Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Goodnight!

Christmas was always an important part of my family. There are so many fond memories that I have of Christmas I could write a book on just that topic.

Like most kids my age, it was not the norm to get toys throughout the year. We might get something once in a while, but it was rare, and it was something very inexpensive. But at Christmas, we were always blessed with the joy of toys, clothes, and all sorts of gifts. I don't think we were spoiled, we were just fortunate to have parents that made every effort to make Christmas as special as possible. Regardless of what we got, we thought it was the greatest gift anyone could have gotten. I remember the Christmas I got my first bike, it was metallic blue. Travis and I got an Atari the Christmas before everybody in the world got one. That Christmas is an especially wonderful memory that I am so grateful for. The year before that Christmas was probably the hardest year financially that my mother and father ever went through but they still managed to make Christmas spectacular. I asked my Granny Ferrell to wake me up after Santa Claus left and about 3:30 A.M., she did! When I turned 16, I got a candy apple red, 67, fastback Mustang. That memory is so fond because my entire family hid at my house on Christmas eve to surprise me. I had the flu and I was really sick. Before I went to bed, deddy asked me to go help him do something for Travis. When I got out to our shop, my whole family turned the lights on and screamed "Merry Christmas"!. There were 2 reasons I got that car: deddy found it by luck, and he got a deal. I really had no idea and I freaked out. To even things out, Travis got a golf cart and they had a blast with that thing for the many years!

Although we did get several presents for Christmas, Travis and I were always grateful. We were taught to appreciate everything we got, no matter how big or small, and that is exactly what we have always done.

The thing about Christmas for me more than anything is that for just a little while, the world seems a little better. Sure, you see people having meltdowns while shopping, but I guess people just become stressed out. Every year, I make a point to go shopping somewhere after I have bought all of my gifts. Why do I do this? Honestly, just out of meanness! You see people shopping that look like they have not slept in 3 weeks, their clothes are wadded up, and their hair looks like it has forgotten to partner with a hairbrush. I love to see the idiots on TV every year that say "I don't start shopping until Christmas Eve!" Can you imagine some of the crap they buy! But even so, the world settles down and has some peace, quiet, and fellowship.

I always appreciate my family and friends more at Christmas. You can forgive someone a little more at Christmas. You are more grateful for just about everything at Christmas. Its just a special time of the year. I always think about how grateful I am for everything. I was born to parents that loved me, I was blessed with a brother that I am close to, I still have both grandmas, I have family and friends that I can always depend on, and I have a wonderful wife that supports me and loves me in every way. I think about deddy a lot at Christmas too. He always enjoyed the holidays so much and I appreciate that more the older I get.

It is really easy to become complacent in our lives and not appreciate what we do have. I'm not pointing the finger at anyone, because I think we all do it. I think Christmas slows us down enough to actually realize the blessings we do have. I have watched an entire industry go through a complete meltdown the last 3 years. I have seen guys that I respect file bankruptcy, switch careers, or just retire. But at the end of the day, I honestly still have so much to be grateful for.

I think Christmas reminds us of the good things in our lives. Because of a child being born in a manger, we have all been given hope. Because that baby grew into a man and gave his life for all of us, we all have an opportunity to be forgiven and ascend into Heaven. That in itself, is enough to be grateful for. So, when the evening gets quiet, and you are reflecting on the day, family, and friends....don't forget the true reason of Christmas.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year. I pray that each of you find joy through the holidays. But besides the presents, and parties, and gatherings, I hope you all find a sense of peace and appreciation for just how wonderful Christmas really is.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10 Years Gone By

You know we've seen a lot of things the last 10 years that I would like to erase from my memory. 9/11, Katrina, Middle East war, etc. But, you can't forget these tragedies. They are emblazoned in our minds to forever cause us grief.

Deddy died 10 years ago on September 13th, 2000 at 1:30 P.M. I really don't talk about it much because I prefer to think of the good times. I like to think about deddy sitting back in his chair and telling me why Nascar was so much better than basketball, or why baseball players were a lot better 25 years ago than they are now, or that if you want the absolute best Coca Cola in existence, you have to get the 6.5 oz GLASS bottle! We had conversations like that a lot and I love recalling some of them every day. I know when I started working in Raleigh selling real estate, I worked on the weekend a lot. My days off were often during the week. One Monday night we were sitting there watching TV together and he said, "How many condos did you sell this weekend 2?, 3?" He was exaggerating in a positive way hoping I had sold ONE. I said "6". He laughed and said "Nah, really did you sell a couple?" and I said...."6, I sold 6 this weekend" and he said "DAMN!! I'd say that's a pretty good weekend....can I borrow some money?" and he started laughing. But he was proud that I had finally started moving forward with my career.

I often try to think of ways I can help people. The reason I do, is because deddy did it all the time. I knew a lot of things that he did in his life, but what made me respect him even more as a good man were the things I found out he did in the years after he passed away. He was a lot more forgiving of others than I am. He always believed that a person should be given another chance if they seemed sincere.

I tell you what, he could not have been more positive when he was dealing with cancer. He had a funny way of looking at things sometimes. I remember one time he was on the golf cart and he was having a harder time steering it. Instead of becoming frustrated with his demise, he said, "ya'll need to grease this steering wheel when you get a chance, its getting harder to steer!". He had rules as time passed. Immediate family and the preachers were always welcome to visit. But when he really felt bad, he did not really want to see people that were not immediately family or really good friends. There are people I don't want to see sometimes even when I feel great. Another rule was that you better not run out of Kool-Aid or 6.5 glass bottle Coca-Colas. He told me to run to the store one time because we were low on Cokes and when I looked in the refrigerator we had a case! Our TV in the living room ran almost 24 hours a day for the year he was sick. Here is the TV schedule for that year; Nascar, ball games, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", and the Western Channel....and that's it. If another channel was on, it just so happened that there was a show he wanted to watch. He liked to watch NBA games only when Michael Jordan or Shaq were playing. He had been a Bill Elliott fan for years on the Nascar circuit. Ironically, not long before he died, Elliott won two races back to back and he had not won a race in several years. Another rule he had was that if somebody did not know where Uncle Boyd was by 5:30, you had better be on the phone finding out where he was. He loved Randy and Sammy too but he could look out the window or ride down on his golf cart and see if they were safe at home.

I think deddy knew his actual situation before anyone else did. But he didn't talk about it. He especially did not talk about it around me, Travis, or Papa Brafford. Around us, he was determined that he would live.

Although I miss my father every day. I am glad he did not see 9/11, or Katrina, or Duke win another national championship last year, which was also tragic. But I do hope he is able to know some good things; we still put up the Christmas lights, Travis' little boy Colton looks like him, we still play golf with Uncle Boyd on a regular basis, and we make "Brafford Farms" wine at Christmas to give away to our family and friends.

My father lived a life that we could all envy. He was wealthy in so many ways. He had good friends, he loved my mother, he had a good relationship with his parents, and he enjoyed being involved with the community in different ways. He made the most of whatever life offered him. I am so grateful to have had the time I did have with my father. I also firmly believe that if we all keep the faith, those of us that miss him will be able to see him again. Ten years later and I can still hear his voice in my head like I talked to him yesterday.....and that is one thing that I hope never goes away.