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Old Pa

I suppose in everyone’s life there are those people we have met in our childhood, who stand out in our minds. Such is the person, lovingly known to me as “Old Pa”, who I think of, when I remember my childhood.

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I grew up on the beaches of Florida, and my family was what people would consider today as “poor folk”. My dad worked very hard to eek out a living for my family. He spent most of his working years as a contractor. Yet, he did provide for us and I can’t ever remember going without food or clothes. We lived in a little four room house up Cave Holler Road in Bartow County. A little ways up the road lived “Old Pa”. I remember him as wearing baggy pants held up by suspenders, and some type of old worn out brown leather jacket. His hair was white as snow, and he had a white beard, stained with tobacco. He was slightly humped back, and walked with a cane as he shuffled along. Although he smelled of nicotine and sometimes had unknown substances protruding from his mouth to his beard, I remember him always being clean.

To me he looked 90, but as to what his age was, I don’t really know. I never remembered seeing “Old Pa” without a bag of candy and bubble gum with him. Of course, as a child I loved to see him coming because I knew he would offer me something sweet. He would walk up the little dirt path to our house and sometimes sit on a rock in the yard or come and sit on the front porch steps. He would always motion for me to come pick whatever I wanted out of the bag. Me and old Pa had a connection like no other. Sometimes as I walked by his little shack to go play at the beach, he would be sitting on his porch all alone, and he’d wave as I’d go by. He never had a fancy car, or carpet on his floors, or even inside plumbing. He never owned a TV and only had the bare necessities, but he seemed to be content with his life and what he had.

I don’t really know why “Old Pa” stands out so in my mind, but he does. And, somehow, I think he helped me to gain a love and caring respect for older people. I have one distorted picture of him, but yet in my mind’s eye, I can see him clearly. I’m sure that he never thought or knew that so many years later after he was gone, that a man like myself would look back upon my childhood and think of him. We never know how we might influence a small child, thus we should always be on guard to set forth a good example. Sometimes, I wonder, if maybe Old Pa is up in Heaven, walking around with his little bag of candy, passing it out to all the little angels. Wouldn’t that be sweet!