Corner Column

By Phil Major
Posted 12/24/20

The first time I met the man who would become my father-in-law, the word ‘trepidation’ comes to mind.


He was 6’4” and around 240 pounds and all muscle.

And I was coming to take his daughter on a date.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Corner Column


The first time I met the man who would become my father-in-law, the word ‘trepidation’ comes to mind.

The Vardases lived on a farm a mile down an unimproved county road – the kind you had to slow down or risk losing vehicle parts.

Back in those days no one else lived along that stretch off the state highway outside of tiny Sunset. Across a creek and turn into the driveway to a small brick home that fronted a 60-acre vegetable farm.

Steve was not yet 40 and still looked like he could play football (he was invited to attend an SEC school, but it was not for him so he came home).

He was 6’4” and around 240 pounds and all muscle.

And I was coming to take his daughter on a date. She had a classmate who once worked at the farm and said he was not afraid of anything except her Dad.

After I became part of the family, we were at the tractor repair shop and one of the big rear tires needed moving. I couldn’t have budged the thing an inch if my life depended on it, but he just grabbed it and tossed it out of the way.

I thought I knew what hard work was until I met Steve. There is no time clock in farming, no opening or closing time. You stopped when you were done.

Days could easily begin in semi-darkness and end well after last light, even in the summer. Meals were served when there was time.

And he was one of the best, having learned the importance of small details.

Another early memory is loading up in the old dump bed truck and driving to a nearby dairy where he would remove the year’s accumulation of dried manure to spread on his fields. He dropped a load on my vegetable garden one year, and I swear the bermuda around the edges grew twice as fast as the rest of the yard.

He grew cantaloupes so sweet one year that the inspector for the grocery chain accused him of injecting them with sugar. They had never measured sugar content that high.

There’s a reason my wife is so particular when shopping for fresh produce. She was indoctrinated with high standards at an early age.

His “seconds” were often as good as what others considered “firsts.” And we certainly ate our share with no complaints.

He loved and supported his church and the local volunteer fire department. And the Dallas Cowboys were equal targets of his support and criticism.

But most of all he loved his family, starting with the love story with his wife that lasted more than six decades. No one doubts that when she died three days before him, his big ol’ heart just broke in two and he could not bear going on without her.

His children got varying measures of unconditional love but also stern discipline, also borne out of love.

And then came grandkids, and there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do for them.

He understood that the value of generosity went well beyond dollars.

He was a jokester and a story teller and could certainly be opinionated and stubborn.

A few times when we would go out to eat with them, we would have to avoid certain restaurants. Either he refused to go back or they wouldn’t let him in. If we had the chance to pull the waitress aside at the start of the meal, we would advise her to bring the largest glass they had and leave the tea pitcher.

He may have even inherited some of his father’s Greek temperament, though I didn’t witness too much of it.

I know this week is Christmas, but it’s difficult to find that joy right now. There’s a big piece of our lives missing.

2020 won’t be over soon enough.