“Promise me Jay, you won’t never do no heroin, Momma once told me at the breakfast table in Jackson, TN, after she had found a bag of pot in my blue jeans.

I happened to be staying briefly with my parents in 1974 after I had been released from the Milan Hospital. I had driven myself 2 the Emergency Room in the pouring rain at 2am from Martin, TN because of a 2 day crying headache. I could no longer bare to stay awake with the pain any longer.

I called my friend and Doctor, Dr. Phil Williams and told him my problem, best I could, and he happily advised me, from his bedside phone that he could answer in his sleep. “Jay, be careful, but drive on in 2 the Emergency Room and they will call me when you get here.” Dr. Phil was always there for me, and I ain’t talking about the TV Dr. Phil, I’m talking about a little man with a giant heart, a pocket-full of wisdom, a soul full of joy, and a wife and family that kept a smile on his hair a muss, glasses wearing, over sized head. And he would chuckle a distinctive sentence breaking laugh as he told his patients and friends this and that.

I had been living in Martin for about a year, having graduated Milan High in 1973, acting like I was going to college. Being a preacher’s son and still very young (17) going off to college was a giant leap for Jayboy, one I embraced fondly after a couple of lonely “I want to come home Momma” weeks. Momma and Dad had set my dorm room up with a little fridge, stocked with homemade stew, peanut butter and jelly and other foods 2 supplement my “meal ticket” hunger. It was important 2 her that I “eat right”, or in other words – stay healthy.

I was a healthy young teen, and would have been considered a “jock” because I loved sports and attempted 2 play all sports offered in Milan. I guess I was best at baseball, but I loved football the most. I dreamed of quarterbacking and winning, jumping up and down in celebration with my team mates.

I enjoyed those dreams and enjoyed the times I experienced touchdowns and victories, honor and trophies, track meets and pole vaulting, but my football high school dream came to an end one day.

Momma answered our phone my freshman year and on the other line was our old friend from Hohenwald, TN, Mrs. Nancy Tucker, wife to John Tucker and mother to Johnny Tucker, giving Momma the good news of their upcoming move to Milan. She joyfully yells out to me, while still on the phone, “Jay, the Tuckers are moving to Milan and John is going to be your new coach.” Expecting a happy response from me, I immediately asked, “What grade is Johnny in?” I had played with Johnny since I was in the 1st grade and he was in the second, uncounted backyard football games, never winning any.

I immediately saw my dreams of quarterbacking my high school team; turn into a lifelong nightmare, of what might have beens. She answered back, after asking Miss Nancy, “He’s a freshman, like you.” I said, “You sure? He’s a year older than me.” “Yes honey, I am sure.” She said and returned to visit with Miss Nancy, expressing her joy of their reunion.

Johnny was a great athlete and a good guy. And he went on to lead Milan to a state title in 1972 and played college ball at UTM. I don’t think he lost but 2 high school football games and tied one.

I quit the football team in 1972 so I was not part of that State Championship team, but rather watched the Bulldogs from horseback with my friend Marty Irby. We had discovered cowboying during the summer of 1972 when my Granddad gave us a couple of horses after a phone call to Pappaw from me while I was working at the Milan Golf and Country Club pool.

Knowing Johnny Tucker was a quarterback, and his Dad was the coach, and after trying to enjoy football from the bench, my soul was deeply wounded and I dealt with it by quitting football and focusing on women and partying. I got real good at partying and very skilled at sex. I was in a competition and I was gonna be the star, finally. Stars shine bright but they also burn out and can only be seen at nite. Well, this star was hurting the ones that loved me, as I defiantly showed them what I was.

I was a hippie. I found a life that suited my style. But it worried my Momma 2 no end.

So on this day in Jackson, some time after leaving a week long stay in the hospital with a blood count that resembled leukemia, and bone marrow and liver damage, Momma was cooking me a “sausage burger” for my work lunch at E.L. Bruce Lumber Co. and out of the blue she said, “Jay, promise me, you won’t do none of that heroin.” And I assured her I would never and hugged her as she cried and cooked.

While at the hospital, and after many tests, Dr. Phil came in, shut the door, looked over his glasses at me and said like a father would, “Jay, I love you and you’re probably gonna be alright, but you are killing your Mother. Now I want you to wise up and take better care of yourself or you’re gonna kill her.” When Dr Phil told me stuff it stuck better than anyone else’s words in my world, except Momma’s. So I put these two pieces of concern together and ran my life using them 2 this day.

1. Don’t do no heroin.
2. Take better care of yourself

These two things saved my life. I didn’t quit hurting Momma, because I continued to be hippie like but I did get healthy and I didn’t do no heroin.

There is no hiding who I am, who I was, and who I wanted 2 be. But there is 2day and there is still Jay.

And there are my memories of Dr. Phil and his way with good advice and humor, and his energy. If I have ever met a better man, I didn’t realize it. If I ever meet my new dreams of what I wanna be, my family will be a shining example to all of how great life can be by just being family. Miss Barbara, Herbert and all the Williams – thank you for showing me as a child how to be a parent, and what family is, and how charity and pure hearts form a family of love and happiness.

And Dr Phil, thanks for the times you cared for me in your doctor’s office and in your home, and in my life. Each Christmas, I think of the Williams’ for a picture of how Christmas can be and I see that Big Fat Cedar Tree Dr. Phil, then Herbert would cut down and put in the den and all of us, yes us, would play cards or shoot pool and laugh and live. Dr. Phil Williams is gone but I will never forget him because he lives in my dreams as the man I want 2 be like. And I have taken better care of myself since.

Momma and Dr. Phil passed before their time and they died within months of each other. They are probably playin some bridge and laughing at us down here fretin over this and that; while often missing things that matter most in this life and in the after life…. The love of family and friends.

Every family has problems, my family is no exception, but at this time of the year I pray and hope for u and ur family 2 find each other again with joy and forgiveness, so that we can be examples to others and especially our children of how to b family, like my dear friends the Williams.

And like Momma said, I say to my kids and u, “Promise me, you won’t do none of that heroin” and like Dr Phil said “take better care of yourself, so you’ll be around for your family for a long, long time”, or until you run up on a disease you can’t beat; like Momma and Dr. Phil did.

I can see um now, gathering at Barbara’s house with all her kids now grown with large families of their own, and kids are running everywhere, card games going in two rooms, pool being played in the room out back, and Barbara smiling and giggling, and probably painting materials put away because this is Christmas and I dream of those days still and no longer do I dwell on my lost dreams but rather on the victory of the moment and the joy of family.

And when I’m dead and gone they will at least be able 2 say, “Well, at least, he didn’t do no heroin.”  And I hope I have been a good Dad, husband and friend. This is my dream for you also, and may you outlive your parents and may they themselves have  long, long beautiful life’s.

So take better care of yourself – you are some body’s hero – just like me. And remember 2 say this at least once,

“Now kids, promise me, you won’t never do none of that heroin (oxycontin)…. Anymore…and take better care of yourselves…so you can enjoy Christmas… family style.”   Merry Christmas and I love u ….all.