up in a culture where teasing was common had higher intelligence scores.
In a way, this is ironic because the closest Daddy ever came to a term of endearment was to call me “Knothead” which Merriam-Webster defines as “a dull-witted blunderer.” In rural North Mississippi, it was generally understood that the knot in a piece of wood was the densest hardest part. I think that’s the definition Daddy had in mind.
Along with his teasing, Daddy read with care anything I wrote and discussed the fine points he found. He insisted that I could indeed stand up in front of people and talk. Perhaps it’s just as well that he never understood why that was a fear, because I backed my ears and learned to do it – pretty much to keep from disappointing him. The first time I enjoyed speaking in public came as a total surprise.
He was realistic in the areas where I lacked accomplishment and added that to his banter. If I made a drawing, he advised me to write underneath, “This is a cow,” – or whatever it was. As you can see from the picture, I still need to do that.
When I brought home a paper from school for congratulations, Daddy would look at the “97” or “98” and say, “Well, if you could do that well, you could have made 100.” If I did get the “100,” he would say, “Well, it’s no better than you ought to have done.” Mama would go into defense mode trying to keep me from being warped for life and protest his lack of appreciation for my accomplishment. Daddy and I would smile behind her back and let her continue to fix what needed no fixing. I knew he was proud of my work, and he knew I knew.
I’ll let you be the judge of whether he warped me for life or increased my intelligence. But I have noticed that he has left me with a peculiar reaction when someone says something to me that could be derogatory. I tend to laugh, assuming that, like Daddy, thespeaker is teasing.