Mar 192010
 


My father’s name is Jimmy Elmer Adams. Every great once in a while, he will meet someone in a formal setting who will call him James, assuming it is his given name. But the name on his birth certificate is Jimmy. My mother calls him either JE or Jim, but she still has a Texas accent, so it sounds more like JEE-yim. He is a wonderful man. I absolutely adore him.

My dad has a gift for revering his past while still enjoying his present. He doesn’t tell his stories with a hint of sadness, just appreciation for his life experiences. He calls himself the luckiest man on earth. He’s also the best storyteller I’ve ever met. My dad has been repeating the same stories over and over again his whole life, but they still make people laugh. Even if someone (me) interrupts him with a polite chuckle and says, “Yah…heard that one already…” he will finish the story anyway, for the 500th time, with the same verve that he told it the first time.

My favorite part of his storytelling is when he stops to laugh at himself. He will get himself so tickled that he turns red in the face, throws his head back, closes his eyes, opens his mouth as wide as possible, and roars with laughter that sounds like machine gun fire. If the people around him are not laughing at the story itself, they are laughing at how tickled he is. Our neighbors used to tell us they could always tell when the Adams family was having dinner on the deck because bursts of laughter would echo through our woodsy neighborhood.

When my brother and I were teenagers, we used to joke that our friends liked our parents more than they liked us. Our friends were at our house all the time, and our parents liked having all of us around. It seems there was always at least one stray friend at our dinner table. My mother likes to think it is because her cooking was delicious (it was), but I am fairly certain it’s because a meal with my dad guaranteed you at least one or two hard belly laughs.

In 1994, I received my all-time favorite Christmas present from my folks. On the outside, it looked like a nondescript blue binder filled with a big stack of white paper. The first page read,

Book of Memories

Compiled in 1994

Dedicated to Future Generations of My Family

The binder was filled with my parents’ personal histories. The first half was written by my dad, and the second half by my mom. (Actually, my dad dictated his portion to my mother while she typed it for him. That woman can type like nobody’s business.) The chapters had titles like, It All Started When, Early Childhood, Junior High and Adolescence, Special Days & Family Events, etc. The subtitles included everything from Early Playmates to First Full-Time Job. My parents wrote all they could remember about their lives.

Today, I’ll tell you about my dad’s half of the binder.

My dad was born in 1939. He had a happy childhood and a very close-knit family. His stories have a sweetness that makes me feel nostalgic for an era that I didn’t experience…those soda fountain, pie-on-the-windowsill days that seem long-gone now. I feel like a lot of senior citizens treat today’s modern life like an assault on the simpler times from when they were kids. But my dad doesn’t do that. His stories seem to be just a pick-me-up to remind him of good times, good friends, and why it’s great to be alive.

Below are my favorite excerpts from my father’s history. Some make me sigh, some make me laugh, and some make me cry. They all make me proud to be his daughter.

All the years I lived in Crane, it was actually a very good place to grow up. Crane was a small town…completely isolated—the nearest town was something like 20 miles away. My friends and I spent all our time playing ball and camping out. The world was a little different then: kids had a lot more freedom because parents didn’t have to worry about as many things as they do now. In many ways, it was idyllic for a young boy.



There was another area about 10 miles from Crane that we referred to as the sand hills. The sand dunes were constantly shifting, due to the wind blowing, and you could find Indian arrowheads and pieces of Indian pottery. It was a wonderful place to camp out. The atmosphere was so devoid of any pollution that at night you could look up and see a blanket of stars that were so bright and clear.

We lived in two other three other houses in Crane. The most memorable one was one which my father built. My father was not an accomplished carpenter, and one corner of the roof drooped down; it almost looked as if he did it on purpose, but I can assure you he didn’t.

We suffered extreme economic hardship, but that never really affected the family relationships. In a way, I’m not sure that the collective struggle to deal with the financial hardships didn’t bring us all closer together. I think somehow dealing with a common adversity is a cathartic event that molds a stronger family.

The Cokers lived directly across the street from us when we lived in the shotgun house. The Cokers were unusual people. I remember sitting on the front porch and watching Mr. and Mrs. Coker fight with their relatives, and I mean literally. They would fight up and down the street with much yelling and swearing and the Coker kids running around screaming and crying. It was grand.

Growing up in Southwest Texas in a little town that was a million miles from anywhere, we didn’t have television even after it was commonplace elsewhere. Family entertainment consisted largely of listening to the radio. Some of my fondest memories are of the family sitting around the kitchen table on cold, winter evenings working jigsaw puzzles and listening to the radio. The programs that I remember most were Fibber McGee and Molly, Lux Radio Theater, Suspense, Mr. District Attorney, The Thin Man, The Shadow, Amos and Andy, The Great Gildersleeve, Sky King, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, The Green Hornet, and Stella Dallas. The list could go on and on.

We would go out into the oilfields where a lot of well drilling had been done, and there was scrap cable lying around in the sand. We would find this cable, and I would pull it out from the sand and load it on this trailer. When we had the trailer full, we could take it to McCamey to sell it to a scrap metal dealer. Those kinds of endeavors when you are working just to stay alive, when you come through that, your relationship tends to be very, very strong.

In the hot summer, everybody would go to the swimming pool to swim; we had a community pool. The thing to do was to walk by the ice house on the way and get a scrap piece of ice to suck while you walked to the pool. We’d also walk to the movies, and on the way, we’d stop by the grocery store in town. In the summer, they had sugar cane, and you could buy a joint of sugar cane for a nickel.

I got my driver’s license when I was 14, and I was so excited. I got to take the car to the movies shortly after I got my license, and after the movie was over, I was talking with my friends and walked home and left the car at the movies. My father was thoroughly disgusted.

I’ll never forget the first day I had my convertible. It was a white convertible with a black and white interior. I had a date that night, so I dressed in black and white two-tone shoes, black trousers, a black and white shirt, and, of course, sunglasses. Altogether quite a natty fellow. As I was driving along on the way to get my date with the top down on my new convertible, a bird shat and splattered black and white bird droppings on my black and white shirt.

There is a story that my wife, when she was younger, dated a very handsome but a very poor young man. She had also dated a very wealthy but very ugly young man. She always said that if she ever found a happy medium between the two, she would marry him. And sure enough, she married the poorest, ugliest man on campus.






Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  20 Responses to “The Poorest, Ugliest Man on Campus, A Guest Post from Adrianne”

  1. Adrianne dahlin,

    I brag to my parents all the time about how your folks wrote their stories for you and then whine because they won't do that. I even bought my in-laws some books where they just have to fill in the blanks…no dice! Jim and Judy are so awesome.

    lovelovelove,
    krystal

  2. Adrianne dahlin,

    I brag to my parents all the time about how your folks wrote their stories for you and then whine because they won't do that. I even bought my in-laws some books where they just have to fill in the blanks…no dice! Jim and Judy are so awesome.

    lovelovelove,
    krystal

  3. Adrinne,

    Tisha and I read and reread your dads account of his childhood in his small Texas town. It is one of a hoard of magic golden coins that he and your mother have given you and that will shine brighter each time you spend them.

    As to his tendency to repeat stories. It is only his way of ensuring that you have them committed to memory. It appears to be working.
    Please tell him how much we enjoyed his work.

    Bubba

  4. Adrinne,

    Tisha and I read and reread your dads account of his childhood in his small Texas town. It is one of a hoard of magic golden coins that he and your mother have given you and that will shine brighter each time you spend them.

    As to his tendency to repeat stories. It is only his way of ensuring that you have them committed to memory. It appears to be working.
    Please tell him how much we enjoyed his work.

    Bubba

  5. Love it – Especially the last one – photo and all!

  6. Love it – Especially the last one – photo and all!

  7. Adrianne, thank you for the stories. I can just imagine being one of your friends, because now I want to hear more. Your parents sound absolutely wonderful!

  8. Adrianne, thank you for the stories. I can just imagine being one of your friends, because now I want to hear more. Your parents sound absolutely wonderful!

  9. This is awesome! May we all be as poor and ugly. :)

  10. This is awesome! May we all be as poor and ugly. :)

  11. He IS adorable and so are you. Thanks for sharing!

  12. He IS adorable and so are you. Thanks for sharing!

  13. A – I checked back 4 or 5 times waiting for my cock-tale for the afternoon! And it was worth it! Thank you for sharing — I can just hear your dad's laugh cracking himself up.

  14. A – I checked back 4 or 5 times waiting for my cock-tale for the afternoon! And it was worth it! Thank you for sharing — I can just hear your dad's laugh cracking himself up.

  15. I'm so glad they preserved their memories and shared them with you, Adrianne!

    Thanks for sharing them with us too!

    They look pretty darn cool in that last pic!

    LOVE IT!

  16. I'm so glad they preserved their memories and shared them with you, Adrianne!

    Thanks for sharing them with us too!

    They look pretty darn cool in that last pic!

    LOVE IT!

  17. Oh Adrianne I just love it. My throat is tight with emotion right now. I've only met them a few times but your folks are the bee's knees. This is a wonderful story. You look just like your mother in that last picture too; beautiful. Cute couple they are. I know you are so proud. Their laughter echos in your own laughter because we hear you throughout the neighborhood! *smile* I find when I am around you I want to laugh harder and louder too. You have that affect – it is contagious!

    Man, this makes me want to encourage my parent's to write their stories too.

    I only hope that you are busy writing your own stuff too, Adrianne.

    Hugs**
    Terri

  18. Oh Adrianne I just love it. My throat is tight with emotion right now. I've only met them a few times but your folks are the bee's knees. This is a wonderful story. You look just like your mother in that last picture too; beautiful. Cute couple they are. I know you are so proud. Their laughter echos in your own laughter because we hear you throughout the neighborhood! *smile* I find when I am around you I want to laugh harder and louder too. You have that affect – it is contagious!

    Man, this makes me want to encourage my parent's to write their stories too.

    I only hope that you are busy writing your own stuff too, Adrianne.

    Hugs**
    Terri

  19. Your Dad is too cute. What a special gift they gave to you. I am now going to go to my parents house tomorrow and insist I get a book of memories too.

    I love my parents stories, especially my Dads because he grew up in Brooklyn and my Mom is just fascinating because she was worm in Sicily and came to American after 14 days on a boat when she was 10.

    I hope my stories are one day as fascinating to my kids as my parents are to me.

  20. Your Dad is too cute. What a special gift they gave to you. I am now going to go to my parents house tomorrow and insist I get a book of memories too.

    I love my parents stories, especially my Dads because he grew up in Brooklyn and my Mom is just fascinating because she was worm in Sicily and came to American after 14 days on a boat when she was 10.

    I hope my stories are one day as fascinating to my kids as my parents are to me.

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