Memories of Daddy

Published 5:48 pm Friday, June 14, 2024

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By Janet Morris Belvin

My father, the late Dr. Frank Morris, was a former pastor of Middle Swamp Baptist Church in Gates County. Each year in the spring, I miss him a little more than usual. The 110th anniversary of my father’s birthday was this year, and though he’s been gone since 1991, I miss him still.

Janet Morris Belvin is pictured with her father, Dr. Frank Morris, on Christmas Day, 1976. Contributed Photo

As the father of four girls and the pastor of a very large church for many years, Daddy often found it difficult to make time for his family. But he did, nevertheless. He once took my 5-year-old twin sister Jerry on a trip of several hours to visit his parents, the late Walter and Beulah Morris of Gates, at Christmas. She remembers that special time with him with great fondness.

I had one on one time with Daddy, too. I remember waking up quietly on vacations so I could have a morning fishing trip with him alone. I was never a great fishing buddy, but I loved having him all to myself. We’d go to the bait shop where I got to look at the bloodworms and crickets that he’d buy. Then he’d fill a cooler with ice, Cokes in green glass bottles, cans of Vienna sausages and packs of Nabs for our lunch. By the time lunch was over, the cooler was full of fish, mostly caught by Daddy but occasionally a few caught by me (with Daddy’s help – “Here, Janet, hold this fishing pole,” he’d say, knowing full well that he had already got a fish on the line for me.)

Daddy had a knack for making me feel very special and loved. One night while I was a student at Meredith College in Raleigh, I got a call from the Dean of Students’ office. “Janet, you have a visitor.” It was after dark, probably eight or nine o’clock. I couldn’t think who it might be – maybe a boy? Men couldn’t go up on our dorm hall (we were very well protected back then) so I hurried down to see who it was.

Imagine my surprise to see my daddy there, dressed in corduroy pants and a plaid shirt with his cap in his hand. He gave me a huge bear hug and told me to go with him out to his truck. He’d been to Gaffney, SC to get some peaches, and was on his way back to Mama. He had brought back a truckload of goodies, as was his usual way, and wanted to stop by and drop off a few of them with me. So he gave me a bag of peaches, some chocolate Heath bars, some butterscotch candies, and the prize – a “new” secondhand watch from E.H. Jones Jewelers in Gaffney.

I hugged him again, thrilled more to see my daddy than the loot, and told him I’d sign out and we could go off campus to get some dessert or something. But he didn’t have time. He had to get back on the road. He always wanted to be on the move, especially if Mama was at the end of the road. So he gave me another hug and handed me a $5 bill with the admonition “Don’t spend it all in one place.” Then he got in his truck and drove away.

I stood in the dorm parking lot watching the tail lights of his truck as they faded away into the night. It occurred to me then that it hadn’t been a long enough visit for me with Daddy. That’s the way I still feel about his life. I didn’t have enough time with him and I miss him still.

Janet Morris Belvin is the author of Southern Stories From the Porch Swing, The Refuge, The Bookshop on Beach Road and Sycamore Hill, all available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other outlets. Belvin is a former resident of Gates County. Her latest novel will be released this fall.