Wednesday, December 26, 2012
I could have been born anywhere in the world. But on December 26th, 1972, I was born in Sanford, NC. I could have had parents that didn’t care about me, but instead I was born to Christian parents that loved me unconditionally since I entered this world. I was fortunate to have all 4 grandparents alive during my childhood. Papa Cameron passed away when I was in the 8th grade and Papa Brafford passed away in 2002. I also had 3 great grand-parents that lived until I was in college. I had aunts, uncles and friends all around me for support at all times. I could have been born anywhere in the world that day, but I was born into a nurturing environment where I always knew I was loved. In 1972, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the year at 1020, the average house cost $27,500, a gallon of gas was .55, and a person made about $12,000 per year! Things have certainly changed in 40 years.
Maria’s Aunt Ellen passed away November 24th of this year. She was 97 years old! What a long life to live and a good one she did at that. I thought about many of the things she saw in her life and it’s incredible to think about. But I have also seen a lot in my life. Many people around me often say that I have one of the strangest memories of anyone they know. I will ride to Wal Mart to pick up 5 things and forget 3 of them. But I can remember finite details from my life like they happened yesterday. I can remember where Mama’s room was in the Lee County hospital when Travis was born in 1977. I can remember being in the hospital in Chapel Hill when I was 3 years old. I can remember conversations I had with Deddy that I am sure he long forgot. I can remember before I even started school, Mema Cameron sitting at the kitchen table with me while I ate Corn Flakes and holding up pictures of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, John F. Kennedy, Columbus, Eli Whitney, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington etc. and asking me who they were and what they did? By the time I started kindergarten, I knew who each historical figure was and why they were important to U.S. History. As a child, every time I was really sick, Mema and Papa Brafford would come see me and Papa would bring me an orange.
Although Mama and Deddy were broke in 1982, we were one of the first kids to get an Atari! Its odd to think that it was mid 80’s before we started to get computers in schools and they were all Apple! There is a LOT more technology in one cell phone than those computers ever had.
I’ve seen a lot of people pass away in 40 years. It’s hard for me to believe how many classmates have already passed away. I can remember Deddy’s 40th birthday party like it was yesterday. If you would have told me then that when I turned 40, he would have been passed away 12 years, I would have thought you were insane.
I’ve also accomplished a few things in 40 years. It was an honor to be elected Student Body President my senior year of high school. Looking back, the person that would have been more impressed by scholastic accomplishments than anyone would have been Papa Cameron. He always wanted Travis, Marshall, Kevin, and myself to get as much education as we could and be involved with school. I thoroughly enjoyed playing baseball and basketball growing up. Some of my fondest memories are from baseball teams during the summers from Tee Ball through High School. I was fortunate to be a member of the Triangle 3A Champions varsity baseball team. Some of the best times I ever had were playing with all of those guys. Even though I was really awesome and nobody was as good as me.
Just getting into Carolina was a life long dream of mine and I loved every second I was there. The first couple of weeks I was there, I earned the nickname “K-Rob” and to this day, I still get phone calls and emails from friends that barely know my real name. Ironically, I could not have been there at a better time for Tarheel Athletics. The football team had a really good team and we won several bowl games. The basketball team was outstanding and to be at Carolina when they won the 1993 National Championship was euphoria! To be honest, many schools in the ACC had great teams and it was often like watching an All Star game in the Dean Dome. Although I have never been a big soccer fan, the women’s soccer team at Carolina was unbelievable while I was there. In the four years, they lost ONE game and won the National Championship every year. Mia Hamm led the team and she is arguably the best women’s soccer player ever. I was appointed to Chairman of the Ticket Distribution Committee with the The Carolina Athletic Association my senior year. So, I was in charge of getting the tickets from the athletic department and getting them to the students. In return, I had great seats to every single game. The day I graduated from Carolina was honestly one of the greatest days of my life. Almost everyone in my family was there. Maria’s entire family was there. We had a BIG crowd to come watch us graduate!
We’ve all experienced challenges in the last 40 years. The economy has had its highs and lows. We’ve gone from a country that was proud of the things we produced to a country that has a large portion of our goods manufactured in other countries. We’ve seen political offices go from positions of duty to represent the people, to career positions that often represent their party or themselves. There have been multiple tragedies over the last 40 years; numerous devastating hurricanes, deadly tornados, earthquakes, and a tragic tsunami in 2004. School children all across America were watching the Space Shuttle Challenger take off on January 18th, 1986 because it was accompanied by Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher from New Hampshire. Seconds after take-off, the Challenger exploded and the nation watched in horror as the entire crew was killed. September 11, 2011 will go down in history as one of the most significant tragedies of our lifetime. We were both devastated by the act of terror and united as “one nation under God” more than we had been in many years. Tragedies are always difficult to overcome, but they often make us stronger as time moves on.
I certainly have some regrets in life. I regret that I have not accomplished more at this point in my life. I regret that I did not get additional education beyond my four year degree. My biggest regret has been the loss of certain friendships over the course of life for different reasons. Life carries all of us in different directions; people move, graduate, have children, develop different interest, grow apart or simply circumstances change. Whatever the reason, it’s sad to think about certain people that I am not as good of friends with anymore. I regret that I never learned how to play an instrument. However, that is certainly a regret that I may be able work on in the years to come.
But I tell you what, I have a lot to be grateful for and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that. I ask God for a lot in prayer, probably more than I should. But what I hope is that the second half of my life gives me an opportunity to do good things for others as they have been done for me. I hope that I am a good husband, although I will never be as neat as Maria would like me to be. I hope that I am a good Uncle not only to all of my nieces and nephews, but to everyone’s children, just like Uncle Boyd. I hope I will always be a good son to my mother, a good brother to Travis, a good grandson, a good nephew, and a good son-in-law. I hope that my Deddy knows that I have worked as hard as I could to look after my family. If I could pick one thing to do with the rest of my life, it would be to help as many people as I can around me and in my community. I would like to write a book. My life has been filled with so many stories, I think I can make that happen with some time and effort. We live in a world where money, power, and influence are the most important things to almost everyone. I’m not saying that’s right, I’m saying its just the way it is. But I learned a valuable lesson when Deddy died. He accomplished a lot in life in my opinion. He started out as a brick mason and when he passed away he was an entrepreneur. He built numerous houses and several small neighborhoods over the years, acquired a number of rental properties, and had really begun to diversify his business. However, when he died, the last thing anyone mentioned was his business accomplishments. All anyone cared about was how good of a person he was. I think at the end of one’s life, that is all that matters. I hope and pray that during the rest of my own life, I will be able to make it matter.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
My father comes to mind when I watch “Intervention”. Not because he had a vice, but because nothing was more important to him than not letting something stupid interfere with the aspects of his life that were important; Mama, Travis, me, his mother and father, his mother-in-law, his brothers and all the rest of his family. His job was never compromised in any way by an addiction. He never missed a ball game because he wanted to sit at home and drink beer. He never let his family down because he wanted to party. A party for Deddy as he grew older consisted of him, Uncle Boyd, Sammy, and Randy sitting around our garage or down at Sammy’s talking. That was the party. There is so much in this world that a person can offer, and many people do. I think we often dismiss just how important you can be to someone else. You may be the best Tee ball coach, best teacher, best Sunday school teacher, best waitress, or the best “anything” to someone for the remainder of their life. But you should also keep in mind as different situations occur, that you can also be the worst of something.
For the most part, we all want to do something in this world to make a difference. Of course, we can’t all be something that is publicly awesome, but that does not mean that what you are to the people around you is not just as important. Every one of you reading this has made a difference in this world to someone. I truly believe that if people had more regard for each other and respected each other’s differences, the world would be a much better place. I honestly think that many of our problems in society stem from judging others. Don’t get me wrong, I believe each person is entitled to an opinion, but I think we often forget that everyone else has the same entitlement.
For many of us, the idea of truly disappointing the people we love the most is a considerable fear. My mother and father could have punished me anyway they wanted when I was growing up and I could live with it. However, if I thought they were disappointed in me, it grieved me severely. I was accused one time of doing something that I didn’t do in the 8th grade. It worried me so much that it made me physically sick, even when I was admonished of the wrongdoing. I had Linda Graves in the 8th grade and I thought she was never going to like me again. She came and got me out of my first period class the next morning and talked to me in private. Even though she was standing there telling me that everything was OK and to stop worrying so much, I could not even look at her. Twenty-five years later, that moment in my life still chokes me up. On a lighter note, I also had Mrs. Ralston in the 8th grade and I could do nothing wrong according her. I could have shot a classmate with a taser gun and she would have said they deserved it. The best of what someone does with their life is remembered more than anything else. Often, the best of someone’s life varies depending on who you ask. Deddy was never a famous person, nor was he wealthy. He never held a political office, nor did he have a job that was considered “prestigious”. However, he was great to many people at a lot of things. The “Bears” or “Calvins” could not have had a better T-Ball or Little League coach 30 year ago. He was a great son dedicated to his mother and father. He was a wonderful brother and in an instant he could point out the BEST qualities in each of his brothers. He was an absolutely great friend, always there when someone was down in any way or needed advice. More than anything else, he was the best father Travis or I could have ever had. But if you asked me if one attribute was most significant of my father, it would be his compassion. He was able to forgive people as much as anyone I have ever been around. Someone could live like a deranged pirate for years and Deddy could still find good in them if they decided to turn their life around.
Twelve years ago today, September 13th, 2000, Deddy passed away at 1:30 in the afternoon. Its odd holding your father’s hand as he passes away. I used to think of it as the end of his life, but now I think of it as the beginning of his eternity. For almost all of us, we may never do one thing that makes a difference to the entire world. But you can make a difference to your family, friends, and community. For Deddy, that was the entire world.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Saturday, June 16, 2012
"Successful is the person who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; Who has gained the respect of children; Who leaves the world better than they found it; Who has never lacked appreciation for the Earth's beauty; Who never failed to look for the best in others and who always gave the best of themselves" This past week I saw a picture circulating of Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Michael Jordan. The picture clearly indicated how much more accomplished Michael Jordan was than Kobe and Lebron have been combined. We all know that Jordan is the best basketball player to ever live and when you see him in the middle of all of his trophies, its an impressive sight. It reminded me of a picture that we took of Deddy not long before he passed away. All of his awards, trophies, and honors placed around him was quite impressive. But the thing about his awards that I find most impressive is that for him, they were more than just recognition for accomplishments, they were memories of how full his life was. Deddy was voted the MVP in Baseball for Harnett County his Junior Year in High School. He won championships in T-Ball, Little League, and Junior League as he coached Travis and I for many years. About 2 months before he died, he was voted into the NC Hall of Honor for his work with the recreation department over many years. But these accomplishments only scratch the surface of my father's dedication. He used to work every day, come home, grab something to eat and off we would go. I don't know how many miles he drove over the years picking up other kids, but it had to be to the moon and back. Then he would coach all evening. For many years, he coached Travis' team and my team. Those had to be LONG days. And he didn't just coach for his two boys, he coached for all the kids that played for him over the years. He coached many of the kids so many years, I think many of them grew to see him as much more than just a coach. From time to time, I'll see someone that I played ball with and they will always mention Deddy. Not a day goes by that I do not think of my father. Although he did not live to see his 49th birthday, the life he lived during the time he was here was remarkable in many ways. I think some people get caught up in their accomplishments. It would be easy to get caught up in the idea that recognitions or awards reflect what type of person you are, but they don't. What gives awards credibility is the time, effort, and heart one puts into what they do. Deddy liked to win, and he did not like to lose, but he was satisfied with the outcome as long as he felt like everyone tried as hard as they could. There were many times when something did not turn out as I had hoped, and Deddy was always there to offer advice and encouragement. The last several years have been challenging for me in many ways. I can't tell you how much I wish I could have talked to him on many occassions. At my lowest points in life, he was always there to give me advice and help me to see a brighter day. Travis and I both had challenging times during our college years but to Deddy, failure was not an option. I contemplated taking a semester off my sophomore year at Carolina but he encouraged me to stick with it. Actually, it went more like this: "Deddy, I'm thinking of taking this semester off".....Deddy: "And do what?" Me: "I don't know, work?" Deddy: "No. Son, if you take a semester off, you might decide not to go back. You have worked your whole life for the opportunity to go to Carolina. Are you passing ONE class?" Me: "Yeah, I'm passing all of them. I'm actually doing fine but Statistics is incredibly difficult" Deddy: "Well, if you are passing all of your classes, you're not coming home. That's it." Honestly, I had felt so overwhelmed during that time that I did not know what to do. But after I had that conversation with him, I felt like a ton of rocks had been lifted from me. I don't really know why, because he basically forbid me to do what I thought I should do at the time. It was just his nature and reassurance that renewed my determination and confidence. Deddy commanded respect even though he was not forceful by nature. I think more than any awards or recognitions of achievement, what Deddy earned most in his life was respect. One of my friends was explaining to another friend one time why he understood my rationale for making every effort NOT to get into trouble. He said, "Have you seen Grizzly Adams?...Imagine him angry and on crack! That would be Robbie's Deddy if he got in trouble" I am so grateful that I had him for a father and its my prayer this Father's Day that he knows that. I hope all of you have a wonderful Father's Day. Enjoy time with your father while you can, because you never know when that opportunity will no longer exist. If you are a father, enjoy time with your children and make every effort to remind them that you will always be there for support. I had this picture framed with the "Essence of Success" under it and gave one to Travis and kept one for myself. Everytime I look at it and read it, I am reminded of just how successful Deddy was in the time he was here.