My Dad: The Mayor of Stafford Court

PapaProverbs 4:1 says, “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.” I actually did that while growing up. I didn’t want to, but Dad didn’t allow for much leeway.

I remember thinking my Dad had to be one of the stupidest guys on earth. I had a hard time understanding the way he thought, and I couldn’t believe some of the things he said.

However, an amazing transformation occurred over the years. The older I got, the smarter he became. Anyone else out there have a similar experience?

As a kid, he earned the nickname, “Candy.” Friends and family called him that all his life. I just called him Dad.

When my boys came along, they called him “Papa Deno.” That one stuck as well. The Papa part got passed along to me. And, when I get a little ornery, my Bride calls me “Deno” as well.

“He didn’t want anything.”

He never had much in the way of possessions, but it’s not that he didn’t have any money. It was more a result of the fact that he didn’t really want anything. If he had a dependable car to drive and a TV to watch his baseball games, he was fulfilled.

Deno wanted two things for everyone. He wanted you to have a job, and he wanted you to be happy. If you didn’t have a job, he wouldn’t let you be happy until you got one.

Bobby McFerrin once had a hit song entitled, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” My Dad didn’t share that outlook. His was, “Worry, and be happy.” He worried about everything. It was his lot in life. He just couldn’t help himself.

His philosophy was simple. “It’s my way or the highway.” If you didn’t agree with Father & Sonhim, you were obviously wrong. Once, he was in the checkout line at the grocer’s and bumped the guy in front of him with his cart (apparently more than once). When the guy turned around to complain, my Dad said, “Hey Buddy! It’s not all MY fault!” We still quote that one and laugh until we cry.

He was such a worker that I was always concerned he’d be miserable in retirement. That was not the case, however. He was always busy with projects my Mom conjured up for him. He once complained to me, “Some days I can’t sit down for a week!”

He loved watching baseball, and he hated the Yankees. He passed that along to me. It’s an art that I’ve perfected along the way (largely under his watchful eye).

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.”

Although he wasn’t a mechanic, he loved his garage. In fact, he was known as a “garage-sitter.” After a hard day’s work, he would sit (drinking a cold beer) with the garage door open and survey the neighborhood. The guy next door used to call him the “Mayor of Stafford Court.”

On days like today, I really miss “The Mayor.” When I remember his instruction, I still pay attention and gain understanding. Happy Fathers Day, Papa!


[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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