Try, Try Again: Remembering Daddy’s Patience and Lessons of Love

The Carter Girls: Grace, Sue, Kathy, me, and Phyllis Anne with their father, Clarence, and mother, Gladys, about 1957.

The memories of my father, Clarence Carter, remain as clear as though they were yesterday.   When I think of him, patience is a word that immediately comes to mind.  Back in those days, our household consisted of my parents, my four sisters, my grandmother, and cousin Gloria, who came to live with us after her mother died.  Eight women, my dad, and one bathroom. Yes, he was a patient man.  

But there were many occasions where his patience was especially apparent.  

Daddy’s patience was unmistakable as he taught each of his five daughters first to ride a horse and later drive a car. We learned to ride a horse while he led us around the pasture countless times.  Our job was to hold onto the saddle horn and not fall off the horse. Eventually, we were encouraged to ride using the reins instead of the saddle horn.   Because of his countless steps in that pasture, he instilled the confidence and courage to ride, even though we were afraid to try.   

Learning to drive a car was “A horse of a different color.” As we each turned 16, our driving education began on rural back roads in our 1957 Chevrolet.  Our instructions went something like this. “Slow down,” he would say. “Don’t go too fast.”  “Always give the right of way to the other fellow, even if he doesn’t deserve it.” “Watch out for young’uns on bicycles.  You never know which way they’ll go.”   

According to my mother, he possessed that same patience when he taught her to drive after they married in 1942. She loved to tell that story!  

He would remark, “I wish you would stop telling people I taught you to drive. It doesn’t give me much credit because I didn’t do a good job.” 

Daddy thought she drove too fast (which she did), tended to slam on brakes (which she did), and claimed the car would jump 10 feet as the vehicle left the driveway as she headed for work (which it did) As with each telling of the story, she would laugh and laugh.  

He would just smile.  

He tried to teach her to ride a horse.  She had no knack for riding, but he tried and tried again.  Finally, my mother gave up the dream of riding, much to the relief of both them and the horse. 

When he tried to teach her to swim, he finally said the best thing  for her would be “to stay in shallow water.” 

In addition to our ponies, we had a milk cow, a steer, and a few chickens.   Each evening, we would be on Daddy’s heels as he headed to the barn to “feed up” and milk the cow.  As we crowded into the tiny stall behind him, he would say, “Don’t get behind the cow.  She’ll kick.” 

So, we naturally moved in closer to him, waiting our turn to try milking. Of course, knowing we would never become proficient in milking,  he allowed us to try, day after day. That’s patience. 

He was an amazing father who loved his daughters. But it was the love he shared with my mother, the kind of love that lasts forever, that I remember so well. And his patience.    

Happy Father’s Day.  May your day be filled with treasured memories like mine.