The Subtle Sweetness of 'Pig Candy'

Author Lise Funderburg's trip to Georgia, away from the familiarities of the North and closer to her father.

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candy

-BOOK EXCERPT

By Lise Funderburg

Copyright © 2008. Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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In March of 2004, just when the urge to rake out garden beds and plant summer bulbs is too strong to resist, despite the possibility—the near certainty—that snow will come again to Philadelphia, I pick up my father and his wife and head south.

We drive from their suburban retirement community to Philadelphia International Airport, then fly to Georgia, them in business class, me in coach. In Atlanta, we rent a car and aim for Monticello, a small town surrounded by small towns: Zebulon and Sparta, Musella and Smarr. This is Monti-sello, not -chello, seat of Jasper County, home to the fighting Hurricanes, one-time buckle on the Georgia peach-growing belt, birthplace of my father, and the town he shunned for decades, until 20 years ago when he gave in to a childhood dream and bought a farm a few miles from Monticello's town square.

 

Across the seat of our full-sized sedan, I see my father, George Newton Funderburg, grow more energetic with each mile. He looks out the passenger-side window as big-box malls trickle away, replaced by pine forest and signs for barbecue. My father is a handsome man. I tend to look at him through a lens in which surface and shape hardly register, except as conveyers of emotion, but I can see that at 77, he has barely a crease in his skin, much less a wrinkle. He is still in the vicinity of his peak height, 5 feet 11 inches, and his close-cropped hair, never grown long enough to complete a kink, is slightly more salt than pepper. His face and body are well-proportioned, except for the large-belly/no-posterior dilemma that plagues many men after a certain age, and his gray-blue eyes and meticulously flossed, brushed and later-life-orthodonticized teeth sparkle with charm and good humor when the spirit moves him. Down here, most people look at his skin, the color of faded parchment, and call it "high yellow." Up north, most people assume he's white.