Today is my incredible father’s 68th birthday.
J.B., as he’s known by most, though he’s also called Benji or J or Uncle Bubba by various members of our family, is one of my Mamaw and Papaw’s twelve children – though that hardly implies he’s not unique.
Monetarily at least, the Hensley family didn’t have much. For food, they raised their own vegetables and hunted their own meat, and Papaw worked off the farm.
My grandfather died when my dad, one of the middle children, was only 16, leaving my grandmother at home with four kids still to feed and raise alone. Daddy quit school and went to work. He worked nonstop in difficult and physically demanding jobs to support his beloved mother and younger siblings.
Dad didn’t stop working until he was forcibly “retired” from his job at the age of 63 when the Kingsport Foundry closed a few years back. He retired as the plant supervisor having spent nearly 40 years working his way up from below ground level.
Having been denied the formal education he deserved and working so hard for decades could leave a lesser man bitter, close-minded or cold. Not my father.
There isn’t a man alive with a warmer or more explosive laugh. He can tell a joke as well as any comedian out there, and storytelling is his forte. Though short on school, he still enjoys learning new things – and made sure his daughters took their education seriously. He has very definite opinions, but he also knows how to listen when others talk.
Dad is big on personal accountability, but he’s also the first to offer a helping hand to anyone who needs it, at any time.
I’ve always known that my father loves me. What he doesn’t know is that he’s also given me the biggest compliment I could ever receive.
Several years ago, Dad and I were watching a ballgame together and engaging in our (funny and interesting to us) version of color commentary. Mom, having listened to us bicker about something or other, said: “You two are like peas in a pod.” At which point my father replied: “Thank you.”
My father, this big-hearted, hard-working joy of a human being, considered it a compliment to be compared to me.
That is a moment forever joined with my heart.
Happy Birthday, Daddy.