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Filling up the Holes

Tees Bday Post largeTHIS POST WAS TEE APPROVED…(but without her approval)
(Oh…and she MEANT that I Was 29…not that SHE was 29.  That would be strange.)  

 Over the years since I had my daughters, I’ve often thought about life, death, legacy,  what’s really important and deep stuff like that.  (Hey…I’m a deep kinda guy.)…but, it would always leave me with a BANGIN’ headache and no answers,  so I would kind of just place it on the back burner until another situation came up that would put me in one of my Prince listening, dark room sitting, meaning of life pondering moods. 

One of those times came when my brother died almost a year ago and it left me with one big question that I’ve been internally debating ever since.

What exactly is legacy?

     It ain’t as simple as one would think. Well, it kinda IS, but  there’s a lot of stuff that muddies the subject for us.  It took me a LONG time to sort through it, but I think I can bring some clarity.  Through it all, I hope that  I can help some of you benefit from my ignorance so that you don’t have to go through it.  So hang with me, and I’ll try to shed some light on it or, more colorfully,   like one of my friends from my Air Force days used to say, “…throw some dirt in that hole”.  

     What I discovered is that as men, we often place such a huge value on providing for our families financially and materially, that we leave  ourselves with almost no energy to provide for them mentally and spiritually.   We sometimes worry so much about getting that hot, new toy,  or the latest Jordans, or the newest video game system (Okay…maybe that one was more for ME than the kids…but you get the picture.  DON’T JUDGE ME!)  when in fact, our time and attention is the MOST important thing that we can do for our daughters.  I now look at it like this…”If I can buy it, it will  eventually be useless…buy if I can INSTILL it, it will last forever…..You can’t run out of character.”

So in a nutshell, be careful not to fall into the trappings of giving your daughters STUFF.  YOUR time is one of the few things that no one else can give her and that can never be replaced.  Simply put, once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back.  That makes it valuable beyond measure.

When I first adopted the girls, we would sometimes go to a coffee shop together just to hang out.  I would get some kind of foo foo latte or something, and the girls would get what we affectionately called a “moo- moo steamer” or, plainly put, a steamed milk with flavoring in it.  We would sit there and I would read a newspaper and they would  pretend to read as they sat across from me.  One of my biggest regrets in regards to them, is not doing it more often.  I can remember looking across the table at them as they “read” but gosh…it sure would be nice to have a LOT more memories of it, but, as I said…you cant get time back.

So, the keys?  Share your time, and make good use of the time you share with them.  Here are a few ideas that I think would be great to do with your daughters.

1) Leave work  sometimes and pick her up from school “just cause”.  Go see a cartoon at the movies or maybe just go for a nice long walk and talk about life.

2)  Deliver flowers to her school for no reason.

3) Have lunch with her at school.  (That is IF you can still fit in those little tables….Let me tell ya, years of eating like the government would be making it illegal tomorrow made sitting in them chairs one  hecukva experience for yours truly.)

4) TELL her how important she is to you as often as you can.

5) Take her fishing.  (I wish I had pictures of when I first took my girls fishing on the pier.  It was HIGH-LARRY-US  and they absolutely LOVED it.  They STILL love to go.) Yes, I DO know how to spell hilarious…but EVERYTHING is better when spelled phonetically.

6) Take funny faced pictures with them.

7) Two words:  Pillow Fights.

8) Take her  kite flying. My daughters STILL talk about how I took them kite flying.  To them , it was the most amazing thing in the world, but  if I describe it, I’d call it “Daddy running around a field with a kite in his hand while they held the string.”

9) Hold her hand as often as you can.  There will be a time when you wont be able to anymore.

10) Listen to her.  Even though she may be little…she still wants to know that she’s important enough to get your attention.

In my mind, the litmus test is this:  “When I’m no longer here…and my girls are describing me to their children….what words will they use?”    I think of that…and then act accordingly.

BAM!  That’s some high quality dirt that I  just threw in that hole!

 

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It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

God always helps me to see the big picture.

Now,  I have to apologize, to those that read my ramblings here.  My apology is this…I’m sorry I left you for so long…

When I first came back to writing after losing my brother, I thought I was ok….I wasn’t…nope..no siree bob….not even close.

There were some other things that happened around the same time that I just don’t have the strength to share yet, but just know this.  Everything that I had grown and had been taught to believe suddenly found itself in the cross-hairs of a sudden, overpowering disbelief.  Where I had once seen order, I could only see chaos.  EVERYTHING.  Enough punches can make the strongest personn want to bow out…and it seemed like me and my family were taking the best swings that the world had to offer….

So, I faked it a time or two..I wrote SOME stuff, but it really wasn’t what I was feeling. I wrote like I was okay… I wasn’t okay.  For a few weeks, every smile that I gave was as hollow as those grinning chocolate Easter bunnies.  I was hurting inside and I wasn’t allowing it out.  I was so busy trying to convince everybody else that things were ok, that I wasn’t allowing myself time to actually BECOME ok.  What I was giving wasn’t me… It simply wasn’t …Every time that I put my hands on a keyboard to write, I was puitting out sunshine and rainbows when my whole world seemed like clouds and rain….and I promised to always give you ME….not some alternate reality version of me.

So, I stopped writing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Nothing. After a while, I figured that working on another book would help me out of the funk.  It’s a much darker, project than anything else I’ve written.  I figured that the pages would just SCREAM for release.  But guess what?  Nope.  Almost nothing.  Next to nada.  Almost ZILCH.  I was completely, utterly without my words.  I think I wrote four paragraphs in like a month….(Now they are GREAT paragraphs, but still…it’s only four.  LOL)

Then, God showed me something thru a song…It had a great message that really hit me at the time.  It’s called, “Who You Are”:

Who You Are

I stare at my reflection in the mirror:

“Why am I doing this to myself?”
Losing my mind on a tiny error,
I nearly left the real me on the shelf.
No, no, no, no, no…Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars!
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay.
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are!
(who you are [x11])Brushing my hair, do I look perfect?
I forgot what to do to fit the mold, yeah!
The more I try the less it’s working, yeah
‘Cause everything inside me screams
No, no, no, no, no…

Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars!
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay.
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
But tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
There’s nothing wrong with who you are!

Yes, no’s, egos, fake shows, like whoa!
Just go and leave me alone!
Real talk, real life, good love, goodnight,
With a smile that’s my own!
That’s my own, no…

No, no, no, no, no…

Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars!
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay…
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are!
Yeah yeah yeah

So, thru something as simple as that, God  helped me see that it was okay for me NOT to be okay sometimes. I had to learn that I would not be okay until I learned how to forgive myself for NOT being ok.   Even the strongest tree sways in the strong wind….the key is not to break.

And with that, if you can forgive me for my absence..I would like to keep sharing with you.  Let’s get this party started.

Ty

 
 

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Sometimes, The Words Ring Hollow (For my brother)

(This post is therapy for me)

Even though it was many, many years ago, I still remember the words as clearly as if I had just heard them yesterday.

“God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” , he said.

Deacon Harris’  words drifted up to me from the small makeshift bed in the back of the van as I drove.   You could feel the pain that mated  with his speech as each word, slowly, purposefully tumbled over his teeth; eventually breaking the forced, awkward “non monotony”  of the sounds of Sade songs wafting from the cd player.  The music was ill placed, but it helped me to ignore the obvious fact that here was a dying man lying behind me.

His words refused to let me wallow in the self imposed sanctuary of my  denial.    He said it again, but this time he used my name to get my attention.

“Ty, did you hear me?  I believe that God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain but you know, either  way it goes, he makes the pain stop.”

I nodded my head, and said, “yeah” over my shoulder; too scared to look back at him.  I didn’t want the question to go into the territory of what I believed  because at the time, his words rung a bit hollow to me.   I couldn’t see past his impending death, and I questioned how a man in that had been in that much pain for so long, could be talking about healing.  Nothing had worked so far….Death was just……death.  No HEALING.

“Good.” he said.  “That’s important.”

So, with that, we plodded on.  I took great care to avoid as many bumps as possible, lest the sound of moans and grunts from behind me remind me of the frailness of my cargo.  Sade continued to be our riding partner.

Across the years since, I would often wonder  why he decided to say this to me twice on that ride.   Maybe he knew that he wasn’t going to be around much longer and wanted to make sure that I understood that he thought he’d be in a better place.  Maybe he just said it to make himself feel better, or maybe he felt that I would need to be equipped with this knowledge to help me down the road.

Fast forward to Sunday, March 24, 2013, 7:35 a.m.

My cell phone rings.  I answer.   The voice was  Dale’s.

Within it, I felt something that I had  never felt in that voice before.  There was a  seriousness that leaped over miles and miles of cell phone signal to grab me by the shoulders and shake the remnants of the night’s sleep away.

“Tyrone…What are you doing?” This strange/familiar/strong/weak/ brave/scared  voice said.

“Nothing much, man.  Just watching some t.v.  Everything cool?”  I knew things weren’t.  It was too early for  things to be “cool”

“Mama just called me.” He said.   “She said that Foot is might not make it.”

There was that shaking coming across the lines again.

Foot is my brother.  Well, his name is actually Sidney, but  for some reason, the name Foot was given to him and I guess he never disputed it enough,  so it stuck.  Foot had been battling some serious diseases for the last few years.  Over a year ago, the doctor had given him 6 months to live.  On Sunday, we were at over 14 months since that proclamation.  It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since though.  Between then and now, there had been many  ambulance pickups, e.r. visits,  long hospital stays and even doctors telling us that we needed to go ahead and call all of the family to town.  Each time, Foot would bounce back, like some kind of bad penny that just kept turning up.  I remember, the last time the doctors told us he might not make it back home, we were all gathered in his hospital room.  He was talking with us; joking like he always did, when he looks around in sudden realization and says,  ” Hey….All of ya’ll are here???  Is something’  happenin’  that ya’ll ain’t tellin’ me ’bout?!?!”  He went home a few days later;  Foot, the bad penny.

The voice on the other end continued to talk.  “I’m on my way down there now.  The rescue squad people are  there working on him, but Mama says it don’t look good.”

(Come on bad penny!…….come on bad penny!)

“Call Daphne and let her know, but don’t call the house, Mama is pretty tore up.  If you have to call, call Bobby.  He’s over there.” he said.  Daphne is Foot’s daughter.

“Ok, Dale.  I’ll make a few calls and I’m on my way down.  Don’t worry, dude…Everything will be cool.  I’m on my way in a few minutes.”

I hung up the phone. Sharon was the first call.  She had literally just pulled out of the driveway on her way to church, so she was back in the house in no time.  I told her about the conversation and she said that she would call Daphne for me so that I could get ready to get on the road.   So, I went upstairs to get ready.

I called Bobby.  He said that he got there about the same time as the paramedics did.  Despite my hopes that his interpretation of events would be different from Dale’s, they weren’t.  Things were not good.

He said that they had been working on Foot for over 30 minutes.  Nothing was working.  They had tried everything and they continued to try.  Then he said something that really brought things home to me.

“I want to tell them to stop trying; that it’s not going to work…..but I can’t tell them that.”

Bobby, the strongest one of ALL of us in my opinion, said it wasn’t going to work…..The shaking that came across the lines was worse this time.  It shook me with the force of a full fledged gorilla.

(COME ON…BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  COME ON BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  JUST FREAKIN’ COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I got dressed, packed up the car, and Sharon and I started on our way.  The plan was to pick up Daphne and the girls and head down.

8:21 a.m

Bobby calls again..  “Man…..they just pronounced him dead…..”

It felt like the hand of God reached down and pulled every bone from my body,  squeezed my lungs until I couldn’t breathe and forced tears out until they  burned in my eyes.  I forced myself to finish the drive to Daphne’s house….all the while steeling myself up for the next phase.

I got out of the car, and walked to Daphne’s door. I knocked.  Out poured her and my two little nieces; bags of books and toys in hand.  We got the little ones settled into their spots in the back seat and put Daph’s bags in the trunk.

It’s kind of a blur, and I can’t remember who  told Daphne, but I do remember looking into the back seat and seeing her shoulders heave up and down.  I suppose, that God used his other hand to do the same things to Daph that he did to me.  Her pain spread across the back seat like wildfire and soon the little ones were crying too.  I decided it would be best to go inside and talk, so we got out of the car and went inside.

The four of them all sat, huddled together on the couch, with their shoulders rising and lowering with their sobs and  with their tears watering their shirts.  Our family had never been so closely touched by death before, so I let them deal with it on their own terms for a while.  Then, I knelt in front of them. with my mind overflowing with thoughts and stories and analogies and various witticisms and none of them seemed like they would work.  I decided to just start talking and let whatever would come out…just come out….And that’s EXACTLY what happened.

“Girls…..you know, God heals people  in one of two ways, Sometimes, he takes the pain away from them, sometimes he takes them  away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” .

I smiled a bit on the inside. There was my answer as to why I was told that so many years ago!     God used Deacon Harris to plant something in me that I would use to console my family during my own brothers death.  Oh God, my God…..infinite in all your wisdom.

I used that analogy and others over the last few days each time bringing a small piece of understanding to those I share them with.  Heads would nod in approval.  Eyes would be wiped with understanding.  Now, I I wish I could say that I’m so strong that I don’t need them for myself, but that’s not the case.  Each time I get the chance to say it, I draw a little bit of strength for myself and I’m able to hold on just a bit longer.  I realize that I (and my whole family) will be tested over the next few days, but I take strength in knowing that God set some wheels into motion oh so many years ago….We’ll be just fine.  

Rest in peace, Sidney (Foot) Davis  Sutton.  I miss you, Big brother.

 

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