Friday, September 30, 2011

He Found the Good Life

He was a good looking  devil.   Tall, dark and handsome.  His dark eyes had a twinkle and looked merry when he was smiling.    He was one of the smartest men I have ever known.   It has been forty-four years since I've seen him.    Gone too soon, he died when he was only 51.     

Charles Benjamin Treadway

I am, of course, talking about my daddy.    He was the guy who could do almost anything he ever set out to do.    He was a self made man and learned nearly everything he knew by reading, reading some more and listening to others who had something interesting to say.    I saw him take a random book from the set of  World Book Encyclopedias to bed as reading material to pass the time until he fell asleep many nights.     His trips to the library meant bringing home whatever the limit was that the library imposed.  He could and often did clean out the shelf about the Civil War if allowed to check out that many books.   

He had numerous hobbies over the years, including photography, bowling, boat building and fishing.  I think his first boat was a small skiff he built in the 1940s which served as a warm up for his bigger project, The Claudia, that he built in our backyard in 1959.    She was a beauty, too.    It was a 20' cabin cruiser and truly was his pride and joy.    And it was a labor of love.   Love for the open water, love for the wind in his hair, love for life on the Gulf of Mexico.  

Sometimes I think about the tragedy of his death at 51 and feel great sadness that he never knew my husband, Larry, and his grandson, Brian.    He never knew the three grandchildren that are the light of my life.    He missed so much and we missed having him be a part of all that has happened since he died in 1967.     However, in thinking of him today, I am reminded of all that was good in his life, especially right before he died.   

Two years before he died, he had made a very courageous decision to leave his position with a large firm and move our family back to Mississippi.     He had moved us TO Texas to continue his work in a bigger office, larger territory and most importantly to save money for his dream.    He and mama together worked like crazy saving money the whole time we were in Texas.    Ginny, my younger sister,  and I knew little about all those plans, we just knew that we were fast becoming Texans and really loving living in a much larger city and all the things that living in a big, bad city means.   

Ginny & Marcia (back row)
Claudia & Charles Treadway

We got a big shock when Daddy and Mama announced to us near the end of school in 1965 that we were moving back to Mississippi, but not to Jackson where we had lived before.   We were going to live on the Gulf Coast in the tiny town called Gautier, near Pascagoula.      Our family owned a small house on Mary Walker Bayou and we were going to live there while Daddy opened his own pest control business.    Mama was going to enroll in the local Junior College and complete courses that would enable her to become a registered nurse.     It was a big step that took a lot of guts to pull off.    Daddy had a very respectable, well paid job and a future that was secure.     Mama had already finished her schooling to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse, so she was gainfully employed, too.     Things were looking very good for all of us.     But something different was calling Daddy and he felt he had to take the chance while he could.   

Ginny and I were stunned to learn about all of this and cried more than once thinking about leaving the big city and moving back to what we thought was "Hicksville".     But move we did.    They loaded up a U-Haul van and put all of our worldly goods inside and trucked it back to Mississippi with two teen age girls sniffling and sobbing most of the way.    

I tell you all of this as a way of introducing the idea of making courageous, although perhaps unpopular decisions when the opportunity comes your way.     Daddy had a goal for himself and for his family.   He wanted a different way of life that included lots of time for fishing and just communing with nature.     He had figured out a way to spend half of his month working and the other half fishing and doing what he called, "going down to see the bacon slicer".      That meant just hanging out with good friends down at Tucei's Fish Camp, chewing the fat and solving the world's problems.    

And he did just that.   He opened his own business and mama went back to school.    Ginny and I enrolled in the local Junior and Senior High Schools and somehow managed to make friends and adjust to our new life.     I think it usually works out that way, but try telling that to two crestfallen teen age girls.     Daddy's business grew quickly and pretty soon he was able to do exactly as he planned it.    He worked for two weeks and then it was his time for two weeks.     He had found his good life.   

The good life for him meant lots of time to take out the boat, to fish or just to take a good book and bob and float on the water, catching the fresh breeze and the sun's golden rays.    He could take a bologna sandwich, a bag of chips and some Jax beer and he was in heaven.    And that is exactly how he spent his last two years of his life.     Working, taking care of his family and then pursuing his heart's desire.     It was a great two years and it makes me happy to know that the last two years of his life were to his liking and were of his design.  

He had no way to know when he fell ill that Saturday in November 1967, while hunting for drift wood with his brother and sister-in-law that it would be his last outing.    He had no way to know his life was coming to an end in eight short days.    And I could make the focus of this story the tragedy that befell him --- but I won't.    I will ever so slightly shift the focus back to the important message this story will convey, I hope.     

When life gives you opportunity to do things that matter to you; when you are given the chance to make profound changes in your life; when you can take a leap of faith to a newer path, sometimes you just need to go for it.    Daddy saw his chances and worked for two years to put the pieces in place to make the move and then was rewarded with two great years to enjoy the things that were most pleasing to him.    

Daddy was the smartest man I ever knew.    He had laughing eyes that crinkled when he laughed and he laughed frequently.    He took chances that I didn't understand at the time, but am beginning to comprehend now that I am all grown up myself.    A saying I often heard him repeat was to never "wish your life away".     Don't pine for the things that you hope happen some day.    Make them happen and find your peace living out your dreams.     The good life was his and all because he found the nerve, the courage to do what some would have called foolish.      I am so glad it was his to find and live.    Thanks for that lesson, Daddy.    Oh, and if you're wondering, I do still miss him and his laughing eyes.   


  1. What a great post! I loved Pawpaw--I remember so many of the things you wrote about, but learned some new things, too. What's amazing to me is that he is still such a presence in our family after all these years. He comes up so often as we tell family stories. His sayings make regular appearances around all of our houses. I feel lucky to have known him and to have him as my grandfather.

  2. Beautiful post :) It's funny that Gavin is so drawn to the Civil War books in the library too. It's always the first section he goes to :)

  3. This sounds so familiar! In our case, we moved from Alabama to Texas and back to Alabama. One of the most important things my Daddy taught me was to take that leap of faith, and I've taken several life-changing leaps in the past 10 years or so. He's been gone 2 years now, and I can still hear him encouraging me to take the uncertain path. Sure do miss him!

  4. Great story! Well written!! Remember when we were in College and we thought we were old?? Ha!!!


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