My favorite holiday of the entire year is here. Just what exactly are you planning for Whowuddathunkit Day?
Okay, you may not have known about it, because I made it up, but with a little effort Whowuddathunkit Day could go national. Today, April 21, celebrates the wonder and magic of the improbable becoming reality. On this date three events happened that makes you scratch your head, smile and ask, "Whowuddathunkit?"
This is the anniversary of San Jacinto Day. That's the battle which secured Texas independence from Mexico, almost entirely because of the efforts of Sam Houston. Sam was a good old boy from Tennessee who drank too much and who was thrown out of the Tennessee governor's office after just three months when he left his wife and ran off with a Cherokee woman. That's nothing much to admire, but as the years went by Sam straightened up, especially after the Cherokee woman threw him out.
Sam led his Texas army in a long retreat against the larger contingent of Mexican soldiers until he finally decided to attack during the traditional siesta hour. Again, not the most honorable thing to do. What made Sam a pillar of Whowuddathunkit Day was in 1861 when he was governor of Texas and refused to lead his state out of the union. It was the second time he lost the title of governor, but Sam had stood up for his principles and loyalty to the United States.
The next important event on April 21 was the birth of my father in 1909. Grady Cowling didn't drink, fool around with women or have an idle day in his life. He provided food and a roof over his family and always kept the door open for one of the boys to come home after messing up. This was not to say he was an affectionate man. I don't think he ever kissed, hugged or said "I love you" to my brothers or me. Most of the time when I visited after he retired, he stared off in the distance and only had monosyllabic replies to my questions.
I had accepted the fact he was a man of his generation who did not show affection or show much interest in anything. Then one day when he was 83 years old and living in a nursing home I came to visit. We were in the day room sitting next to each other watching a rerun of Gunsmoke. Without a word he put his hand on my knee for about 30 second and then removed it. This was my last visit before he died. But whowuddathunkit? My daddy really did love me.
The third April 21 event was the birth of my son. He was nine and a half pounds and 21 inches long. But, but by the time he was a week old, he underwent surgery to close a cleft trachea, a hole in his windpipe, to keep the milk from seeping over into his lungs instead of going to his stomach. For three months we fed him through a tube in his abdomen.
The rest of his infancy was normal, but when he entered school another problem developed. He had attention deficit disorder, which meant a lot of trips to the principal's office and lectures. The doctor put him on Ritalin but that just turned him into a zombie. We sat him down and told him the situation. He had a physical condition which he had to overcome on his own. We could not keep reminding him to do homework or go to bat for him when he got in trouble. He would have to work twice as hard as the other students to get Bs and Cs when they would get As. It wasn't fair. Life wasn't fair. Get over it.
And he did. He graduated from college with a criminal justice degree and has worked for several years as a corrections officer for the state of Florida. On top of that, he's become my best friend.
Jerry Cowling is a freelance writer and storyteller living in Brooksville.