The Ol’ Screen Door
By Chris Rathbone
Many times in this life, when I slow down enough, my mind wanders back to my growing up years. “40-45 years ago,” said out loud sounds like a long time ago, but our memory of times past makes it seem like yesterday. My heart is sometimes saddened when I think of those days, the adventures that us holler kids had together, the people we shared them with, and the family that surrounded us. While I’m thankful for those times, it’s sad to know that we can’t go back and do it again and many of the people we shared those days with are gone. Don’t get me wrong, we had some really tough times growing up. Our family had struggles for sure, but many great memories still come up in my mind.
Some of you will remember the ol’ screen doors that many had on their front door. Most were wooden framed, fully screened, and had a long spring attached to the top. They had the hook and eye latch so you could lock them. My grandparents on both sides of the family had one. We had one at our house. We kids would run out of the house, push the screen door open and the long spring made that loud screeching noise as it opened. As always, we just let the door go and “bam” it would slam shut on its own. Y’all remember those doors, don’t you?
My grandmother “Mammie” lived just above us, a stone’s throw as the Bible says. You could hear her screen door slam every time one of us grandkids came running out of the house. Dad and Mom, or whichever adults were around would holler, “Stop slamming that screen door! Stay in or out, in or out!” But we usually paid no attention as we were in the middle of playing.
During those years we rode bikes, built forts in the laurel thickets, fished with the night crawlers we caught in the yard at night, and played in the dirt every day till we were filthy from head to toe. There weren’t many idle moments, we were always busy finding something to get into.
This week has brought back many memories of my dad. He is 85 years old with many health problems. Us kids have been taking turns staying with him in the hospital. Not only does he have many physical health issues, but dementia has taken its toll on his mind as well. He sometimes doesn’t even know us or remember many things. While watching dad lying there in that hospital bed, many of those memories that dad and I made during the ol’ screen door days came flooding back to me.
There was a time when my dad was much of a man! He worked at the Carbon Plant in Morganton for over thirty years to provide for his family. Drove every day and made the long ride to make a living and put food on the table. He was old-school tough and wise, more than we kids gave him credit for. He worked hard on the job and worked hard at home. Gardens were on the calendar in the spring and summer and working up firewood in the winter. When I was with him getting a load of firewood, he would stop at Newdale Grocery (Parsley’s to us locals) and get me a soft drink and creme-filled bogie pastry. What a treat for a young boy!
Dad expected us to do what he said and if we didn’t he would put us in our place if we got a little too big for our britches, if you know what I mean. He taught me how to drive, how to shoot a squirrel, and how to coon hunt. Dad never had to tell me that I was supposed to work for a living, I simply watched him get up every morning for years and go to work. His example said it all. I can still hear his whistle from the stands to let me know he was there to watch me play sports. I would turn and look and there he’d be giving me a thumbs up. He has strong old-school opinions of right and wrong and will not waver. Life for him was lived simply. The pursuit of riches never enticed him. Fancy cars and clothes were a waste of money that could be spent on necessities. A quaint house with a roof over his head and simple clothes were sufficient. He was always fiercely committed to his kids and stood by us no matter what we may have done. While we knew we would get our tails busted for doing something stupid, we always knew we could come home and he would be there for us.
There’s not enough room in this paper for me to write about all the things we shared, good and bad over the years with our dad. While I know in my heart that his years here are winding down, we talk often of heaven and eternity that we get to see and spend together because of Jesus.
Happy Father’s Day Pops and thank you for being my dad. While I’m not sure how many more years we have left together, I’m thankful for all the memories we shared during those “ol’ screen door” years.
I love you Pops,
Your Son Chris
Preacher Chris Rathbone serves as Pastor at Mine Creek Baptist Church.
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