A Decade Of Love

[Re-posted from 2016-02-27]

Ten years ago today, Heather and I were sitting on a bench in a little community near the Tampa Bay, FL area called Davis Island. The waters there are part of Tampa Bay but much quieter and still in comparison to the larger part of the bay. Between our bench and the waterfront stood two old weathered palm trees. Tall trunks…but barely any green to speak of. You could tell by their stature they had seen many a storm…and together…they had survived them all. You see, these two palm trees were leaning on each other…they were using each other for support. Alone, I suppose any of those Florida storms could have taken one of them out…but together…they had supported each other for untold years.

As I sat there and took in that scene…I let the past few months of my time with Heather float through my mind. I realized that in just the few months that I had known her…she was the palm tree for me.

Without a ring…without a plan…with just my heart to guide me…I asked her to marry me.

I think everyone knows the answer.

Father Figures (…others)

[Re-posted from 2016-01-10]

Well, we all know that I’ve never had my own “real” father figure…but there are quite a few male figures that have made an influence in my life (be it good or bad).  The following list has no order to it…the names appear as I recall them.  Also, I list these gentlemen by the name I knew them. So, here goes…

  • Jimmy Roberts
  • Bill Maxwell
  • William Liedhegner, Sr.
  • Jon Yarbrough
  • Pat Noe
  • Andrew Noe, Sr.
  • Joe Turner
  • Vaden Kinslow
  • Don Wood
  • Joe Noe
  • Charles Fowler
  • Ray Beaman
  • Bill Liedhegner, Jr.
  • Joe Turner

And then you have those “friends/acquaintances”…who have left such an impact on your life that you’re not sure what you call it.  Even a person who leads a s0-called “bad life” can still leave you with a “good influence”.  And maybe…it works the other way, too.  This list consists of the “friends/acquaintances” who are, have been,  or were a major influence in my life (be it good or bad).  Again, there is no order to this list and they are listed by the name that I knew them.  Please don’t feel offended if you’re not listed…it doesn’t mean you didn’t have a place in my life…it’s just these particular people stuck out for some reason.

  • Chuck Ransom
  • Teddy Roberts
  • Chris Furlough
  • Vance Watson
  • Mark Moore
  • Jerry Fontaine
  • Kevin Baker
  • Jimmy Oxley
  • Kerry Sisco
  • Johnny King
  • Mark Chesebro
  • Andy Fowler
  • Geno Daley
  • Ronnie Amans
  • Mickey Amberg
  • Bob Fly

If it was safe (Internet speak) to share the individual stories about these fellas…I would love to…but…I guess this is where this post ends.

Father Figures (…me)

[Re-posted from 2015-11-08]

The question is, “How do you think you’ve done as a parent?”

Generally speaking, or the short answer, I’d say that along with the kid’s mom (Amy) we’ve done a decent job. Yes, I’ve made “many” mistakes along the way, but I feel they’re on paths that will lead them to good lives. They’re still learning…still growing…and there are still so many things I want for them in their lives…but I can only direct them so much. It’s their decisions now. I’m just here for “advice from the old man” on occasion. Which doesn’t bother me one bit…in fact I rather welcome those moments when I have a “use”.

But how can you really answer that question of “quality parenting”? There are so many variables to judge in that question. Did I spend enough time with them (as small children all the way through the teenage years)? Playing, listening, participating? Was I there when it mattered? Am I there now? What do they think they needed? Did I provide it? What did it I get right? Where did I screw up?

The real answers would come from Drew and Lauren themselves. In fact, I would invite them to give their honest opinions on this subject (public or private)…to me and/or their mom. Take the opportunity to open up…let us know what they really think…how they really feel. Tell us what they really wanted then and what they want now.

On the matter of spending time with my children…I think I failed when it came to the teenage years. I let my own concerns cloud my decisions. I let my own needs outweigh those of my children…and the rest of my family and friends. I will however confess, I feel there were some other factors that kept me from my kids during their teenage years…factors that aren’t appropriate to discuss here.

How do I think I compare against my own father? Even with my failings…I think I succeeded in providing my children a better life than I had. When I think back about my own dad and the time he spent with me (and my siblings)…there are only a few “good” times that I could identify. There were a few times we played ball in the backyard, went fishing, and took road-trips or vacations. He wasn’t the kind of person to sit on the floor and play games with you. Yes, he provided for us…kept us fed and housed…but other than that…I can’t say anything nicer.

These days, it breaks my heart every time my children come to visit and then have to leave. I know they’re young adults now…beginning their own lives…but it still doesn’t mean I don’t still see them as my little kiddos. I still want to cuddle them in my arms like they were still little innocent toddlers. I’d be perfectly content to sit down with them and watch The Lion King or Beauty and The Beast. Call me an ole’ sap…suits me fine. I’ve been told more than once that I have a very active emotional side…unfortunately it gets the best of me sometimes.

I harbor a lot of guilt for the situations I’ve put my children, family and friends through. I know God can forgive us…but can we forgive ourselves? Maybe. Maybe not. However, forgiveness is one thing…it’s the forgetting part that I’m pretty sure I’m incapable of mastering. Knowing that I permanently damaged my own outlook on life makes me believe that my kids have to possess some of the same feelings. I’ve been told I’m too hard on myself…I just sometimes think the guilt is my punishment. If it is punishment…how long is the sentence? If it’s not punishment, how long before I can forgive myself for the lives I messed up?

I continue to ask God for strength…to help me understand the things I cannot understand.

I continue to pray that someday…I’ll have a Rockwell family photo to hang on the wall. I pray that someday I figure out how to have “normal” and “continuous” interactions with my kids. Maybe I’m not the only father (or parent) that deals with this situation. If you’re in the same boat with me…and you have some useful advice on “being a parent to a young adult”…please don’t hesitate to share your experiences.

The next post in this series will be about Father Figures (…others). I’ll address the fathers, mentors, and other male figures that have influenced me throughout my years.

Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day

[Re-posted from 2015-10-20]

Just so you know, it takes me several “days” to compose these posts. Yes, my mind is that distracted.

Well, it’s not just the lack of concentration, but I want to make sure that they’re worded (presented) in a manner that let’s you see that even in the face of tragedy…I’ve still been protected. And as you’ll see in future posts, God’s blessings and protection have continued despite any hardships I’ve faced here during my time on Earth.

As I’ve told many of my friends and family, my faith is strengthened…not by God healing…but by Him keeping me humble.

Father Figures (…mine)

[Re-posted from 2015-10-19]
When my son (Drew) was born, his mother and I were both only twenty years old…pretty much still kids ourselves. As you would guess, I had no clue how to be a father to him. With that in mind, I figured I’ll just take what I learned from my own dad…and do the exact opposite.

My dad (Jack) grew up in rural Grundy County, Tennessee. The stories I’ve heard about my grandfather(s) would indicate that my dad learned and then carried on a long family tradition of cruelty and abuse…towards just about everyone. His abuse was mostly expressed against my mom (Lois). I lived in a house where brutal beatings and flying iron skillets (as well as boots, ash trays, etc.) were common events.

When my brother (Ronald Brad) and would get into trouble (we were boys…it happened), Dad would use his leather belt to “whip” us. I wouldn’t say that there were times we deserved some type of punishment, but Dad didn’t know the limits. You would be held by one arm as he cracked the belt across your rear-end (or whatever body part it landed on). You wind up in a spinning action as you react to the pain and try to get away from him. Eventually he would stop.

It wasn’t until later on in life that I realized one of the major causes of that provoked the violent encounters between my mom and dad. Mom had been previously married (Melvin Heath) and had a daughter (Tina Marie) before she met my dad. Tina was around six years old when Mom and Dad married. As Tina would eventually confess, my dad had sexually abused her from pretty much the time they met until he got her pregnant in 1981 (sometime between her 18th and 19th birthdays). I believe Mom had “suspicions” about his behaviors and/or had “caught him in the act” several times during the years leading up to the final days…there would be spontaneous fights in the middle of the night. I was too young to understand what they were fighting about. I think I purposely “closed off” what I was hearing and seeing…hoping (praying) that it would just stop.

After the pregnancy and abuse was finally made “public”, my dad was arrested and jailed for rape and several other charges. Needless to say, Mom filed for a divorce and an Order of Protection (also known as a worthless piece of paper).

You now have a mother with four kids to feed, a house payment to make, utilities to pay, one of your daughters is pregnant by your husband, and you have no source of income (she’s been a stay-at-home-mom all her life). When you hear about women who continue to stay with abusive spouses…read that list and see if you can identify a couple of the reasons why. Don’t forget that she has zero self-esteem left at this point, she’s the talk of the neighborhood, and she’s been cut-off from most of her friends and family for years.

However, there was a sense of safety at least…he was behind bars. He couldn’t hurt anyone. But that sense of safety was short lived. Despite opposition by my dad’s brother (Joe Turner), he was bailed-out by his younger brother (Steve) and then taken by Steve to live with him in Palmer, TN (Grundy County).

Mom’s brother (Joe Noe) came to my mom’s rescue…to offer moral support and what “protection” he might be able to muster. Uncle Joe had to have been the most peaceful person I’d ever met…what protection he could offer was foreign to me. He moved in with us and became part of the vigil. Mom’s other brother (Andy Noe) supplied us with a shotgun…it sat in the corner behind the door leading into the kitchen. We lived in fear every day that Dad would leave Palmer and come back to LaVergne…and hurt someone. Locks were installed on the attic hatch and the crawl-space door (provided access to the underside of the house). The locks were checked when we left…and when we returned. The adults were afraid he might use these spaces to lay in wait while we were gone. It wouldn’t happen that way.

Sometime before the morning of March 4, 1982, my dad would steal Uncle Steve’s old pick-up truck and make his way to LaVergne. After my brother Brad, my little sister Amanda, and myself boarded the school bus that morning our lives would be forever changed. It’s my belief that Dad must have watched us get on that bus. Given the timing of the events to follow…he was already at the house…waiting. This situation is still a confusing issue for me to comprehend. Despite the violence that was about to occur…mercy (or possibly love) was being shown (or forced). Someday…God will let me know the truth.

When we would arrive at school, everyone sat on the bleachers in the gym until school actually started and then we would be dismissed in groups to our respective homerooms. This morning my friend Chuck Ransom immediately tracked me down and told me, “Something is wrong at your house, someone laying in your front yard.” After asking him to repeat himself I took off for the main office (Chuck could see my house from his…and I believe his school bus also drove pass my house). I don’t recall asking for permission…I just acted. Upon reaching the office I began trying to tell anyone that would listen that something had gone wrong at my house…”I need to call home and make sure everyone is ok!”

Eventually, the school counselor takes me seriously and allows me to use the phone. I called my house (I still remember my phone number) and it just rang…and rang…and rang. No one answered. This is 1982, we didn’t have an answering machine, voice mail, call waiting or any of that stuff back then. If someone was home…they answered the phone. I knew three people were at that house…and none of them were answering the phone.

The school counselor had me have a seat while she worked to gather what information she could. It wouldn’t be long before my brother and sister joined me in the main office. Shortly after that, the three of us received a police escort to the LaVergne Police Station (we were under their protection in the event others were involved). An hour or so later, the same police officer drove us to Andy Noe’s house.

There…standing in the driveway…another of my mom’s brothers (Pat Noe) would tell me what had happened.

My dad had shot and killed Uncle Joe (he was laying dead in the front yard), shot and killed my mom (she was found dead hiding under the kitchen table), shot and injured my half-sister Tina (she escaped out the bathroom window), and then shot and killed himself (in Tina’s bedroom).

I’m thirteen years old…and I’m an orphan. Brad is ten years old…and he’s an orphan. Amanda is six years old…and she is an orphan. Tina is badly injured but will live and recover. A baby boy is born that day and given up for adoption. He should be about 33 years old now.

Despite it all…we got on the bus. My life has been saved twice now…at least by my count.

Early Miracles

[Re-posted from 2015-09-25]

Even before I was born, I feel God was involved in my life.  My gene pool is one of those you’d say needs a little “Clorox” poured into it.  My paternal grandmother, maiden name Meeks, carried quite a few hereditary diseases…most likely from past generations of inbreeding.  The first bad gene, it would skip me…the second one…well, it would change my life forever.

That first disease, muscular dystrophy, had shown up twice in my grandmother’s children and grandchildren.  My uncle Lewis, her youngest child, would succumb to the disease as a teenager.  Later on, Danny (her grandchild) would also fall victim to this devastating affliction but not before reaching his twenties.

My family was worried that I too would be born with muscular dystrophy.  It wasn’t to be…nor would any of my siblings be affected by this menace.

I remember as a child, every Labor Day, my dad would be glued to the television to watch Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.  It wasn’t until later in life that I understood why.  I suppose even inside the evil shell of man my dad was…there was still a little bit of humanity.  I suspect it was more heartache than anything else.  Having to watch your little brother die in such a cruel manner.  Not an easy thing to do.  I have more about “little brothers” to tell in later posts.

What Is This?

[Reposted from 2015-09-25]

I’ve had many of my friends suggest to me that I should share my testimony…the miracles God has performed in my life.  Between the bad times, God has always been there to pick me up.  Though I have yet to figure out why He keeps me here…I figure it might simply to be to tell others how He’s been involved in my life.  How He’s pulled me from the grave…literally  The stories you’ll read here will be gruesome sometimes…full of pain and suffering…but what I want you to come away with is how God pulled me through these hardships.  I don’t want your pity  I’m not interested in comparing my hardships to yours.  We each have our burdens to bare.  I want to glorify God by telling these stories. My testimony.