Monday, October 3, 2022

On Our Own…

In Memory of five Oxford Fathers – Mike McBryde, Charlie McLellan, Randy New, Chris Oxnam and I were a running crew back in 74-75-76. And we left a wide juvenile path over those two to three years. All of our parents knew each other and knew we 5 were probably up to no good. But while they could have broken up the crew anytime they wanted to…they didn’t. High School ended and we headed in 5 different directions. And as the years rolled on by four of us came back to Oxford to go to St. Peter’s, two times each. Finally Mike’s parent were the only ones left. All of them had looked after us, fed us, gotten on us when we needed it and will live in our collective memories as the adults of our Oxford youth, forever.

 Don McBryde (older) from McBryde family
Don McBryde (older) from McBryde family

So, it was with heartfelt sadness that I learned of the passing of former Ole Miss professor Dr. Donald McBryde. Don left a wide artistic path over his 23 years at Ole Miss. But to 4 Oxford guys the sadness comes because more than anything else Don McBryde was, is, and will always be…Mike’s dad.

Mike’s dad began his teaching career at The University of Mississippi as an instructor in 1960. During his tenure at Ole Miss, he served for ten years as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Speech and Theatre and from 1978-1983 as the Director of University Theatre and Professor. In ’83 Don moved to Florida and retired after teaching 16 years at Niceville High School. He spent his retirement years enjoying his grandchildren and following his passion for collecting and making knives.

 Don McBryde/Jack Cofield w/ committee, The Oxford Eagle
Don McBryde/Jack Cofield w/ committee, The Oxford Eagle

So now what? So now we’ve become them. When a man walks his father to the grave he does so as a son. When he turns to walk away he does so all alone. With Mom…it’s pure love from cradle to grave. But with Dad it’s a love that grows toward respect. Respect for the fact that he worked hard to provide for you and to hold his life, and yours, together. Respect for the life lessons he taught. When you remember Momma you think of her cooking, of Christmases past, the little birthday parties, her smile, the happiness you felt when you spotted her walking toward you, waving and smiling, to take you home from summer camp. But with Dad you remember his words, his voice, his eyes, when he gave advice, man to man.

Remembering when we knew it was time to no longer hide a mistake, like children, from our fathers, but rather going to them for their words, their voices, their eyes. At some point later you realize too that Dad did certain things at the right moments, knowing that you’d remember him in that moment after he was gone. Jack did it with us and Don did it with Mike.  I was with Dad in those last few weeks when the end came. Mike was with Don in his last few weeks and I know the feeling he felt. And for that I hurt for Mike…and Charlie, Randy and Chris.

Don McBryde teacher, Photo by Fox, Oxford Eagle
Don McBryde teacher, Photo by Fox, Oxford Eagle

So now we have to be them. I don’t know if we can fill their shoes. I guess Don McBryde, Dowey New, Gene Oxnam and Ernest McLellan…and Jack Cofield, wondered the same when they walked away from their father’s graves. But they did it, and did it so well.

When I was a kid I asked Dad once if he was afraid to die. He thought for a minute and said, “No son, but it breaks my heart to think that one day my children will pass away.” And so I hang onto his words. Mike I know it’s a strange, lonesome feeling. Like no other. But I know you too have a mind full of Don’s words, advice, memories and love and a respect for the man…that can never die.

-John Cofield

**Charlie McLellan passed away before the writing of this story

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