If you know me, you know my daddy, Earl Hiers, because this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. This month, he’ll have been gone 45 years, but he’s with me everyday, showing up every time somethin’ tickles my funny bone—which happens a lot. He taught me that you can’t take yourself too seriously. No one likes a stick in the mud. Daddy couldn’t even bring himself to discipline Bubba and me. He left that to Momma. Lord knows we needed it, but he just couldn’t bring himself to get angry enough to do much about it. It wasn’t his style. When he came home from work, he’d get Bubba and me all riled up. We’d laugh until our sides ached, or until Momma fussed at him and made us settle down for dinner. Daddy never laid a hand on me. Not once. He didn’t have to because I had so much respect for him. If I ever thought I disappointed my daddy, I’d have to go straight to bed. It would’ve crushed me.
Sure, Daddy worked hard and life dealt him some bad cards. He lost his leg at 16 and like most men at the time, spent his better years working long days. But he smiled and laughed through every blessing and hardship as if they were one and the same. That was his gift to me.
Memories of my daddy sneak up on me at funny times. Not too long ago, my friend and Culinary Producer, Libbie Summers, gave me the best idea. She had planted some flowers in an old ski boot and placed it on her porch. It was the sweetest, most unexpected thing. It reminded her of precious times she shared with her friends and family on ski trips to Colorado. I decided to do the same. I took a rubber boot, filled it with soil and transplanted my herbs from their pots. While I was working, I got to thinking about my Daddy and how he’d leave his shoes by the door so as not to upset Momma by tracking mud into the house. Like every kid, I’d slip my tiny foot into his shoe, certain I’d never be big enough to fill it. Thinking back on those moments, I now smile to myself, knowin’ that I’ve come pretty darn close.
Daddy gave me another important gift, and it’s one I don’t plan on squandering. He was only 40 years old when he passed, younger than both my boys. But his untimely death just a couple days before Father’s Day taught me that life is too short to waste it frettin’ about the things we can’t control. We need to take time out to enjoy the people and places around us. To tend our gardens. To find joy in the little things. To laugh. And in the end—whenever it comes—we, too, will leave behind some big shoes to fill.