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Randy Rogers: Back In the Living Years

by Minden Press-Herald

Mike Rutherford of Mike & the Mechanics wrote:

Every generation blames the one before

And all of their frustrations come beating on your door

I know that I’m a prisoner to all my father held so dear

I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears

I just wish I could have told him in the living years

It was not always easy being the son of one born of The Great Depression.  He grew up under a dark cloud when the country, families and friends, were jobless and hungry- in financial ruin.  He lived as though it was bound to happen again any day.  

As a young kid, when I was told my bath was ready, it meant that he and Mama had already taken there’s.  I don’t know how much a tub of bath water costs, but I always wished we’d spent that little extra so I could have some bath water of my own.

When it looked like he could save a few cents with the home barber kit, I was the one lashed to the kitchen chair, propped up on the Yellow Pages and a Sears catalog, with a bath towel around my neck fixed with a clothespin.  I was way too young to object much less point out that the resulting gaps in my hair clearly demonstrated that Daddy wasn’t a very good barber. 

His generation wasn’t big on sharing their feelings.  I remember once when Mama told me how she would lie in bed at night and listen to Daddy go on about how proud he was of me.  

Why doesn’t he ever tell me that?, I asked.  She said, “Because he can’t.  But you need to know that he is very proud of you.”  

I think Daddy told me one time that his father never said, “I love you.”  He didn’t either until I was in college.  At some point, the generation gap narrowed, and it became easier for him to tell us he loved us.  I guess you just have to do it once for it to get easier and to know how good it feels to say it. 

It was also about that time, when I got ready to head off for my first year at LSU, that I held out my hand for him to shake goodbye.  Instead he asked, “Don’t I get a hug?”  I didn’t know what to do.  I had never hugged my father.  I wasn’t real;y sure how to go about it.  

But I did, nervously, hug him that time and many times later in saying both hello and goodbye.  Looking back now, I think that gesture was his way of showing me what he couldn’t bring himself to say; that I had come of age, become more or less a man, and that his days in the role of strict disciplinarian were pretty much over.  

It was also his way of saying he wanted to change the way fathers and sons got along.  And that was okay by me.

James Thomas “Jake” Rogers, my father, passed away this April after 93 living years.  He lived long enough to be able to read my books and newspaper columns.  With Mama not around to do it for him, he went against tradition to tell me that “I had become a “pretty good writer.”  

Thanks, Daddy.  In our living years, I’m so glad we got to the point where we could hug each other and say I love you.  That meant a lot.  May you rest in peace.

Randy Rogers lives in Minden.

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