Friday, February 5, 2016

(This post was started in June, 2015.  I just discovered that I never finished it so tonight on Feb. 5, 2016 I complete it for publishing)

On this Father's Day, I sit surrounded by the 3 dogs that belong to my kids and ask myself that same question again, "so why I am chief caretaker of these 3 dogs that my loving children said they'd take care of?" And then I remember...that's just part of the territory that comes with being a dad...even a dad with young adult children.  That's what makes today a good Father's Day for me!  All that comes with the territory is the good stuff...well, most all of it.  I have been blessed richly to be a dad by virtue of a good wife who gave me two awesome kids.  The fact that they refer to me as "Larry" (which is my middle name and my dad's name) is one of the things that makes me smile.  I'll come back to them in a minute.
       As I ponder on what fathers  pass on to their kids, I think of my own dad.  This is my 25th Father's Day since he passed away and I think back about what made him "Larry", and what he passed on to me.  He was far from perfect, as all of us are, but I never doubted his love for me.  A few of those things he passed on and life lessons learned.
   1)  A work ethic.   Although at the time I thought he was a slave driver and taking advantage of the fact that I was cheap labor, he truly taught me the value of hard work.  He was always finding ways to put me to work.  He found me a handful of yards to mow as a kid and I had to ride my bike pulling the lawnmower behind me all over the neighborhood to my weekly jobs.  I was never so happy to develop allergies in the 7th grade and give up my yards.  But then he found me a paper route I could do on my bike after work with the afternoon paper.  But that wasn't enough.  He took on a morning paper route out in the county and got me up at 4 each morning to roll papers and throw while he drove. I was only 15 when he "found" me a job at Rich's, a drive in hamburger joint in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  I threatened to call the labor board since I wasn't 16 yet, but didn't have the nerve to.  After he opened his own Cotton Gin Supply Company, I worked with him while in high school, hating every minute of it and certain that was not what I wanted to do with my life.  It became clear to me that tearing out and refurbishing old, nasty, cotton gin machinery was not what I wanted to do with my life.  Now, looking back, I realize not only the importance of working hard and "earning your keep", but realize how blessed I was to have been able to spend those years working side by side with my dad.  And I wouldn't take anything for it.  
2)  A sense of humor.  Whether pranking someone, or laughing at yourself, not taking yourself too seriously was a trademark of my dad.  Though often embarrassed at his corny jokes and some of the things he would dare do in public, I now understand the role that plays in building character in your own kids.  That's one of the perks of being a dad - embarrassing your children by what you're wearing, something you say, or something you do out in public.  
3)  A sense of family.  Dad had more aunts and uncles and cousins than I could ever comprehend.  He had a tremendous sense of "place" and took pride in the places he lived and the people he shared genes with. Never fully appreciated until you're grown and lived some significant years, this sense of family keeps me grounded.  Thanks to social media, I can now enjoy keeping up with all of the cousins and kin, and see how that family legacy is being handed down from generation to generation.
4)  His faith.  Like most, my dad's commitment wavered from time to time.  But for the most part, I remember him serving in the church as a deacon, choir member, teacher, volunteer, etc.  We went to church as a family and it was the focal part of our lives.  Everything revolved around the church, except for a few years that was put on the back burner.  Our faith was important to him, and he took joy in knowing his children were following in the way of the Lord.
(original post left off here....additional comments below added on Feb. 5, 2016) 
      I didn't pick up his love for fishing, buttermilk, or coconut cake, but there are so many things I see in myself now that are a reflection of him - especially the wavy hair I just developed in the past few years.   The desire to see my own kids be successful in whatever they attempt in life and to do whatever I can to help them on their way is something he left me. So here's to dad...the original Larry!  Happy Father's Day.

Changes in Life

     It's amazing how fast a year goes by.  It has been over a year since my last entry.  2015 and the beginning of 2016 have brought many changes to the Hall house.  The month of May found me sitting in a restaurant in Tuscaloosa with a young man who asked to marry my daughter.  It helped that I have known David Watts since 2001 and already consider him to be like a son.  He shared his gameplan and invited Sue and I to come to Brownsville, TN, Labor Day weekend to witness the engagement.  Did I mention I had to keep it quiet until then?
     Then one July morning my son asks me to go to lunch with him.  After lunch we went back to my office where he closed the door and told me of his plans to ask Callie Brown to marry him.  So after a summer of proposals and engagement parties, Sue and I began the task of wedding planning for both children.  Major change #1.
     In November we made the difficult decision to put our beloved Tracker to sleep.  Our faithful Black Lab for nearly 15 years had slept on the floor next to our bed and it was hard to imagine life without him.  Saying goodbye wasn't easy, but he had a good life and we didn't want to see him in pain.  Major change #2.
     On December 14th I received the news that I had bladder cancer and would require surgery the next week.  Just a few days before Christmas, the surgery took care of the problem, but the recovery was not pleasant and made for an interesting Christmas and New Year's for sure.  I was reminded how quickly life can change which made me appreciate the here and now and to learn to savor the moment. I adopted a new motto, "any day without a catheter is a good day".   In retrospect, I had it easy compared to those who have to undergo rounds and rounds of treatments.  I have such respect for those fighters and their families and almost feel guilty that all I have to do is endure an unpleasant procedure every three months for the next two years.   Change #3.
     This past weekend, Hall wedding #1 took place in Yazoo City, MS.  It was an exciting (but exhausting) weekend and certainly one of the most memorable times of my life.  I had the honor of being the best man for Payne and to tag team with Andrew Mayhan in performing the ceremony.  As I stood before Payne and Callie, I led them through the same vows that Bro. James Yates led Sue and me through in the same place 29 years ago.  A church full of dear family and friends from near and far came to share this day with the Hall and Brown families.  Tomorrow the couple will return from their honeymoon in St. Lucia, and on Monday will move into their new home and take their dog, Sadie with them, leaving us with only one dog.  I'm worried what Sue and Stormy will do without "Tootsie Roll" (Sadie).  Change #4
     Now we focus on Mary Paige and the preparations for her big day on May 28th.  The days will certainly pass faster than I would like.  But that's life on this earth. Changes will continue to come.  As the old gospel song says, "I don't know what holds the future, but I know who holds my hand."


Sunday, April 27, 2014

      Early this morning about 4 o'clock our old, black Lab, Tracker, woke us up in a frenzy which about 30 minutes later we realized was due to an impending thunderstorm.  Within 30 minutes I was sleepily putting his sedatives in a strawberry pop tart (his favorite snack).  The thunder and lightning came with a fury and he paced and panted until Sue got out of bed and got on the couch before he would lay down and let the sedatives take effect.
     We had an extra long winter down south and hardly any of our usual turbulent spring weather to date, although we are expecting it for the next 3 days.  Even though it's a way of life for us here in the south, today I am particularly mindful of this month and day 3 years ago.  April 15, 2011 was the day a tornado touched down in our town of Clinton, but spared the daycare where Sue worked as she watched the approaching tornado literally lift off the ground and pass over the church with no damage except for busted windshields in the parking lot.  The 2 hours it took to finally make my way to my wife and those children seemed like a bad dream.
     That same bad dream reappeared on April 27.  Little did we imagine what we were in store for when we woke up that day.   Many communities in Mississippi experienced extensive damage from a record number of tornadoes, especially the town of Smithville.  I was home that afternoon and watching everything unfold on television.   Late that afternoon an image I will never forget appeared on my tv screen.  That was the video of huge tornado heading for downtown Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama campus, where our son, Payne, was a student.  The next several hours were spent pacing the floor, trying to make contact on the cellphone, praying, and making calls to others who had children there as well.  We began to get reports that others had heard from their kids and they were safe but we still hadn't heard from Payne.   I'll always be grateful for my friend, A.G. Helton of Yazoo City, who had heard from his daughter that she was fine.  He called and offered to get his plane and go with me to Tuscaloosa to search.  As any parent would, I felt that if I could just get there I could find him.  It seemed like an eternity before we received the text that said he was okay.  During those hours as I saw the pictures of the aftermath, I thought of the thousands of parents everywhere who were going through the same desperate feelings - true feelings of absolute helplessness. Only later would we truly know the true scope of the lives that were affected by this massive storm.  I am grateful that my son and his roommates along with the other students we knew were spared that afternoon.  The things they saw as they tried to help others in the aftermath are surely things that will remain etched in their minds forever.    For me, it took several months to shake the feelings that I had from those two experiences.
     So today we remember those who experienced loss of loved ones and possessions during that historic outbreak of tornadoes.  We stand in amazement at the beauty and the violence of nature.
We cannot understand why, but we must trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and through it all we can sing the words of the Matt Redman song, "Blessed Be Your Name."
                 "He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away,
                 My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your Name."


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Turkey Talk

       Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday.  I have wonderful memories of Thanksgivings past and enjoy celebrating old traditions and creating new ones. Yesterday I was listening to talk radio and listeners were calling in sharing their Thanksgiving disasters.  Some were just plain funny while others were a bit awkward.  Every year I can't help but reflect on a Thanksgiving when I was a kid which could probably qualify as a disaster.  The week of Thanksgiving my entire family caught the flu.  One by one we were taken down for the count and the plans for our yearly Thanksgiving dinner with our relatives out of town went down as well.  We began recovering as the big day approached with a faint glimmer of hope that we might not have to cancel our travel plans.  But alas, we were still too weak and tired to travel.   So our Thanksgiving meal was lunch at the luncheon counter at Walgreens in Pine Bluff.  At the time it wasn't what we expected, but looking back, I think it was my favorite Thanksgiving of all.
       This year our family is doing something different.  Although the Egg Bowl (Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State) is always on Thanksgiving weekend or Day, we've not attended together as a family.   So this year we are taking our Thanksgiving celebration to StarkVegas and having our feast at our son Payne's apartment.  For those of you who know me, you know I am a proud Ole Miss grad who married into a Mississippi State family.   Our son is a State grad and is in Grad school & our daughter is a sophomore at State.  So we spend a lot of time in Starkville these days.  We will all bundle up tomorrow night and head to the stadium for Mississippi's biggest grudge match of the year.  On our Thanksgiving late night drive back to Jackson there will either be one happy and three unhappy campers or one unhappy and three happy ones.  I prefer the first option.  But I have to admit that even though I love how Hugh Freeze has reenergized the Rebel program, I wouldn't be crushed if the Dawgs pull off the upset because I know it would make my kids happy to have their team bowl eligible.  I guess sometimes you really can have it all.  Some things are bigger than football...but football is pretty big down here!  Happy Thanksgiving (and Hotty Toddy Rebels)!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Anti-Bucket List

I recently revealed part of my bucket list.  Since then I've been thinking of things I haven't done and absolutely don't want to do...ever!  So I've come up with this "opposite of a bucket list" which I'm calling my anti-bucket list.  Not sure where I'm going with this but here we go.

Things I absolutely don't want to do...EVER:

1.  Sky diving
2.  Eat an oyster
3.  Cliff Diving
4.  Ultimate fighting
5.  Wrestle a bear
6.  Pick up a live snake  (I don't care how little it is or if it's not poisonous...a snake is a snake is a     snake)
7.  Run a marathon  (The only time I run is if the "Hot and Fresh Now" light is on at Krispy Kreme)
8.  Ride a camel
9.  Milk a goat
10.  Ride the Himalayan again at the fair (been there, done that, threw up)
11.  Introduce a bill in congress
12.  Take the S.A.T.
13.  Get a tattoo (unless it's a barbwire tattoo on my guns)
14.  Get something pierced (if God had wanted me to have holes there, He would have put them there in the first place)
15.  Disect a pig
16.  Be a contestant on Survivor
17.  Eat cauliflower or broccoli
18.  Ride 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu
19.  Read "War and Peace"
20.  Calculate Pi to the last digit

If you have something to add, don't hesitate to suggest it.  Perhaps my next post will be more enlightening.  And remember...don't eat your popcorn during the previews - wait until the movie starts.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Jet Packs

     As a kid I was fascinated with science fiction and loved those old black and white movies on television that played on Saturday afternoons. The flying saucers and ray guns captured my imagination yet made me a little uneasy thinking "what if?"  But the uneasiness (is that a word?) was replaced with excitement and anticipation as I watched my favorite cartoon, the Jetsons, each week. The flying cars and moving sidewalks were cool but didn't begin to compare with George Jetson's jet pack that allowed him to fly anywhere he wanted. I dreamed of being able to fly, and had even tried many times unsuccessfully in my Superman costume. But a jetpack made sense! The 21st century couldn't come soon enough but seemed so far away. Sometime around the third grade I figured out that when the year 2000 dawned I would be an old man of 42. If jetpacks were a reality in the new millennium, it would be helpful to me since I would probably be having a hard time getting around because of my age.   Such was the thinking of a 9 year old.
      Sad to say the 21st century rolled around and jetpacks were not the norm.   I'm now 55 and still don't feel I'm any closer to being George Jetson than I was in 1967.   I drive a Ford Taurus to work but I still daydream about the possibilities.  My hopes took an upswing last week as my daughter showed me pictures of a water jet pack.  I can so see me hooked up to this.  However I doubt I'll ever be able to afford one.  So if you have one of these and would like to give a humble minister a ride, give me a holla.  In the meantime I still can dream can't I?