Mark Ballard

I continue to be a son proud of my father

Mark Ballard, right, shares memories of his father, left, for Father’s Day.
Mark Ballard, right, shares memories of his father, left, for Father’s Day. Special to The Telegraph

My daddy was a good man — inside and out. He radiated strength and values. He was a peacemaker who avoided conflict whenever possible. I was blessed beyond measure to have him as a father. Everyone whose path crossed with Daddy’s was blessed as well. He lived a life anyone could be proud of.

Besides mastering all the responsibility that came with being a father, he also juggled his job and church. Daddy was a loyal employee and humble servant of the Lord. His friends were many — as were his smiles. If Daddy told you he was going to do something, you could depend on it. It was with these principles that he lived his life.

As I ponder all the memories of my daddy on this special day set aside to honor fathers, so many rush to the surface. I have tons of memories of the four decades I was given with him. Many of them make me smile; some make me laugh and a few bring tears. Today I will highlight some of my favorites.

Daddy worked in the propane gas business most of his life. His world revolved around gas tanks, cylinders, heaters, gas logs, grills and fish cookers. To this day, a whiff of propane gas can transport me back to being a little boy and going with Daddy to his office. All of Daddy’s work clothes had a hint of propane gas even after being washed.

Daddy became an avid griller long before there were grill masters on food shows. Daddy could grill a T-bone or ribeye steak like no other. He controlled the heat of the flames like a talented magician. His hamburgers would simply melt in your mouth and were cooked to a perfect char on the outside while remaining juicy on the inside.

Friends often gathered at our home on Friday or Saturday evenings for Daddy to work his magic on the grill. Our home was a happy place filled with love and laughter. Food was always present and the more guests, the merrier. Just thinking of those long ago times makes me smile — and a little bit hungry!

Daddy was on the board of deacons at our church during most of my youth. God was important to Daddy and he personally did anything he could for his church. It was when he was surrounded by grills at his church that Daddy was able to blend his two worlds. He orchestrated many special church dinners using his grilling skills.

Daddy would spend days preparing for these events. He made absolutely sure there would be plenty of food so no one would leave hungry and that the food would be delicious. Tin foil was purchased by the yards to surround washed and oiled Idaho potatoes to be baked on the grill. Steaks were carefully selected and patiently waited in the refrigerator. Daddy took these eating events very seriously.

I can still see him standing in the kitchen grating both green and purple cabbages to make slaw. He had a stainless steel salad maker and he turned its handle millions of times over the years. Zesty Italian dressing completed his slaw and it got even better when he let it marinate a few hours before being served. Pieces of Texas toast were submerged in vats of melted butter and dusted with garlic power before being toasted to the perfect golden brown.

Daddy always ended his church suppers on a sweet note. He had one signature dessert — French Coconut Pie. I remember every inch of our kitchen counters being filled with freshly baked pies. With the precision of a professional packer, they were carefully placed in boxes to be transported to the church fellowship hall.

He beamed with pride as the rave reviews came in for his handiwork, all the while down-playing the many hours he actually invested in preparation. To this day, his legacy lingers like a beautiful, sunny day warming the memories of everyone he touched. To know Daddy was to love him.

And I was the luckiest of all. I had the privilege of calling him Daddy! He inspired me in ways he didn’t even realize and placed a permanent mark on the blueprint of my life. I never see a grill or propane tank that I don’t think of him and I still have his old stainless steel salad maker.

Fathers play very important roles in our lives. If you are still fortunate enough to have your father, be sure to give him a special hug today. I am so proud of the life Daddy lived. I wouldn’t be who I am without him. Happy Father’s Day!

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email markballard@cox.net; follow him at instagram.com/markcreates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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