WNC Travel Guide

My dad’s been dead about 15 years now, and there’s still no fuzzy, larger-than-life, exaggerated memories that pop into my head when I remember him. As Father’s Day looms, I think of Lawrence McKinley McLeod as a man who created his own opportunities, a man with many strengths and many weaknesses, someone full of contradictions. 

He was born in Cheraw, South Carolina, a town that could have come out of Erskine Caldwell’s 1932 novel Tobacco Road or the mill-town movie “Norma Rae,” or perhaps a mix of the two. The son of a mill foreman from Robeson County and his half-Catawba Indian bride, Dad was born in 1929 and was the oldest of seven.

I should have been ready for it, but I wasn’t. My daughter’s sixteenth birthday couldn’t have come as a shock to me, and yet it did. I have had all these years to prepare for this day, but I am not sure there is any way that you can really prepare for it, that day when your child places one foot squarely into the swampy chaos of adulthood, with the other foot all too soon to follow. Because, brothers and sisters, once they get their driver’s license, it’s the beginning of the end.

When you’re a kid, there’s something magical about hotel pools. 

I’ve written before about growing up in a dance studio. Some of my fondest memories of dance competitions and conventions are the hours spent splashing and laughing in the hotel pool after all the formal events were over.

It must have been a mom who coined the adage “time flies.” I swear it feels like last week when I was a seventh-grade teacher having contractions in the Waynesville Middle School cafeteria and barely making it to the hospital before my water broke.

The roaring of the plane engine shook me awake.

Coasting into the skies over Newark, New Jersey, the flight was headed to Knoxville, then it was another hour-and-a-half car ride back to Waynesville. It had been a long week, and an even longer year, as I sipped my screwdriver and got lost in my thoughts.

I’ve tried hard to keep grief out of my columns lately. There’s only so much melancholy and broken-heartedness readers can take when reading the weekly paper over a cup of coffee. But with this Sunday being Mother’s Day, I couldn’t help but write a little about my own mom today.

“The ONLY thing is, we don’t have to go all the way to Adam’s Creek,” my wife Lori said. We had just shut down the motor after passing the last marker leading out of Broad Creek and into the Pamlico Sound. The sails were up and closely hauled as we headed into a 10-knot wind.

As all successful couples understand, the key to happiness is mastering the art of communication. When facing a Big Decision — like whether or not to foster shelter dogs, for example — the successful couple will sit down with flexible minds and full hearts, outlining all of the issues in neat and revealing columns, so that each point can be thoughtfully and compassionately considered and, if necessary, debated until compromises can be forged and a decision is reached.

Ever since I left for college and began talking to my dad on the phone regularly, he’s answered my call with “Hello, darlin’.” I’ll never tire of hearing his deep voice say those two words. Conway Twitty isn’t the only country singer I grew up knowing intimately. In my childhood home on Village Court in Weaverville, we had an antique RCA Victrola (floor model). You walked in the front door, up a flight of stairs and it was right there. I can still see it clearly in my mind.

It’s not my proudest accolade, but I spent a significant portion of my childhood in a pageant dress. 

The doctors told my parents they were infertile, so when they surprisingly had two little girls after 13 years of marriage, they were ecstatic to say the least. My mom was an only child and lived a rather sheltered childhood. My grandmother suffered from mental health issues, so my grandfather did the best he could to offer my mom opportunities, but he was protective of his daughter and also quite frugal, so her participation in extracurricular activities was minimal.

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