Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On Champ Ruffin’s 86th birthday

My father, Champ Ruffin, was born on July 25, 1921, in Yatesville, Georgia. He graduated from Yatesville High School, which doesn’t exist anymore, and spent his entire career working at Thomaston Mills, which doesn’t exist anymore. He built and nurtured a home that included his wife Sara and his son Mike, but that home doesn’t exist anymore, either.

And yet he left quite a legacy. To this day his faith and commitment are legendary among the folks with whom he worshiped. To this day his work ethic lives on in those who were influenced by him. To this day his commitment to home and family lives on in the home and family that my wife and I have built and nurtured.

He died in 1979, just four years after his wife and my mother died. I was eleven months out of college, eleven months married, and three months away from leaving for seminary. I knew everything but I of course actually knew nothing. Somewhere along the way I matured to the point that I finally knew what the questions were that I should ask him. But I couldn’t. And I can’t. In a way that’s ok because I understood him well enough to have a pretty good idea what advice he would give me on most subjects. But in a way it’s not ok because conversations with him wouldn’t be so much about the advice as about the conversation itself and about the relationship that the conversation assumed.

There are some men in my church who were born in 1921. I like talking to them because it helps me to imagine what my father might have looked like had he stayed with us. It makes me smile.

Here’s to you, Daddy, on your 86th birthday. You were a good father. You would have been a good grandfather. Thanks for the memories, but more importantly, thanks for the legacy.

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