The 1 Memory of my Father that made me a Better Person

A Grain of Salt | ElbyJames
4 min readSep 1, 2018


Father & Son

When my father passed, he left the world as he came into the world: Penniless. Like an infant, he entered the world, with no memories, but unlike a mature, experienced man, he left the world with no memories of his life. My father died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance,” which was true in my case.

The first memory I remember most vividly [that didn’t involve pain] is when my father returned from Vietnam, it was either 1972 or 1973.

I remember one day out of the blue my mother saying she had a surprise for us (at that time I had two younger brothers,) but that was all she said about it.

It was a sunny day in the deep south. We lived in a small town in Alabama called Opp where everyone either knew you or knew of you.

At that time there was only one stop light, one Sherriff, and one deputy: a real life Mayberry.

It was one of those dog days of summer when you could actually feel the humidity. The only cure for these days was a glass of sweet tea, the kind that was so sweet one glass of it would give you a pimple.

Me and my brother was returning from riding our bikes all day, unattended of course and he was waiting for us in the front yard.

Our father finally returned.

This was a great surprise because many fathers and husbands never returned from war. Even though the memory isn’t as clear as I would like it to be, I imagine it was just like the videos you would see today of returning vets from the Middle-East. It was a day I will never forget though.

I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure the way I felt about my father wasn’t too far from the way my brothers felt, although we never spoke about our feelings. This was still the era when boys were taught not to cry or show emotions. I would like to believe that the way my father felt about me was different because I was his first born: And a son at that.

A bond just a little bit stronger than the bond between my brothers is what I imagine my father’s bond was with me. I’m not saying he loved me more than my brothers, but I came at the right time.

My mother had two miscarriages, the first miscarriage we do not know the sex of the child because the technology wasn’t there yet as far as I know (this was the early 1960s.) The second miscarriage would’ve been my parents daughter: I wouldn’t have been the oldest offspring and I would’ve had a sister.

I’m sure having an older sibling would’ve had an impact on me but a sister? That would’ve had a greater impact on me.

As I think back, the good times seems fewer and fewer, but they were still there. What did stand out was the bad times financially. Being financially strapped meant missed birthdays, Christmas’ that barely existed if they even existed at all, most holidays eventually became just another day.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. Umberto Eco

But out of all the memories, the one thing I do remember is something I wish I never remembered. My father never told me he loved me.

I’m sure he did love me though, he put a roof over my head. He made sure I had three meals, sometimes only two but never the less. He made sure I got an education. He made sure when I became sick I would recover. He disciplined me when I needed it.

Is this tough love?

Are these bad memories? Am I the only one to have childhood experiences like these?

No. This is what made me a better person. Actions of love speak loudly and more clearly than words ever can.

I’m now a father of a daughter at the ripe old age of fifty-one. It is only now that I realize my father taught me a lot, whether positively or negatively. I find myself thinking what my father would’ve done when I’m in a certain situation with my daughter.

When my father passed, he left the world as he came into the world: Penniless. But, like an infant, he entered the world with no memories and left the world without any memories. My father died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance which was true in my case.



A Grain of Salt | ElbyJames

ElbyJames is an American disabled combat vet exiled in the UK & a free speech absolutist. He’s an occasional Top Writer .