Big and Friendly

When the north wind kicks up in winter, I like to put on the London Fog.

Beige and made of wool, the overcoat is ordinary in every respect but one.

It belonged to my father.

Jack Morgan would have turned 89 on Jan. 8. He’s been dead half my life.

Though far from a man of means, “Big and Friendly,” as he was commonly known, enjoyed playing the part. He drove a new Cadillac every year and kept his folding money in a clip.

The neon sign on his furniture store, I’m told, was the largest between St. Louis and Memphis. With its ornate dips and turns, his penmanship was straight out of another century.

He liked his soup as hot as lava and peppered everything but dessert. My dad cursed the cold weather, phone solicitors and all that stood between the St. Louis Cardinals and victory.

Every one of his children spent time slow-dancing on his shoes. They learned the importance of a firm handshake and making people feel good.

Jack also had a way with words, particularly blunt ones.

He waited until I was 19 to offer advice on sex. Then, on the eve of one of my dates, he dropped this bomb: “Son, if she puts the moves on you, just slip a raincoat on.”

He met my fiancee about a year before I got married. At a restaurant, he broke the ice with her and her sister with  “Do you girls smoke?”

When the crow’s feet dig in and the hairline retreats, it’s common for men to feel the tug of mortality. What usually follows is an epiphany that they’ve become their father.

That would be fine by me.


11 thoughts on “Big and Friendly

  1. I can remember gazing up at the menu board at Charlies’ and tracing the writing with my finger – I was so in awe that someone could write like that and then to find out it was my Uncle. So proud I was.
    I don’t know if you ever attended a Rose Croix Funeral Service – (Scottish Rite) performed by your Dad. The oratory, given without benefit of notes or assistance, was unbelievable. Once again, I stood in the back and marveled at what I was witnessing and swelled with pride courtesy of my Uncle Jack.
    To have your father perform the Rite at your funeral was a revered honor in our parts…

  2. These words are beautiful. I see the man. He would be so proud of you~ loved the vision of the slow dancing feet & can see his swirling penmanship. Thanks for this piece….you are a writer for sure!

  3. Rhett what a beautiful tribute to your Father. He probably wouldn’t have mentioned it but I can only imagine how proud he is of your own accomplishments. I love that you keep his wonderful , “big and friendly” memory alive.

  4. Rhett so wonderful to read about day Advance. I loved going into Charlie’s my brother & I reminiesce about the shakes and

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