Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Halfway Through Life

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

That's What Christmas Is All About Charlie Brown

I love this time of the year. I always have. However, the way I look at Christmas has changed a lot since I was a kid. Travis and I used to get up by at least 3:00 A.M. and we would not go back to sleep until the next night. We were always grateful for what we got and still have many of the toys we had growing up. As we got older, the “toys” we wanted got bigger. Both of us owe Mama and Deddy a LOT of gratitude for always making our Christmas so wonderful. Well, I was always good so Santa Claus rewarded me justly. However, Travis was always bad but he still got just as much as I did or more! I still truly enjoy the Christmas programs that come on. “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” to me is honestly the greatest cartoon ever made. I think we need Linus to go to a lot of places and straighten everyone out with his monologue. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Story,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” etc. never grow old to me. I enjoy hearing Spring Hill’s cantata every year. I often watch Christmas concerts on TV believe it or not. I like to watch bits of the parades that come on TV. I love to see the Christmas decorations all over the place from people’s homes, to towns, to the malls. As I have traveled the country during the holidays the last couple of years, I have seen some awesome decorations. One thing I have really missed the last few years with all of my traveling has been putting up all the Christmas with Travis. I hope to get back to that one day. As I have grown older, my view of Christmas has evolved. I honestly just enjoy being around family and friends. I enjoy giving people gifts. It disappoints me when I can’t think of something awesome to get somebody. But as life grows longer, it’s harder to get someone an awesome gift every year. Now we have a niece and 2 nephews to get things for. It’s a great feeling to give a child a gift that they like. For my entire life, we have gone to Mema Cameron’s on Christmas Eve and Mema Brafford’s on Christmas morning. After Maria and I were married, we started going to Mr. and Mrs. Stewarts on Christmas Eve too. Those memories will be treasured forever. The years have gone by, both Papa’s have passed away, Deddy is no longer with us and Mr. and Mrs. Stewart both passed away. However, their memories live on and I believe the fact that we continue to get together honors their memories. I’ll never forget the last Christmas Deddy was with us. I did not give it enough thought but I never imagined he would not be here the next Christmas. Travis and I gave him a “Lionel” Train to put up in his office. Things happened so fast that year he never got the train up. We’ve never opened the box. The Christmas before he was sick, he had the first 2 rings that Mama ever gave him resized; the first one to fit me and the second to fit Travis. It was a wonderful gesture that means more to me the older I get. Christmas gives us a time to relax and reflect on the year. I love the fact that for a few days, most of the world takes a deep breath and pauses for while. Although there are a lot of bad things going on in the world on a daily basis, we all have a lot to be grateful for. Everyone should make a point to spend time with loved ones during Christmas. You just never know from one year to the next who will still be here. Friday night, we had the party of the year…”Uncle Boyd’s Christmas Party”. I start getting asked about this party usually in September. As the years have passed, the crowd may have changed slightly, but the core remains the same. A night to fellowship, playing some cards, a little ping pong, some darts, and hear about how awesome the Benhaven Bulldogs were years ago. Ironically, Uncle Boyd was made an honorary member of the Boone Trail Pioneer Club and presented with a coonskin hat! The part of Christmas that I love the most is the recount of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is truly the greatest story to ever occur and we should all be grateful that it did. If you haven’t read Luke 2; 1-14, I would encourage you to do that in the very near future. If you’re already read it, read it again. As I wrap up my Christmas blog, I would remind you all to say MANY prayers for the Sandy Hook community in Newton, Connecticut. That is a tragedy of epic proportions and it’s a whole other topic altogether. That town will never be the same but we can continue to pray for healing during such a tragically difficult time. I would like wish all of you and your families a wonderful and Very Merry Christmas. I pray that you are all blessed with peace and serenity during the Christmas season. And remember….“Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace, good will toward men.”……That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.