Thursday, December 23, 2021

A Different Kind of Christmas

 This year we spend Christmas just a little different and not so complete. For 32 years the routine has been the same no matter if I lived at home or lived somewhere else. Every year was wake up go to my parent's house and watch my dad be as surprised as we are at what gifts we opened. We go to my parents and have stockings full and eat breakfast the same routine for basically 32 years. This year though he won't be here to have that experience with us and to fill those stockings. In 2021, we lost a great man who would do anything for us. One thing we aren't going to do is change our traditions because it's the way he would want our Christmas to go. Every Christmas or around Christmas we get fruit and nuts, party trays, Honey Baked Ham, and just the little things. This Christmas he won't get to have that experience with us but this Christmas he hopefully gets to watch over us and know that the stuff he did, didn't go unnoticed. I am grateful that he was my dad through the good times and bad times. The memories go on and on but let's list some off the top of my head...

  • Growing up on a farm meant the world to me. I'm sure at times I hated it and at times I enjoyed it. I remember the things I learned and watched. Between you and Papaw it makes me want to continue to learn and farm. 
    • Doctoring cattle, running them to the pin, through the headgate, cutting horns off, feeding the balls to the dogs, giving them shots, tagging them, and just being around the experience
    • Being young and doing corn and mixing the feed. the corn would need help getting put in the crib so I pushed it down when it got stuck.
    • The first job that I probably hated at the time and probably got cussed out every day doing. I helped in the hayfields. Every year he wouldn't take a day off and always out there doing hay all summer long. I would rake to start with, drive the trailer or bus, load the hay, and unload the hay.
    • As I got older and matured it was a pleasure to be able to help him. The stubbornness we both had though we never want to ask for help. I gladly helped him when he was still doing hay or anything that needed to be done on the farm.
    • Two farming memories that stick out most recently. The first one is the first day he ever decided to band the nuts instead of cut them. The second one was when we loaded up cows last spring and took them and let them out and he said that if I help you that you would split the money with me, and I said I would help you anytime and don't need the money. Why would I not help do something that he loved to do even if he couldn't hardly do it anymore? The main thing I regret is we couldn't farm together but I plan on doing whatever I can and to keep it going. 
    • I don't pretend to know if or how Heaven works but if he actually is looking down on us I hope he can see the things I am learning and the things I have learned from him. Hope the cows brought the money that they should have, hope the beef brings the meat that we expect, hope that even though I already had a dead cow that I tried to help it and took care of it after it passed and as I learn hopefully he will get joy out of how hard I work.
    • Friday nights staying at the stockyard until early mornings because you and mom had to work
  • The sports world has always been something, my dad got me into at a very young age. Even if he got out of it after teaching it all to me. He taught me everything about sports. From playing, watching, and collecting
    • The sports teams that I grew up watching were Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Bulls because of Jordan. To this day I still keep up with the Cowboys and Braves. He liked to keep up with our local college teams the University of Tennesse and Virginia Tech.
      •  I remember 3 times he took me to sports games. We went to two college games. One of those in Knoxville and one in Blacksburg. The professional game was in Cincinnati and I have the ticket stubs for all 3 still. 
      • The biggest thing that stands out about going to Cincinnati was that we followed the bus back to the hotel to try to get a Chipper Jones Autograph and although it was understandable he acted like one of the biggest dicks in professional sports that night and my dad was so mad that he wasn't a fan anymore. I always stuck by Chipper just because he was one of my favorite players and best players to ever play. 
    • Sports memorabilia and card collecting was something he got me into at a young age that unfortunate for my wife I still collect to this day. He bought me my first autographed memorabilia which is still one of the best things I have.
    • The biggest thing was teaching me to play sports.
      • As a little boy, most of my memories are of holding a baseball or playing baseball in the yard. As I grew up came tee ball, minor league, little league, junior league, high school, Senior League, and college. The memories from baseball are 60 to 70 percent of my childhood. It didn't take long for me to enjoy the game. He pushed me sometimes harder than I wanted but never too hard and probably should have kept me even more focused. He always knew I was a solid player but at times I got moved behind people with money, coaches sons, or politics but for him, he kept pushing and he knew the way it worked. I moved to catcher in little league. I remember him coaching a game or two and he hated that so much because of all the other parents. We went to  state two years in my life. Both my parents came to as many games as they could. I remember they bought me a catcher's mitt and a bat for high school. I remember they were so mad about how my high school career was handled and yet with all that negativity I still got a scholarship to college, but I quit baseball before ever giving it a chance, and for about a year that was the worst relationship we had and didn't talk but the older I get it was understandable from his point of view. The sports I played from 4 years old all the way to 17 were because I was a little kid with a ball.  The most memorable memory was being in state when I was 16 years old and instead of going out to eat at Hooters with the team, I wanted to go to the batting cages and we went for a couple hours and he pitched and I hit balls because I was hard on myself which without him pushing me when I was younger I would have never got to that point as I got older. 
      • I think football was probably his favorite sport and the sport he enjoyed watching me play most. The midget league football was fun and he even got to see me play one year of high school football. 
      • Even though he wasn't a fan of basketball, he was still mad when I didn't make the high school team. He still came to games when I played for Highlands.
      • The one thing we both enjoyed when we were younger was playing softball. I remember getting into it when he asked me to play on the church softball team when I was still underage but it was the only time I got to play on his team in softball
  • Campings Trips..Every Memorial Day, Labor Day, and eventually 4th Of July.. We would camp until I was probably 18 or something like that. We started in a tent and eventually worked our way up to a pop-up camper. At times he would leave to go work all day and come back. Sometimes we would have to go to baseball. It didn't matter what else we had to do because no matter what we had to do we going to at least sleep at the campground. 
  • Every single year my parents would take us on vacation. It's something that he even said not long before he passed is that he wanted always to be able to take us on vacation no matter how far or where was to always take us somewhere. The best vacation we ever went on was when I graduated from high school and we took a cruise to Alaska. For him, that trip and the trip he got to finally take to Montana were probably two of his favorite trips he went on. 
  • As I got older the more we got along and the more that he helped me and the more I tried to help him. It didn't matter what it was if I needed help he would try to help me. He would very rarely ask me for help but if he needed it I would just show up and try to help. The last real memory that I have of being around him was a simple trip to Sams Club. We just decided to go that day and I rode down with him and we just got what we needed. Even that day, he bought me a 50 count bag of chips that I was going to buy to take on vacation but he bought them. 
  • For years as adults, we would get Dollywood tickets and go to Pigeon Forge at least a couple times of a year and he would pay for us all to stay at the bear motel aka riverside towers. 
  • Go pick out Christmas trees or in my case get a wreath
The things I do wish we could have done more of... fishing, farming, traveling more places, softball, and just making more memories. 

If you live long enough there are plenty of memories to have with the people in your life. This is just some of the stuff I remember. The memories last a lifetime. The days go by and some days the days get harder. The things he taught me and did for me my entire life not even speaking much about all the stuff he did for me when I became an adult. The time to live is now in the moment because if you don't live now you might not be alive tomorrow. 

....A cabin in Gatlinburg 


....One day we are still going to make it sports gambling



 Those were the last few conversations we texted back and forth. 

Cherish your family and remember to live right now because tomorrow isn't guaranteed for any of us, and one day it'll be a different kind of Christmas. 

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