Tag Archives: Friends

“Too Tall” Tree – The Story of My Eccentricities

27 Jun

When I was a kid, my mom always tried to get me to have other kids over to play. She talked about calling the kid down the road. She hosted birthday parties. She threw a Halloween party that became a famous event in our family’s history. All the time, she tried to figure out ways to get kids to the house. She even told me that she was shy as a child and never had other kids over. It was a regret that she did not want me to have.

Yep, my mom tried to guilt me into having kids over to play.

Sometimes, I agreed to it. However, most times I was comfortable playing alone and using my imagination. There were Hot Wheels that could be crashed or turned into a miniature NASCAR race. There was this awesome football game where you put a disc into the player, and the radio announcer told you what happened on the play. There was also a basketball goal where imaginary last second shots could be hoisted.

One of my favorite games was “Too Tall” Tree.image-2

I got a football and pretended that the trees were defenders. I had to get through them to score a touchdown. I did the play-by-play at the same time. Being a Cowboys fan, I named one of the trees after Ed “Too Tall” Jones. It was years later that I learned that Jones played college ball at Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Anyway, I took the ball from center, and, when “Too Tall” Tree blocked my ability to pass, I took off down the field. It sounds weird, but it was a lot of fun when I was little.

I think my parents and other people thought it was weird way back then. I overheard people saying that I was selfish and did not want other kids playing with my toys. I guess that was the only reason they could think of why a kid did not want other kids around. Well, there was another reason. I was not comfortable around people.

All of this came to mind during a conversation with my wife. At some point, she asked, “You don’t like people do you?”

That is absolutely not true. I like all kinds of people, but, at times, I am still not comfortable around them. This is really true when it comes to strangers. I have never been good at starting a conversation with a complete stranger. I cannot think of anything to say. No witty comments come from the back of my mind. Simply, it is something that brings a lot of discomfort.

I do not start conversations with people sitting next to me on a plane. I do not start conversations with somebody at a bar.

Certainly, this has caused me to miss out on meeting some great and interesting people. I know that more than anyone.

During that same conversation, my wife asked how I have met people. That is a good question. I have met a lot of great people, and many of them have become my friends. Mostly, I have met new people through people who I have already known. That way they are not a complete stranger. In the modern business vernacular, that is called networking.

Of course, some people who have no problems approaching a stranger have started conversations with me. I met one of my best friends that way.

This is an issue that I have fought through all of my life. It was discussed in therapy, and it is something that I try to overcome. It is something that has hindered me through the years.

During my teenage years, I felt sorry for myself because I was not part of the cool kid groups. I did not get the messages that there were parties going on. There was this feeling of being left out. Another reason this post came to mind is because that feeling came back several days ago. There was an event that took place which I was not invited to. Internally, I acted like a child for a few hours, but it helped me put this post together.

I realize now, and knew deep down back then, that I was at fault for not opening myself up to people. If I had been more outgoing toward people who I did not know, then those people would have been more welcoming to me.

I have no idea if this post makes sense, and I have no idea how to end it. I know that I have missed out on some great people and some great opportunities. However, I know that there are a lot of great people in my life who would do anything for me just as I would do anything for them.

Am I still uncomfortable talking to strangers? Yes. I can barely do it, and I admire those who can. However, I have met a lot of people, and I like most of them. Like everyone else, there are some people who I can do without.



Kingsport, Tennessee

17 Feb

One of the people I follow on Twitter mentioned that his hometown is Kingsport, Tennessee, a city that was the site of a major event in my family’s history.

The summer of 1991 was going along like any other. I was spending my summer break working on the loading dock at my dad’s business. My brother was running the manufacturing side of the business. My mom was handling things around the house. My dad, who we all leaned on, was overseeing it all. Then, the situation changed.

My dad drove to Kingsport for a meeting of a bank board of which he was a member, while we went through a typical day. Work was long and hot, and I was glad to get home to take a shower. I was in my closet getting dressed when I heard the phone ring, and I was still in my closet when my mom told me the news. My dad had a stroke after his meeting and was being taken to Holston Valley Medical Center.

After that moment, my memories become hazy. I finished getting dressed while my mom called my brother. At some point, we were all together with my grandparents waiting for a call from the doctor. We were under the impression that it had not been a serious stroke, but that impression vanished when the doctor explained that we needed to get there as fast as possible.

I cannot remember anyone talking on the drive to Kingsport, and it is not a short drive. I sat in the backseat as my brother drove. It AC was cranked up, but no one mentioned changing it. I stared out the window and remember thinking that we were going through downtown Knoxville pretty fast.

We arrived at the hospital and took the elevator to the Intensive Care Unit. That is when the gravity of the situation became apparent. All of the bank board members were lining the hallway in the suits. It was the most somber looking group I had ever seen. One of them took us to the ICU desk, and the nurse immediately got the doctor.

It was a conversation that I will never forget. My dad would probably die within the next three days. If he did not die, then he would remain in a vegetated state. Before going in to see him, the doctor explained that they were going to freeze his brain to stop the bleeding. If that did not stop the bleeding, then there was no chance.

My dad was hooked up to every machine imaginable. Wires. Tubes. It was as if the machines were keeping him alive. We talked to him without knowing if he could hear us or not. When we left, there was no plan. We had nowhere to stay and nowhere to go. My mom and I tried to stay in the hotel room that my dad had booked, but she could not stay there. That is when we were given a room in the family area of the hospital. The bed was terrible, but it did not matter. None of us could have slept.

That began our two weeks in Kingsport, Tennessee while my dad fought for his life. Most of that time was spent in the ICU waiting room with other families who were facing similar circumstances. In the days before cellphones, people could only call us at phone in the room. It was constantly ringing. Businesspeople. Politicians. From all over the country, people were calling. It got to the point where other families were mad because we were tying up the phone line. That is when we started taking calls at the nurse’s desk.

I can remember being hungry all of the time. There was a hotdog stand outside, and I ate more hotdogs than I could count. When the going gets tough, I eat. I can remember my mom promising God that she would never get mad at my dad again if he came out of this. We laughed and said that she should not lie to God during a time like this. I can remember my brother going back to work because somebody had to run the business. Our competitors were already lurking around our customers.

A lot of people made the long drive to visit us. My grandparents came up. My friend Chris came up with his new wife. My friends Robert and Dallus came up. I think they got lost on the way. I feel bad because after that long drive I wanted them to ride me around town. I wanted out of the hospital. We found an abandoned bridge, and I just sat on it for a while.

We also got a visit from Sister Stafford, a pastor and missionary from our town. My mom asked if she had driven all that way by herself. Sister Stafford replied, “No, God came with me, but God didn’t tell me how far it was.” She brought food and showed my mom how to bless him. She took my mom’s hands and told her what to say. By this time, my dad’s brain had stopped bleeding, and he was out of ICU. When my mom went to his room, she did as she was told. She laid hands on him and said the words. He looked at her like she was crazy.

After that, my dad starting getting better, and the doctor scheduled a transfer to Vanderbilt Hospital for further care and rehabilitation. Our time in Kingsport ended, but my dad was just beginning a long journey. He did not die, and he did not stay in a vegetative state. Through years of rehab, he learned to walk and do things with his left hand. His right side is paralyzed, and his speech is affected. However, everything else is great.

Since 1991, he has seen my brother have two sons. He has seen me get married. He has traveled throughout the country. He has become a member of another bank board. He was there when the University of Tennessee won the national championship in football. He has been inducted into the Tennessee Softball Hall of Fame.

My dad with his sons and grandsons at the Little Big Horn Battlefield

My dad with his sons and grandsons at the Little Big Horn Battlefield

Since 1991, he has overseen the sale of the business that he started. He saw his sister pass away from a stroke. He saw his in-laws, who spent a lot of time in Kingsport, both pass away.

Since 1991, my dad has seen happiness and sadness. However, the important thing is that he was there to see it. That is because of the hard work that he, my mom, the doctors and the rehab specialists put in. It is also because of the work that the people at Holston Valley Medical Center did for those first two weeks. That time was critical.

There is one more thing that my dad has seen. When he was able, my parents went back to Holston Valley to see the people who took care of him. He walked through ICU and hugged them all.

None of us will ever forget our two weeks in Kingsport, Tennessee.

Graduation Celebration

1 Jun

Last night, my nephew graduated from high school. Other than the fact that I felt old, it was a time for celebration for a great achievement. I won’t go on and on about his honors and accolades, but I felt the need to celebrate this in the blog world. With that in mind, I decided to find out what was happening in the world during the year he was born – 1994.

In the world of sports:

– the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII.

– no one won the World Series because a strike cancelled the season.

– George Foreman became boxing’s oldest heavyweight champion.

– Miguel Indurain won one of my favorite events, the Tour de France.

– Dale Earnhardt won the Winston Cup Championship.

On television:

– NBC debuted a couple of new shows called ER and Friends.

– The Game Show Network made its debut.

– O.J. Simpson got in a white Bronco and led police on a slow-speed chase.

Star Trek: The Next Generation ended its successful run.

At the movies:

The Lion King defeated Forrest Gump as the highest grossing film.

Forrest Gump got revenge by running away with the Academy Award for Best Film.

– Telly “Who loves ya, baby?” Savalas passed away.

– Cameron Diaz made her first film appearance in The Mask.

The literary world saw:

– Stephen King publish Insomnia.

– Kenzaburo Oe won the Nobel Prize for Literature.


– Bruce Springsteen had a hit with Streets of Philadelphia.

– Justin Bieber was born.

– Kurt Cobain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

– Cream, Creedance Clearwater Revival, Etta James, the Doors and others were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

On a more serious note:

– Hurricane Gordon killed over 1,000 people.

– USAir Flight 427 crashed into a hillside in Pennsylvania, leading to the longest accident investigation in aviation history.

– Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa.

– Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq.

– Yasser Arafat became president of the Palestinian Authority.

And, that’s the way it was. Congratulations to Weston on his graduation!