Monday, December 7, 2015

The Sword of Brenda

When we were growing up, one of the recurring themes Travis and I heard from our mother was that she would NEVER tolerate either of us beating on a girlfriend or a wife. No matter how old we were, she would not allow us to cause a woman emotional or physical abuse. If we ever did make such a ridiculous error in judgment, we would suffer at the hands of “the sword.”

Travis and I heard the story of “the sword” many times in our lives. I don’t know why because neither of us ever gave any indication that we would be abusive. But the story would always surface when Mama would hear a story of someone being in an abusive relationship. Mama is truly one of greatest story tellers that I have had the fortune of being around during my life. I just had a feeling that many of you would enjoy “The Sword of Brenda.”

So the subject would generally become the topic of conversation when someone that we knew or being covered in the news had a physical confrontation. Mama would go into the “lesson” that we heard many times. She would start out by explaining how wrong it was for a man to beat a woman as a show of force. She felt that if a relationship ever got to that point, a couple either needed counseling or the relationship had run its course. Then she would explain… “If either one of you boys ever decide to hit on your girlfriend or wife, do you want to know what I’m going to do? Do you?” Now, considering we were never like that anyway, we really didn’t need to hear what she would do but it was not optional to listen to what her reaction would be.

So, she would continue as only Mama could…. “I’m going to get a sword. A big, long, super sharp sword.” With this explanation she would spread her arms apart as far as she could to reinforce just how long this sword would be. “It will be a sword from a great Samurai warrior who did NOT beat on his wife.” Because, a sword from a Samurai warrior that DID beat on his wife I guess would not be worth a damn! “And I’m going to hold it over my head like this” as she held the imaginary 8 foot long, razor sharp sword HIGH over her head.

“Then when you walk in, I’m going to ask you how your day has been.” As if we would not be suspicious of our mother holding a sword over her head, but ok. “Then I’m going ask you if hitting on a woman makes you feel good.” With this, she would stretch her arms as high as she could get them. “AND THEN, in one single swoop,” as she sliced through the air with her imaginary sword, “I’m going to cut your ‘nunads’ right off!” Trust me, no man alive likes the thought of a sword cutting off that part of his body. We would always cringe at the thought, but if you think the story is over, think again.

So she would continue…. “Then you know what I’m going to do?” I mean really, at this point, we got the message. “I’m going to take your nunads and ROLL THEM IN GLUE! Then you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to roll them in glitter!” So have you figured out by now, that our mother had her own way of making a point to Travis and myself? “THEN, I’m going to attach some SILVER hooks to them and make EARRINGS out of them!”

Ok, so how terrible is that thought, really? Apparently, not terrible enough. “Then I’m going to wear them at Christmas!” So now she is walking around the living room as if she is strolling through the mall. “Then, I’m going to see somebody I know and they are going to tell me that they LOVE my earrings!” Her imaginary reaction to the question would be one of DELIGHT and she would respond… “Oh, theeeesssee earrings?!” As she would swing her head back and forth. “Well, my son decided he was TOUGH, he was manly! A pure badass that decided he could beat on his girlfriend! SO, I cut off his nunads and made Christmas earrings out of them!” Was the imaginary person shocked in this rendition? Appalled? Mortified?, of course not. “Oh Brenda, I LOVE them! I bet your son understands not to do that anymore, don’t he!?” and Mama would respond, “Why yes, I believe he does.” She would always end “the sword” with “And I’ll do it too!” I guess just to make sure that we did not doubt her anger if that situation ever occurred.

Needless to say, that has never been a problem, but we always knew where our Mama stood on the issue. OJ Simpson needs to thank the Lord above that Mama was not allowed to determine his punishment.

As many of you already know, Mama was diagnosed with cancer in September. We have been through this with Deddy, who passed away 15 years ago. It has certainly been a difficult time. The toll of chemotherapy and radiation has been challenging, tiring, and exhaustive. Emotionally for my mother, it has been overwhelming. But her prognosis is very encouraging and the medical team helping her, have been great. They have told her continuously that in her specific situation, they can “cure” her. As a family, we really do have a lot to be grateful for. I would encourage all of you to take the time this Christmas season to thank God in prayer for whatever blessings you do have. It’s so easy to let the challenges of life overwhelm you and become the only aspect you focus on. But, if you take a deep breath and give life some patient thought, we ALL have things to be grateful for. I have a lot to be grateful for, but this Christmas season, I am truly grateful for my mother and I hope she gets back to wielding her sword in the near future……..just not at me!

Sunday, September 13, 2015


No matter how much money you have, how powerful you become, or how popular you are, respect is something that can only be achieved on merit. It is not something that can be bought or granted.

My father was a person of great respect. He respected his mother and father, his brothers, his wife, his children, and his friends. He also respected people he did not really know just because that was the way he was. He respected authority such as law enforcement. He always respected laws and rules. Because of the respect he gave to the world, he earned an incredible amount of respect for himself.

He felt a significant affinity towards all three of his brothers. He loved each one of them, accepted their differences, and wanted to see all of them do well in life. So I decided to ask each of them what they respected the most about my father.

Randy said he was just simply a good man. He was never selfish and gave of himself anytime he could. He admired the way Deddy loved life in general and didn’t let adversity make him bitter or negative. But the aspect about my father that he respected the most was his love for his family. It was genuine, sincere, and without judgment.

Sammy said that he respected his generosity as much as anything. He recalled that every year, Deddy put together bags of fruit, nuts, and a small gift and gave them out to the elderly people in the neighborhood. He didn’t do this to win an award. He didn’t do to be recognized. He did it because he thought it was the right thing to do at Christmas for people he had known most of his life. A lot of people that still recall him delivering those bags at Christmas and without him realizing it, I believe it was one of his greatest acts of generosity.

Uncle Boyd respected him for the fact that Deddy loved him so much. If you know Uncle Boyd, he can give you absolute hell by picking on you about anything. He told me that if he had been Deddy, he would not have put up with some of his OWN joking and picking! But he said Deddy just took it in stride and would usually have a sharp comeback. Uncle Boyd really respected the fact that he was genuinely just a good person and always considered what was the right thing to do in all situations.

They all recalled a year when a family had their house to burn down just a few weeks before Christmas. Well, Deddy called a bunch of people and briefly explained the situation, then TOLD them the amount they would be donating. Then he sent Mama shopping and a family that was in crisis was able to enjoy Christmas that year.

I know growing up, my cousins and even many of my friends respected Deddy as much or more than they did their own parents. I have a friend named Anthony McPhaul that I played baseball with in high school and now he works at the Dairy Bar. He did not know Deddy that good but has told me how much he respected him because he felt like he looked at him as “just one of the guys on the baseball team” and treated him like he did everybody else. Jason McPherson respected Deddy probably almost as much as I did.

One night I was at David O’Quinn’s house and we were debating doing something we shouldn’t do. I don’t recall what it was, but it was probably something simple like “robbing a bank.” Anyway, I was reluctant to go along with the idea and noted, “If we got caught, my Deddy would kill me.” David’s buddy chuckled and was like, “so, you’re scared of your Dad?” David immediately responded with, “Troy, do you know who Grizzly Adams is?.....well, imagine him on crack cocaine and angry….that would be Robbie’s Deddy mad.” Troy immediately understood the analogy and we just played basketball.

It is hard to describe how much Travis and I respected our father. He never let us down in any capacity. He didn’t give up on us when we failed and he did whatever he had to do to be a provider for our family even during very hard times. He respected our mother and he loved her unconditionally. He did whatever he could for his own Mother and Father and made sure that his mother-in-law was also taken care of.

I don’t think I had an actual idea of just how many responsibilities Deddy had until he passed away and much of that responsibility was passed off to me by default. I can assure you, as easy as Deddy made it look, it was overwhelming. I respect him more today than I ever have.

The generosity my father exhibited in his lifetime was truly admirable. He gave of himself without really giving it much thought. The little things he did are the things people remember the most. He used to take Mama and Mildred to the mall on Saturday nights sometimes and would just sit and wait for them to shop. I know a lot of men who would not do that on a regular basis. Maria recalled during hurricane Fran that we got our power back before her family did. So, Mama and Deddy immediately took our generator over to their house to use. Instead of enjoying a cool house and getting things back to normal at home, they thought of another family and reacted immediately.

I don’t question God’s decisions. I know He is right whether I like it or not. But I think about my father passing away at 48 and I can’t help but think that he had a lot of good left to do in a world that seems to get worse by the day. But, although I miss him and regret he is no longer here, I’ve accepted it. I’ve also considered that maybe its possible that he had done all the Lord wanted him to do in 48 years and it was time to move on. Either way, I know his family and friends still miss him. If the world would make more of an effort to earn the respect of each other in all regards, I certainly think there would be a lot less “bad news” to report all of the time. When you really do think about it, MOST of the terrible things happening all over the world are very simply because people do not have respect for each other. Ironically, one of Deddy’s best attributes was that he respected people for who they were, even when it meant accepting differences. I think that is probably the reason so many people respected HIM as much as they did. It’s been 15 years since he passed away and people still talk to me about how much they miss him, how much they would love to see him again, and how much they truly loved him as a man. For him to have left such an impression on so many people is truly indicative of how respected he really was.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Colossians 3:13 NIV

I learned a lot from my father during his lifetime. The older I get, the more I realize how truly wise he was about life. He taught me to work hard. He never misled me to believe that life would always come easy. It was the opposite, anything worth having or accomplishing will usually take a lot of hard word and effort. Giving up and quitting would lead to failure 100% of the time.

Deddy taught me patience. We all want, what we want, when we want it. Life does not happen like that. Determination and persistence are keys to reaching goals in life. He was very patient when it came to his friends, his family, Mama, Travis and I.

My father did a lot of good things in his life that he did from his heart and not to earn credit or praise. He always honored his mother and father. He was quick to recognize the best qualities of all 3 of his brothers. He would always help a friend any way he could. He loved my mother and he loved me and Travis.

But the most significant aspect of life I learned from my father was forgiveness. Honestly, I am STILL working on that. Deddy would forgive somebody over and over again. I could never understand it. But it was just simple and normal to him. His ability to forgive others was one of his best attributes. I saw him forgive people time and again in situations that most people would not have offered a second chance. I think Deddy believed that no matter what, there was good in most people and they deserved the opportunity to try to make better decisions.

When he had cancer and knew he was dying, although he was concerned, his own demise was not what concerned him the most. What he worried about was his mother and father, Mama, me and Travis, his mother-in-law and his brothers. It was unreal how much my father did for so many people. I did not realize just how much of a void he was going to leave behind when he passed away.

In wake of the tragedy in Charleston this week, I was thinking about another experience my family had that was much more positive. We were invited to a church in Burgaw, N.C. to meet with a prayer group to pray for my father. And guess what? was a black church! We were greeted warmly, treated with complete respect, and made to feel totally welcome. That night, the group prayed for Deddy with everything they had. Now, let me just tell all of you something, these people didn’t just say reverent, quiet prayers. Oh no, they were absolutely “getting down” with prayers. It was really a moving experience that my family was truly grateful for. I recall one lady hugging me when we left and she said, “Don’t worry, your Deddy will be healed!” I don’t think I realized at the time that she meant, “one way or another”, but the truth is, she was right.

I don’t have any idea as to what our loved ones can see when they pass away. I know that many people have various opinions but nobody really knows. I would like to know that Deddy can see some of the good things in the world. I would like to know that he can see his family and his friends having good times together. I would like to know that he can see Colt playing Tee Ball. I would like him to know how much everyone appreciated him and loved him while he was here, and they still do. Personally, I would like him to know that although I have been through a tremendous amount since he passed away, that I’ve never given up. One of the things I miss the most about Deddy is that, he was always proud of me whether I succeeded or failed, as long as he thought I did the best I could. Some of his most encouraging talks came after some of my biggest disappointments. Just another reason, to miss him a little bit more, on Father’s Day.