Best of Grizzard - Soft Spot

  • Tuesday, May 14, 2024
  • Jerry Summers

The following early Father’s Day message is not based on one of Lewis Grizzard’s (LG) (1947-1994) 25 best-selling books or hundreds of published articles in 475 syndicated newspapers during his short lifetime.

LG abandoned his beloved South and spent three long winters in Chicago as sports editor of the Chicago Sun Times.

His experiences during that period are fully documented in book number 13, “If I Ever Get Back To Georgia, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground” (1990- Villard Books).

The Chicago Tribune published an article on Oct. 16, 1986, that was updated on Aug. 9, 2021, “The Soft Spot In a Son of A Gun’s Heart” and is based on his eighth book “My Daddy Was a Pistol and I’m a Son of a Gun” (1986- Villard Books). LG tells the good and bad parts of his father who was a WWII and Korean War hero, alcoholic, conman, etc, who by the revelation of the accomplishments and shortcomings of his dad tell an all too familiar story of military veterans of those conflicts, and others, in the defense of America.

Battle fatigue, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or nightmare ghosts of their military service are also frequently permanent.

No identifiable author is credited but the source is allegedly based on an interview of LG or an excerpt from one of his stand up comedy routines:

“Lewis Grizzard tells a story about his father:

It seems that the elder Grizzard was visiting his brother and sister-in-law at their home in Georgia. The sister-in-law, known as Aunt Chilly-Willy because of her affection for Chihuahuas, wasn't much for banks. Didn't trust 'em. Instead, she kept her money hidden all over the house.

"She had $4,000 hidden in a stove pipe, and had the stove pipe covered with a sombrero," Grizzard relates. "Not only did my daddy find the money, but he left the house wearing the hat."

Grizzard pauses as if waiting for a rim shot or at least a chuckle. The fact that he has just admitted that his father was a thief who stole from his kin doesn't seem to register. Grizzard has offered the tale by way of explaining what a clever, funny guy his father was.

That is the way he deals with the sad facts of his life. If his daddy was both an entertaining, lovable playmate and an alcoholic swindler, Grizzard would prefer to dwell on the more affable qualities.

"I'm not saying what he did was right," said Grizzard, a syndicated newspaper columnist, stand-up comic and author, whose eighth book is a bittersweet account of a son coming to grips with a broken home. I'm not saying he's the greatest person who ever lived. But he was, by God, a colorful individual, a character. He always reminded me of Robert Preston in 'The Music Man." 

So if the elder Grizzard was a con man, he was a charming con man. If he abandoned his wife and son, he at least returned from time to time and showed the boy a good time. And if, in the end, everyone but his son gave up on him, it was only because they were too short-sighted to recognize him for what he was, a great warrior ruined by combat.”

(Happy early Father’s Day 2024!)

* * *

You can reach Jerry Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com

Jerry Summers
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