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."