Category: family


Having three timeshares gives me the chance 3 times a year to vacate my job and my daily life and enjoy the ocean we are all drawn to.

Sometimes we must be made leave our busy and debt filled lives and escape the pressure of gettin by. Timeshares do that for me. With a timeshare, you use it or lose it. My sister Judie always rents hers out and then rents a bigger apartment/condo for her entire family and their friends. She just returned from Destin.

My Dad gave each of us (Judie, LuAnne and me) a week of timeshare some 20 years ago. He believes vacations are a necessity, not a luxury. He has convinced me he is and was right. All of my children have spent a week in Florida each summer of their lives. And they feel a sadness each time Diana and I go now as sweet Florida memories creep in to their heads.

My oldest daughter, Jessica and her family of 4 kids and husband just moved to Tennessee. It has been hard on her and her husband, but the kids love it in Tennessee. Brian, her husband, got a job in Jackson and was working before the end of their first week here and by the end of the second week, Jessica had started helping at the restaurant. When you have 4 young kids, a job gives you time away from their constant need for Momma…. and her attention. I am so proud of them as a family for moving to be near us and us to them. They had spent their entire life in the Cleveland Ohio area, where Brian calls home and all his family live. So I admire his blind faith as I did Jessica’s when she left Tennessee to go to nursing school in Ohio.

She always tries to plan to use one of my weeks in Florida but it has yet to work out for her. This morning I called her about a water leak at the Broken Spoke and have her tell the guys what to do so they can have water to open and cook with…. and all is a go…. for another day at the Spoke.

Yesterday Jessica and Ashely and Christen and all their kids, except for one, managed to get together and spend some time at “the creek” and even though a thunderstorm ran them all back home before they were ready to leave, they had a good time together – all together is something that only happened in the past on the holiday… some holidays. It made my heart calm and smile as I wrapped my mind’s eye around each one of them.

See, it’s not really the places we go, but rather the time we spend together when we get there. Time sharing is a deep and meaningful term. Time is money in a capitalist free world. We all posses time and in that way we are all created equal…. as long as we are alive…. we have equal time.

Time to do as we please, some folks find comfort in knowing what time will bring them… the hourly worker knows what his or her paycheck will be come payday…. others feel caged by the time clock and go out on their own…. like me… knowing the odds are against me, I fight with all my time and might to carve a living out of the work of my hands and mind and will to “succeed.”

Then there comes a time when you financially fail or win… or like me…. you fight the gorilla of life…. we fight it out every minute of every day…. me trying to get to the top of the tree and make sure my branch managers have plenty of bananas for their packs and on down the line.

The gorilla takes first and foremost the form of the taxman. That gorilla says give me bananas or you can’t swing in this tree…. where all the bananas are there for the picking.

Sales tax, business tax (city, county and state) liquor tax, unemployment tax, social security tax, tobacco tax (tobacco is already 1/2 taxes and then users are taxed on the tax) property tax (the only people that think my land is worth anything is the property tax assessor and I will gladly sell the county all my land at the appraised and taxed level of today) liquor insurance, property insurance, liability insurance, worker’s comp insurance…. all are required to even qualify to get in the banana tree of taxation.

I choose to go there because I like the “jungle”, the unknown, the chance of great reward.

Most folks don’t even get in the game because they are “fearful of failure”….. they never even try because of this one fear alone…..

Luckily, I left fear behind, along with my underwear, in 1973. I have been somewhat fearless ever since and I have gone and done things no human has duplicated and the list goes on…. because I choose to “fight the gorilla” instead of settling for the “known paycheck”.

This recession has been very hard on small businesses everywhere and the food business is in a war for what customers are available. Prices like 1973 for pizza, burgers and such…. nationwide.

Those of us who are still in business are in for the fight of our lives and for our way of life. The right to fight is already overpriced for many to enter the tree where the bananas hang and that affects everyone’s liberty. I am now forced to shop at big business because they have eaten all the small businesses and their bananas.

The gorilla of taxation is the size of King Kong and I am the one fool with my back foot planted in freedom and my front foot pushing forward in an effort to whip that gorilla’s ass.

Today that gorilla is sleeping while I battle the “breakdown and repair” gorilla. A major water leak, one icemaker needs repair, 2 cold tops went out from the extreme heat…. from a 5 ton a/c being declared dead…. and the gorilla roars and screams and beats his chest…..

While I try to fight the new “bank” gorilla who says…. things have changed, examiners won’t let us do that but rather you must do this… pay me now all your bananas or you get no more of mine. They have forgotten we need their help now more than ever because we worked through the recession… and it ain’t over…. “Mr Gorilla Banker”….. robbing me of my bananas ain’t gonna work out for you… for long.

My phone rings… gotta go…. its my lawyer…. time is money for a lawyer… and me.

As I choose to….. spend time sharing time with my best friend and the ocean and the sun.

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The 12th Day of Christmas

On the 12th Day of Christmas, I give to you…. a big MERRY CHRISTMAS and a list I’ve been checking twice. This list I made for myself some years ago after reading the “Tao of Willie” (great read).

My dear friend NT Clayton, departed this life in January of this year. He kinda reminds me of Willie.


Use this list as you wish, I use it while I wish… for Peace.

I love ya’ll, Jay

12 Things I try to remember and do:

1. Never pass up a chance to shut up!
2. Never be afraid to teach.
3. Find a balance between #1 and #2 and avoid large doses of both.
4. My life is connected to all things… especially me and you.
5. I am not in control, fortunately, so let things happen…. enjoy the sun rising and setting.
6. No matter what you do, be truthful.
7. Always, patience first! Feed the good wolf of my heart.
8. Happiness is now. Understanding NOW is happiness, one moment at a time, happiness is in the way we act, not in the outcome.
9. Meditate, breathe deep, sit still, relax, listen, dream, repeat. And drink lots of water.
10. Creation sets you free. Creation of love and of loving solutions fulfills your deepest instincts to be good. Your actions are your creations.
11. Learn what you already know! Tell your mind what your HEART says. Feed love, starve anger, stop war.
12. Think positive. Trust the wisdom and guidance of your heart. You can do it!

Gotta go now…. it’s Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the year.

Wow! I did it! 12 blogs in 12 days and still time left to shop for the one I love…. priceless.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The morning sky is dark with rain and gray clouds. Raba Baba is already preparing lunch at the Spoke and one of the grand kids is awake and watching cartoons. Diana has a sinus headache, and just called out from the bedroom for two Ibuprofen. So I take them to her and return to my desk in our den to write my blog.

I’ve already made coffee and let the dog out and checked my Facebook and Twitter. It seems fewer and fewer are reading these blogs and I wonder if they are worth the effort, other than my personal gain I get from writing them. And I do gain a lot, with each blog. See, I never was and still am not a ‘writer’. This is all new to me, but I enjoy this new found hobby… writing.

I don’t read as much as I should and never read fiction stuff. I can’t imagine making up a story, but I have very little trouble putting my thoughts to paper. They come from stuff I already know and remember and feel. Today I feel lots of stuff….. joy and sadness, health and hurt, pressure and no pressure, but most of all I feel loved.

Judie and Ron


Because I was loved as a child and now that I am an adult, my life requires a lot of love to be balanced. I must give it and receive it to be happy. Yesterday was a sad day for our family and for Judie’s family, so we all gathered and gave our love and comfort to Judie and Ron as they prepared to drive to Washington, DC and leave their home and usual Christmas routine to go be with Ron’s Dad and family, for the final time… while Ron’s Dad is still alive.

And we talked and hugged and discussed the situation. When dad got there, I told the group gathered that I had a feeling this was going to be a very special Christmas for their family and how fortunate they were to be together and traveling and seeing the National Christmas Tree and the state trees and our Nation’s Capital all lite up for the world to see. It reminded me how we used to travel every Christmas to Dad’s Mom’s and Dad’s Dad, very seldom having Christmas at home.

At this point in the Burnham families life, there are no grandkids, no married kids, and all the children are grown up. They were so supportive of their Dad that they would not let him go alone on this emergency trip. Ron is a big guy with a big heart and to see him crying, made me cry. I spent the entire day and on into the night with them and watched as family friends called, came by and even their minister; Helen Hamilton took time to sit with Judie and then Ron.

Drew, Cara, Judie, Ron, Barker - The Burnhams


Judie loves so many people, she is in return, loved by many people. Not having a vehicle that all the Burnhams could fit into, they were planning on taking two cars, even though they wished they could all be together in one vehicle. Dad’s wife Mickey, has a van and it is big enough for all of the Burnhams and Dad offered to see if Mickey might let them use her van for the long trip. Dad called and explained the situation to Mickey and she quickly said it would be her pleasure to let them borrow her van.

The whole family was relieved and excited to be able to travel all together, as a family, in one car. There was a collective “thank you” sighed out to Mickey and Dad for arranging a way for them all to be together.

Mickey, if you read this, I want to thank you for this act of family and kindness. Soon after the family found out they would be traveling together, their mood lightened and their hearts were warmed and they were drawn closer to Dad’s wife than ever before. And that’s a good thang. It has not been so. Things have been said, feelings hurt, and estrangement had ruled between Dad’s kids and Mickey.

Last Tuesday, we shared a Christmas dinner with LuAnne and Judie, and me, and Dad and Mickey and Jim, her son. We have not shared a meal together in a long time. That meal did not heal all wounds, but it started the healing and now this act of family will heal more past wounds.

So, on the 10th Day of Christmas I give you ….. Change.

Mickey and Jack on their wedding day


Things change, we change, times change, but love endures all change. My sisters and I faced the change of Dad having a wife that was not our Momma. We didn’t handle it as well as we wished we could and hope that someday this change would feel right to us and Dad.

I hope this is the start of the change we all need… a united family and a Dad not torn between his children and his wife.

Things change, and bad things only last a moment, because things change. And there is no better way to effect change than to love, and forgive, and be patient, and understand. We aren’t the only creatures on the planet… we are all connected. Change then affects us all… because we are all connected.

It’s like the domino effect; one change creates a long line of changes one after another. We all are products of change. We changed from a seed into caring societies, people and families – sons to Daddys, Dad to Granddaddys, and someday grandkids into parents and the chain of change goes on and on.

Change is inevitable and without it, there is no life. My life has changed many, many times and this time, this change may be my last chance to change for the better or… worse. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, only hoped for or dreaded. If we see a tomorrow, expect a change. Is there something you can change that you know you need to change… about yourself or relationships? I sense we all need some change, me especially.

I watch some folks change for the worse, especially when something goes bad in their life. I have watched family members change for the worse, some for the better and some never change cause they are already good as gold.

This Christmas things have changed. Diana still mourns the death of her brother, Ron is saddened with the impending death of his father, our family functions are rearranged, and I have lost too many good friends this year to count. Things change… but love endures and that will never change.

I love ya’ll and hope your changes are for the best and ya’ll hope for me as I continue to change. “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m gonna be a diamond someday”…. And I feel the pressure that effects that change… over time.

It’s Christmas Time, a time that changed the world. One person, with one purpose changed the world… you can too… through Him and His love for you that gives you and me that power… the power to change. The power to change ourselves and then the domino affect starts… changing the world around you …. And me.

“Got any spare change?” somebody needs it if you will give it… this I sense.

The 9th Day of Christmas

I guess you’ve noticed these blogs are getting shorter and shorter as they near the 12th day of my Christmas time. The last few days have really been fast moving at a slow pace. The hustle and bustle of Christmas has set in and blog time has been muscled out by sleep. I woke up this morning around 6:30, got up, walked around, thought of my promise to give you the 12 days, and went back to bed. I was just too tired to tackle the blog and the Facebook and the Twitter and the world; so I chose to sleep.

Now I’m up again and taking my coffee and Diana’s taking phone calls, the restaurant is open, the coffee pot is empty, and here I sit, in a prison I created for myself, by committing to a long term blog. I do this kinda thing to myself all the time and I say to myself, “I will never try to do this kinda thing again”. And then I do.

So now it’s a goal, just to finish these 12 days and when I set a goal and keep my eyes on the goal line, I usually get there. So, on the 9th day I give you…… Goals.

Football is nothing without a goal line, goal post, a goal. Life is that way with me. I have to set goals to move forward in my world. I have many goals, probably too many, and this blog may be one of the too many. But I think not. In the quest of my goal to be a good person, this blog has made me examine myself and my beliefs and habits. I guess if I was asked, “what would you like to have said about you and how would you like to be thought of you when you die?”, I would answer by saying that I hope I was a good father.

If nothing else, a good father. Being a good father is my goal and one simple gauge I use to measure my success at reaching this goal is…. How good I am at loving my children’s mother. I believe no better example can be given them, than the example shown through me loving her.

It is not to our credit or fault if our children “succeed” or excel, or fall down, and deep. As a parent, our only fault would be not to have loved each other. I love looking at my kids, now all grown, and knowing they know love. And each was raised the same, but turned out different individuals.

As a child, being a preacher’s kid, I always felt “pressure”… to be this way, do this, don’t do that, all of it seemed to much as a kid. So I didn’t want my kids to feel any of that kinda pressure, so I let them choose what sport or activity they wanted and helped them with that. And when my son decided not to play sports, I was selfishly saddened, but I supported him in his choices. Odyssey of the Mind, Skills USA National Competition… no touchdowns, but passing the goal line in his chosen dimensions and fields of interest.

my son nick... smart, kind, funny, now grown up.

nick with his momma - they have a special bond

Our rule was simple. You make all A’s and there are no rules. The child made the rules if they made all As. And they did excel. Ashley Salutatorian and National Rotary Scholar winner – her winning essay made her the first person from this part of the country to win this national scholarship. Christen played Lady Tiger Softball and was the editor of the school paper and through her love of art, was nominated for the Governor’s School of Art. She was a member of the National Art Honor Society. Jessica was on the first Tiger Motion Dance Team and was brilliant at learning and performing the routines. All different, all smart, all loved without conditions.

Ashley's Senior pic from the HCB Wall of Fame

Christen on her 19th birthday. She was in her pink hair phase. We also saw green, purple and lots of other colors.

First born daughter Jessica - I was visiting her in Ohio

And their mother? Well she was loved too. And with each passing year, I look back on our love and I see that I sure could have done better some years, at loving their mother. We have many goals, Diana and I, but the number one goal is to love each other and that fulfills a lot of other goals.

We dream of a house in Costa Rica on our mountain top… that is a goal. We dream of selling our restaurant someday and retiring to each other’s love, wherever we are. We dream of spending weeks on end at the cabin on Indian Creek…. kayaking, swimming, spending time in nature with our grandkids. And since these things are goals, I just bet we reach them. I sure hope we do. We work hard every day, doing what we can to make these goals our reality.

Nick, Boo, Max - at the creek - Indian Creek

Montana Lote - Costa Rica

I have many goals. I wish I could share all of them with you, but it would be of no use. So I ask you instead, to examine your goals and identify them and categorize them. Then put the family goals first. Is that where it already was? I sense it was so, cause I know most of the folk who will read this.

So the goal of putting out 12 blogs in 12 days and say something of me and my ideals is weighing heavy on me. You might not understand how serious words are. I do understand this and each word written is history and I want to be able to look back and read these words and feel something real, honest, and true…. so it is a challenge and a risk and revealing and imprisoning. I am captive to my commitment. And I feel the pressure of the next few days. And it’s Christmas time too. So I promise you, I will never commit to the 12 Days of Christmas blog again. This is it. And it’s got to be good and lasting. The words will never go away and I am sensitive to that fact.

You may read these blogs and think, “oh, what a good guy this is” or “this dude is so full of bull” or who really knows what you think? I only know what I think. I sense that others know these same things. Sometimes we just have to relearn what we already know. In my case, I should have known better than to commit to the 12 blogs, but 9 days ago, it seemed like the thing to do. So I said I would do it and I am and this is part of it.

I see my family react to these blogs and so I keep them in mind in nearly every writing. That is one of my goals and I can see the goal post. Christmas of today will never again be the Christmas of back then. No matter how hard we try to make Christmas like it was when “Big Daddy” Ralph Barker gathered his flock and it was absolutely the best day of the year, “Christmas Eve”. All the family and cousins and uncles and it was heaven. That’s what it was and that’s when it will be the same as it used to be… when we all get to heaven.

I can see Big Daddy, with Aunt Willie and Uncle Granville, Uncle Max, Momma and others, with all of us together again. And I can see the Christmas past when I would wake up at Momma Vera’s with my sisters and mom and dad, amazed now at my dad’s commitment of love for his mother (Momma Vera). And to know that now, it is up to me to give my family good memories of Christmas with me as PaPa and Daddy.

This year the kids are coming to our house and wait for ole Santa to show up. And Santa will come see the grand kids at Papa and Nana’s house. Little Amy Lu insists she has to be here, at our house, because we have the chimney for Santa. And Enzi asks, “But how will Santa know we are here and not at our house Papa?” It’s magic, we say, he’s watching… and then we remember when the magic was simply the love of mom and dad. Kids still love the magic of Christmas and I do too, magically different. My goal is to make this Christmas everything they dream of… that’s my dream and my goal. So off to help Santa I must go, to fill each stocking with the joys of Christmas.

me and enzi decorating the tree

lu lu and enzi decorating cookies

santa came! papa and lulu playing....

The goal of this blog began as a goal just to get it done, and have it finished. Then my thoughts reminded me how special this time is for children… my children and grandchildren and all children. My goal is to make sure my grand kids remember Christmas time at Papa Jay’s…. with joy unmatched.

I hope this blog will help you look at your goals for the future and today and may you prioritize them with family foremost, always. My goal is to help you reach your goal. Remember you are going to be a memory someday. How do you want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as a good dad and that means I must be a good husband… cause a good dad loves his children’s Momma madly, if he’s a good dad.
Diana, I love you madly and Merry Christmas my dear. I go shopping just for her every Christmas Eve and it’s still the happiest day of my year… Christmas Eve. She makes my days…. so special. I never know what I will buy her cause all the other gifts are bought first and then we see if any funds are left and I use that little bit and seek out something that might show my love the best. Whatever it is, this year it will not cost much but will mean a lot and my time looking for it is priceless. I love Christmas Eve like a kid, with anticipation of Christmas Day fluttering in my heart.

I hope your goals are in order and that you reach every one of them. And today one of my goals is reached….my blog is done…. and Diana hands me the phone and it’s Judie and she’s crying and packing to leave unexpectedly for Alexandria Virginia to be with Ron’s dad. He is dying fast and requested to see his family… so my goal now is to go comfort Ron and Judie before they depart in the early morning. Things happen… goals change, but the order of my goals stay the same….. Family First.

Pray for them if you pray, hope for them if you hope, and I will hope for you and yours … a “family first” Christmas. However it may turn out, one thing is for sure, it will someday be someone’s memory.

The Things I See…..Her Room

For years my wife has given of herself for the family and stood by her man, through thick and thin, and worked harder than me most days, always only asking for one thing. A place she could call her own. A room, or a place, no one could invade and rearrange or “bother” any of her various stuff. All of it very meaningful to her and cool to us.

She always kept our house clean and orderly, even with 4 kids and various “live-ins” and my set of drinkin buddies, which gave no time or place to herself.

I built houses for a while and we moved into one of them and we made our house on Prince Place in Savannah a little paradise for kids and friends. The little 3 bedroom ranch soon became a 4 bedroom with a double carport, paved drive, picture perfect home. I built the kids a double deck tree house out of crude materials with their help and it was very cool and the “kids place”. But Diana still dreamed of having her place; it seemed everyone else had theirs and she needed hers. She waited patiently, but never passing up a chance to remind me she “wanted her own space”.

When we moved to Alabama Street, we had lived in our Prince Place home 12 years and I lost it and everything else when I tried, but failed to make it big in Chicago. So we remodeled Diana’s “Susie Gran’s” old wood frame cottage of 3 bedrooms and short doors into a 4 bedroom, with modern “everything you want in a kitchen” kitchen with 100 year old oak cabinets we built ourselves, beautifully landscaped and blacktopped drives and still no room for Diana. She often talked of turning the outside storage room into “her room” but that never happened.

We had been taking our children to Indian Creek to swim most afternoons and weekends for years. We loved the place. It fit our style, whatever that is. So one day I bought a camp lot there, then another, then another and soon I had 3 acres and on Diana’s birthday, I bought a little cabin on poles on the bank of Indian Creek and declared it “her place”. She loved it and we spent countless hours beautifying and mowing and planting a garden and flowers and she found sanction there many days.

But this space too soon became invaded by my friends, and countless car loads of beer drinking boys and girls. Her place had been taken from her by the nature of me and my friendship circle which stretched far and wide. Soon my best friend from high school built a house beside our cabin and one of my life’s heroes, NT Clayton, bought a cabin from me and it seemed her place was no longer hers. The sanctuary was no longer a sanctuary for her.

Then we moved to Pickwick and miles removed from Olive Hill and our cabin, the daily visits to the cabin halted and my wife put her wishes for a room aside and dove 100% into operating the Broken Spoke as owner.

As the owner of The Broken Spoke, Diana had her a place: a big place and she set about to clean and decorate it. And she did and for 5 years this was her place. It was not what she had dreamed of “as her place”, but her place none the same.

When the economy went south in 2008, so did I, leaving Diana to deal with the impossibility of running the restaurant without my help. She championed painfully and most days with tears through a year that saw our business drop to half of the previous year. And it broke us financially. Running a business without money ain’t no fun, and is near impossible, but she did it.

When I got home from Costa Rica, she was near a nervous breakdown. I was gone too long and it showed on her face and in her eyes and as she hugged me home, I felt the burden, passed to me and I knew what I had to do.

I began running the restaurant and opened 7 days a week and bailed water and righted the sinking ship. We are healthy now but not making up much ground to losses we incurred for a couple of years.

And I must now heed the call from Diana to “build her a room” a place for herself and her crafts and her stuff. Her place. Her room.

So I began slowly and after 3 years of trying, the room is built in our new barn. A cypress lined, fluorescent lit, 2 window, 2 door room. Plenty of open shelving and work space, an island a friend gave her with it’s own sink, a white board and all her stuff make up this room. Now she has the space she has craved and waited for for all these years. She can leave unfinished projects strewn out and when she has a minute, she can disappear to her room and create whatever it is she is working on at the moment, without the worry of dragging it all out and putting it all back up. I’ve heard of the creation of a Tshirt quilt for the kids, a shadow box of my Papaw Ralph, and all sorts of things created out of recycled objects. Her paper decoupage crafts will be ongoing and never ending. She has millions of things cut from cards and magazines that she means to create items from. I’ve even heard talk of a new sewing machine.

If ever I saw an oak, it is in my wife’s life. She is the backbone of her own family tree and has withstood the winds of a dysfunctional family of her own. She has waited me out and thank god, for me and her, the good times for me aint what they used 2 be…most of the time. She faced a cruel business environment and walked upright head long thru it against all odds and now…….she got her room she long deserved.

My wife has made my life complete in so many ways in so many days and been such a good mother 2 her children and child 2 her parents and grand child 2 her grand parents….A down 2 earth sister 2 her siblings and a contributing citizen 2 her county. Good things come 2 those who wait…and she has finally got her good thang. Her day has finally come and her room is nearly complete. I lack a little, like hooking up the electricity, and installing her counter and shelves and flooring…well maybe more than a little, but happiness has entered her body and glows from her eyes already. Soon she will sit in her new room and create me something and something for you 2 probably.

So thank you Diana for allowing all of us 2 get the things we wanted and for ur unselfish service 2 ur family and mine and more than that, thank you for making me whole and anchoring me to this place. I am a lucky man 2 have ask for ur hand and you got a damn good deal when I said I do and I will and I am sorry it took me so long 2 give u what you asked for for so long…your room …your space…your reward. I am so happy for you and proud of your room and If you ever feel like it, come back in the house and see me sometime…..cause I love you so.

Most folks my age played outside when they were growing up; Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall……nothing but the game changed.

My 1st memories come from McKenzie, Tennessee, where my dad had moved us so he could attend Bethel College. We lived in a nice neighborhood and my across the street new playmate was Steve McAdams. He was older than me and I wanted to play the games he played, but I was 2 little at 3 years old. He was a rough and tumble type of boy with blond hair and was pretty damn mean to me. This kind of “friend” was the first in the long line of new friends I would engage throughout my younger days and my many moves.

I don’t remember much about living in McKenzie, but I do remember this much and this much is, Steve was a bully to me. Later, we became friends in college and in our professional world but in my young world, he was my first bully.

I do remember some good things and one of them is when I climbed my 1st ham radio tower, those metal triangle looking tv antennas that seemed to reach all the way up 2 Heaven. One day I heard Momma calling for me (we all played unsupervised legally) and as I made that tower sway, I hollered back from near the top, “Momma, I am up here.” Momma of course, panicked and screamed for me to get down — then, “no, no, no, stay where u r.” Fearing I would fall, she got help and I got down. I loved 2 climb things. Momma didn’t have a heart attack and later on, she used to laugh when she’d tell the story about the day she found me at the top of Red Summer’s giant tv/ham radio tower swaying, testing fate & the guide wires that held the tower in place. I got scolded pretty good when I got down and then got me one of those “now come here and give Momma a hug,” ’cause momma-hugs made everything better.

My second trip up Red’s tower a few days later took me higher up the tower which brought Daddy into the picture and he made sure that was my last 4 year old tower climb. Everything I did wrong usually ended up in well explained punishment and a final statement by Dad, “Son, you’re killin’ your Momma, and you’re gonna kill yourself if you don’t start minding.”

Well, being I couldn’t mind too good, my life was constantly in danger and I was usually scared when Daddy came home from whatever I did wrong earlier that day. One day, I learned to ride my bike in the front yard in McKenzie. And after many tries, 1 day I got it going. I was so proud as I cycled wobbly across the front yard, I looked back over my shoulder to see if Momma was still holding me up from the push that was required to get me going…..and she wasn’t there. So, I hollered, as I pedaled, “Look, Momma. I did it.” And about that time I blind-sided Steve McAdams and his buddy who were playing football in the yard next door. Of course, Steve and older boys were not real happy for me and took my moment of joy and turned it into an embarrassing, feelings hurt moment.  Once they recovered from my square in the back hit I put on Steve, Steve was not happy and angrily called me a “stupid little kid,” and he told me as I laid there hurting from the wreck to get back in my yard and to not come back.

I think that was the only time I hurt Steve McAdams, but it wasn’t the only time I wanted 2. He was the first bully I had to deal with in a long line of bullies. He’s a semi-friend now, I guess.

Dad bought a brick house from Red Summers and Red lived in his big, fine, new house that was a little closer to the highway. An entire new neighborhood was being built at that time (1958) across the street from us and I liked to play over there and get pieces of wood left from the carpenters’ cuts. I’d drag ’em home to see if Daddy would let me use his hammer so I could, “beat nails into them,” and to this day, I love driving nails.

One day, LuAnne and I were playing in the old green and brown round-bodied car Momma had in the driveway and soon, we were rolling down the driveway backwards, wide-eyed and excited. I can’t really remember if Momma came running right out or if the neighbors had to tell her, but she was excited 2, but in a different way.  I can see her running down that driveway that curved and all the way across the street to the tree that eventually stopped our little joy ride. Momma wasn’t real happy when she reached the car out of breath, but hugs came next and when Dad came home, we got in trouble and Momma kinda did 2. I remember these 2 events as my highlights of McKenzie, Tennessee, probably because Momma would tell these stories to others all my young life. I’m not really sure that I even remember, but I think I do.

I started pre-school or kindergarten in McKenzie a year early. I now know that was because Momma needed somebody else to put up with me for awhile each day. I was the typical freckle-faced, little red-headed tyrant that loved the adventures of daily life in the South. So at 3 & 4, I went to kindergarten during the day.

I remember a few other things from my 3’s and 4’s. A fond memory comes from a lady that would come visit Momma and read us books. LuAnne and I would sit on the couch on either side of her and listen to her read us the stories of Shirley Temple and such. I can still picture me sitting with my feet barely touching the cushion’s edge and LuAnne’s legs dangling over the edge, but not touching the floor. The kind, elegant lady holding the over-sized book, with glasses low on her nose, looking over them to tell me to be still. She would somehow manage to read us the whole book before I got in trouble. I don’t know who she is, but I want to thank her.

As far as some painful memories, I remember dropping a can-like tube holding plastic, red bricks on my big toe and crying and being told to hush, “It’s not that bad, Son.” I lost my first toenail soon after. It hurt. I was amazed how it turned black under the toenail and so were my, “be tough” talking parents. I also remember earaches in McKenzie and those hot eardrops it seemed you could only get from the doctor and how bad those earaches hurt. I would lie on my side with my head in Momma’s lap and she would try and comfort me by tickling my arm and my back.

I can faintly remember a Christmas there and a big rug that covered the hardwood floor of our den. The rug was made of many colors, constructed by sewn rolls of fabric, rope-like material that reminded me of those big lollipops that are made from swirls. The swirls started in the center and would go round and round and round until a giant circle was formed (8′ x 10′). And on that rug was a train set that smelled of electricity as it ran in circles nearly as big as that rug…I got to watch it run as “Daddy operated it,” on Christmas morning. I don’t know if I ever got to run that train myself but do remember I could never play with it unless Dad was around, which was seldom 2 never. I am sure I tore it up as soon as I was allowed 2 play with it. Dad was at college all day, library all nite, and traveled to preach on Sundays. I barely remember him from those days except for the times he meant for me 2 remember and those times were punishment times.

Today as I look back on my days in McKenzie, Tn and I reflect on my college days compared 2 Dad’s college days, I realize he was much “richer” than I was at that point in our lives. He bought a house while in college, had cars, wore suits, and wingtip shoes in college, and had 2 kids and a wife that didn’t work outside of the house, except in the yard.

Dad had money, but back then we didn’t know it. We lived on a strict budget and a lot of momma love. Dad had sold a new car dealership to Murray Wood in Savannah and left his hometown and his old life to become a minister. He as a sharp businessman and a good student and Momma was his disciple, doing as he said, when he said, as did I, sometimes.

One never knows what shapes their life until we look back and do some deep reflecting at an age of understanding. This, the 1st move from one town 2 another, was 2 be my life’s pattern. And with each new move and each new town, “hometown” meant nothing 2 me. Settled and familiarity and childhood friends were nonexistent and not missed at 3 and 4. Everything was new at that age and I knew Momma loved me and Daddy scared me.

It wouldn’t be long until Dad graduated Bethel, on the fast track, and we were moving to a new town, Hohenwald, TN.  I was glad to be moving away from Steve McAdams, who never liked me, but I thought he was cool, and I envied him.

His Dad would pitch ball to him and Steve could throw hard and catch good and I could not. Steve’s Dad had a fishing boat and they would go fishing and bring home fish by the boat loads and I would crawl up on the edge of the boat trailer and look over the side at all the fish flopping. He knew about rods and reels and hunting and baseball and football. I wanted to be like Steve so bad, but I was a Momma’s boy and she did her best to help me learn these things and Dad, bless his heart, tried to find an hour or so a week for me in the yard.  And he would tell me what I was doing wrong “you’re turning your head” as I would try to catch the baseball.  He would tell me “watch the ball all the way into your glove”, that was two sizes too big, and there was no way I could close it with my little hands. I never felt good after those sessions “of yard play” with Dad because in my eyes, I could see his eyes thinking, my son’s scared of the ball… and I was, because Steve McAdams could throw good and he hit me in the face with that baseball enough times I learned to turn my head as the ball sped toward it’s “intended target”, my face.

So I guess my proudest moment in McKenzie was the day I wobbled and zigzagged that too big for me bicycle (my sister’s sissy bike) joyfully across the yard, square into the back of Steve McAdams. I just wish I could have seen it as it happened… I was looking back at Momma, waving with one hand as I hammered ole Steve, for the first time causing that bully pain.

Today Steve and I talk every few years. I re-hooked up with him by accident during my “National Catfish Derby” days. He was the head of the well-established Crappiethon and as a pro-fishing guide and tournament promoter, I called him to get some tips on running a national fishing tournament.

He barely remembered me, and said, “So you finally learned to fish?” I said, “no Steve, I never was taught to fish but I learned I was no follower, but rather a leader and a doer”… and he quickly blew me off… just like in the old days…. not the kind of “blew me off” of today’s gay world… but rather the I am to good for you blow off that is timeless.

This I learned in McKenzie, “bullies suck” when u 1st met um and I didn’t meet any that really liked me. …..until I stood up 2 um or ran um over with a bicycle from behind….just sayin….Steve is a good guy…I guess. And he made me better prepared 4 the next one, showing me the recipe 4 dealing with a stronger than u bully…..hit um when they aint lookin….and learn 2 run fast. The dinner table of life serves up lessons if u can swallow the bitter truth….bullies r everywhere and they must b dealt with at any age.

 

corrections in facts…..my dad built the house we lived in McKenzie and sold it 2 red summers….and the tower I climbed belonged 2 a doctor….and the car rollin down the hill happened in Savannah at aunt Dots….my basis of Authority….my older sister LuAnne told me after a reading and my dear father Jack….who has not read one of these blogs yet…1 28 2011….I told u I wasn’t sure if I remembered these right.

Daddy once advised me when I asked, “How were we always able to go on vacation?”, knowing preaching didn’t pay very much in those days. I was trying to figure out how to take my family on a summer vacation like my dad had managed gladly to provide for me.

He answered me, “Jay, I have always considered a vacation a necessity, not a luxury.”

He went on to explain his reasoning behind this affirmation.

Dad said things in a way that made sense. And this made sense this way: Families bond and rediscover each other on vacations. The daily grind and pressure escapes no one, not even children, wives, or husbands. He said it becomes necessary to have a “planned vacation” so that all can anticipate the upcoming getaway.

We took a summer vacation every year I can remember as a child and they always included a cousin or two and a car full of kids and a trunk packed tight and right…so Dad could access the big green Coleman cooler that we ate and drank from at various picnic stops along our route of travel.

Dad was a “Ford man,” and we traveled in Galaxy 500’s and LTD’s. In my younger days with four or five kids in the backseat, I would often lie in the back window or the floor board. Mom would pack the Coleman with her signature pimento cheese and tuna salad and Colonial white bread. We had crackers and cheese in the car for the ever hungry carload and we used the “recirculate” mode on the air conditioning, circulating Marlboro Red smoke  evenly to each rider. And I was always “hot in the back” and “don’t touch me” was second only to “how much further,” as the spoken word.

Finally the kids would be told to shut up and don’t touch anybody or we were stopping and daddy would warm that ass up for you out in front of the car where the others could see how lucky they were that it was not them and instead me getting raised by a daddy and not a fraternity.

One vacation I remember as the longest “road trip” we ever took and it was a trip to San Francisco. We had Danny Phillips, my first cousin, with us and we embarked on a 3-week venture.

We left Tennessee wide-eyed and excited, covering the predetermined miles per day by starting early and reaching our motel at each spot in time for all of us to swim at the pool which was usually in the center of the parking lot of a Best Western. We would swim until dark, eat some cereal and milk and go to bed exhausted in a double room with a “rollaway” or two. I always got a rollaway bed because I was the only boy in the family.

Mom would repack the Coleman, dad would repack the trunk, and about sunrise we were en route to the next stop along the way. This road trip took us north, the first few days to Kansas City and Boot Hill, Salt Lake City, and the Salt Flats, and each city was toured as we hustled from spot to spot. I think we saw “The Sound Of Music,” at the theater in Salt Lake City and we toured the Mormon Tabernacle and still saved time for us kids to swim.

We traveled west to Pike’s Peak and Yellow Stone National Park. It was July and we were all dressed in shorts and such, but Old Faithful was a cold wait and heading up Pike’s Peak, we encountered a snow blizzard, winding up snow covered roads, that had no edge and I can still see the view from the backseat of blinding white snow and mom telling dad to be careful. That was the only time during the whole trip that we were quiet without being told. We made it up the mountain to a dude ranch for supper and such on into the night and it was cold…in July.

We made our way to San Francisco and the BIG CHURCH MEETING, that gave us cause to go there. We experienced trolley cars and I loved it. People were jumping on and jumping off and bells were ringing and I was definitely ready to do some jumping, too, but Momma made sure I didn’t as we toured China Town, the Fisherman’s Wharf, and finally a telescopic viewing of Alcatraz from afar.

We stayed in San Francisco for about a week as Daddy attended meetings, Mom would watch us swim or take us somewhere, or we often gathered with other preacher’s kids and hung out. One day, Dad took us to Candlestick Park and we watched “Say Hey Willie Mays” and felt the constant wind coming off the bay chilling my young under dressed body to the bone. The Golden Gate Bridge was the coolest thing I had seen up to that point in my life; the Arch in St. Louis was tops up until then.

The BIG CHURCH MEETING was called “General Assembly.” In the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, once a year, representatives from “Presbyteries” come together for a convention and governing issues were addressed and Mission Work was reviewed and highlighted. It was always great 2 see the other preacher’s kids we met each year at General Assembly. And it was especially cool to meet all the foreign kids from missions in Colombia and China.

We left San Francisco and drove down Hwy. 1, LuAnne says, and went through Carmel and into LA. Hwy 1 wound down the coast viewing the Pacific until we turned for Anaheim and DISNEY LAND.

Disney Land was still kinda new then and it soon replaced the Golden Gate Bridge as the coolest thing I had ever seen. The Disney World in Florida had not yet been built, so going to Disney Land was a treat for the few from my neck of the woods. While at Disney Land we were at Frontier Land and a gunfight was about to happen in the streets of this fantasy land and the for real looking cowboys shot it out. And as they did it I was only four or five feet from one of the cowboys and that gun work amazed me, so I walked up behind him, (he was the bad guy,) and took his gun out of his holster before he could stop me and pointed it at him, after I nearly dropped it from the unexpected weight of this real Colt .45 that was still smoking hot.

All went quiet in “Didney” Land; the cowboy turned and scolded me and took the gun back before Mom or Dad could grab me. Needless to say, Momma laughed and Daddy disciplined. He had to, there was 200 people watching his kid pull a gun on a cowboy. I could get into more trouble than the average boy for some reason; a reason that I’m still trying to find. All of Disney Land was awesome and I’ll never forget it.

From Anaheim, we took a southern route home, that took us through the desert and to more Best Western swimming pools and more pimento cheese sandwiches and cold whole milk. It doesn’t seem like we ever ate at a restaurant but I’m glad because “picnic table stops” that were so common through America during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s were a much better dinner table, using that old green Coleman cooler as the sandwich making counter. It was so good to get out of that car and to stretch and run and pee because we didn’t stop to pee. A lot of the concrete picnic table spots would have a well traveled path into the trees nearby. The trail lead to a big tree and ended. That was where you peed.

People, like my family, used these rest stops that would dot the major roadways of travel consistently. These “picnic table stops” are all but gone now, replaced by the once in a blue moon rest stops or state line visitor’s centers and the thousands of McDonalds of today.

The trip home took us to El Paso, Texas, to Tootsie’s house. Tootsie was Mom’s cousin and her family, the Stricklin’s owned a very successful grocery store on the Mexican border. They made tens of thousands of fresh tortilla shells daily right there in their store, and their whole family was bilingual which I thought was 4 ever cool.

We visited Tootsie, Texas style and went to a bullfight in Juarez, Mexico, touring the poor parts of town and town central. Tootsie had a daughter that was sick with leukemia, so this stop was a very important visit for Mom and I experienced my first pain that cancer would bring to me, as I couldn’t understand why, since she was so young and so strong, she couldn’t beat this disease. Cancer is stout. Jim, her son and I see each other every five or ten years now. He is so nice and is politically active and operates a huge pecan farm…extremely well.

By the time we got home, half the summer had gone. I was ready to be out of that car but today, I wish I was back in that Galaxy 500 on day one of this very trip.

We had many great vacations because they were “a necessity,” not a luxury.

And as I look back, I can now understand so clearly how necessary those family vacations were. From that point, the day I asked my dad how he did it (take us on family vacations each year) on his income, I have been able to take my family on many vacations. As I was writing this entry, Ashley, my middle child now 24, came in and I asked her, “what was your favorite vacation you have been on?”  She smiled and said, “Dad, all our vacations were great and all our camping trips and canoe trips to Indian Creek were great, because you made sure of it.” She stopped and turned her head sideways in thought and continued, “I guess, that time you took us to Gatlinburg for Christmas was the most special vacation. I really, really enjoyed that one.”  And as she was walking to fold laundry, she says, “Or maybe when just you and me went to the World Series final game in St. Louis.” And she smiled with memories as she recapped this and that about this or that vacation or another and we were both refilled with joys of that particular trip.

Dad taught me by example ….and any time I would ask. I am so glad I asked “how did you do it, Dad”, about vacations. Vacations, especially planned family vacations, are a necessity in the formula for a healthy family. As you sit at the dinner table of life tonight, ask your loved one or loved ones what their favorite vacation spent with you was and also ask them to think further back to childhood for vacation memories and watch the joy fill the room with happy faces, laughter and chatter. So I asked my buddy, Raba Baba, what was his favorite family vacation and to my wonderment he said, “My dad never took us on one…but, Mother did.” And he began telling his story, recounting the fun he and his mom had on their trips.

So Dad, I thank you for my well planned summer life and vacations and I fully endorse your Affirmation: Family vacations are not a luxury, they are a necessity. And as Dad showed me, vacations are far more fun and far less expensive if you travel with a large green Coleman cooler filled with homemade pimento cheese, tuna salad and ice cold whole milk. Believe me, a sandwich never tasted so good as it did as when it came out of that old Coleman cooler; with Mom handing out the white bread sandwiches on the roadside, with the trunk lid up, and the sun shining down on her happy face. Mom was happy because she was proud of her Man, my Dad, and they made these special moments happier…year after year.

The roadside was our dinner table, but the wide world was our plate and I was the lucky one, the son of a preacher man who had to go to the BIG CHURCH MEETING that took us all on a road trip vacation each General Assembly.

Ashley said, as she was leaving the house, “and Daddy, that trip we took to Nashville for that BIG CHURCH MEETING (General Assembly when I was a delegate), was really fun…” and she passed me and said, “all those church trips were fun. I really liked all of them.” And she leaned over and hugged my neck and thanked me.

And I swelled with a tear and went back to writing about this trip as I remembered it…then I called LuAnne, my big sister, to get my story right about the travel path to San Francisco, and of course, I had us going there the southern route and returning the northern route, and I was wrong. So after a few changes and Lu’s help, we recalled that 3-week trip of a lifetime shortly over the phone. She nearly got excited. Then I wondered how many baseball games did I miss that summer and I couldn’t remember…… But I’ll never forget that trip.

So load up the kids and tell um 2 shut up and no we r not there yet and don’t touch her…..”but daddy she is still looking at me.”……and he looked at me with them Daddy stern eyes ….and I shut up.