No middle name…no middle initial…nothing.
Just Ernest Greene.
It has never caused any inconvenience because, in Asheville, lots and lots of people know my dad.
He was nice enough to give me his name. He and Mom just stuck “Stuart” on the front of his name and I suddenly had the customary three names that most of us have. That single act has gotten me out of more jams and opened more doors than I can count.
“Ernest is your dad?”
That was the golden question that I knew was instantly about to make the remainder of whatever conversation that I was having much, much easier. In fact, the only job interview that I’ve had since leaving the ministry and switching careers started with that question, lasted exactly forty-five seconds, and ended with me being welcomed into my new position. Seriously.
People love my dad. He was a great businessman and always did his dead-level best to treat everyone the way he wanted to be treated. We would be eating dinner at a restaurant and he would see someone he knew and ask the waitress for their check. He never stuck around to let them know he paid; we just got up and left. He would go out late at night and on weekends to open up his store to get auto parts for service stations that had patrons who were stranded on the road. He even paid several of his employees full salaries while they were out with injuries or sickness…sometimes for months on end. He’s always been a devout Christian but I never once saw him make it an issue with anyone. He just loves people the way he would like to be loved in the name of Christ and practices charity without publicizing it. A lot of people could learn something from that.
There’s no “but” to the story of my dad, either. He never beat me or even whipped me when I didn’t have it coming. He wasn’t some closet drunk or anything like that. We always had food on the table and good clothes and nice things. He bought me my first vehicle and I can honestly say that most, if not all, of the good things that I have in this life are largely due to him.
Ernest Greene may not have been the most successful or most profitable businessman ever, but he has left a huge number of people in his wake that love and respect him for the way that he treated them. I can only hope to be half the man that he’s been and I respect my dad so much that I did the same favor for my son that he did for me…I just slapped the name “Bruce” on the front of his name. I thought it fitting.
Now, the doctor has given my dad somewhere in the three to twelve month range to live. His kidneys are failing and dialysis won’t really prolong his life because of some heart issues, so he’s chosen to live what life he has left and spend it with his family.
I really don’t blame Dad for his choice. Most of his old friends have been dead for years, the business is gone, and he can’t hear or see well enough to communicate like he used to. Dad is eighty-one years old and this world bears scant resemblance to the world in which he spent most of his life. He believes in a hard days work, keeping his word, and telling it like it is. I imagine that Dad would be mortified and angry if he could still communicate well enough to understand everything that is going on in our country.
I love my dad and I’m going to miss him. I’m forty-two years old. I’m big enough and prepared enough that I’m not scared of much, but I know this: I’m going to feel a little less safe and a lot more alone in this world when that man is gone.