Worthwhile Words

My Granddad once told me....

On March 14, 2010 I sat in my Aunt Ann's house and listened to story after story that my Granddaddy told.  I made a conscious effort to remember these stories because at the age of 88, his mind was (and still is) as sharp as a tack.  Now, at 90, he isn't quite as independent as he was back then, but these stories will forever be in my heart.

* Granddaddy ate his first Mexican food in 1944 when he was on a "troop train" in Texas.  When their train got to El Paso, they all got off and a lot of Mexicans were hanging out near the station.  Some of them were sitting against a concrete wall on the sidewalks of town with their sombreros hanging so far over their heads that you couldn't see their face.  He guessed they were sleeping.  There were others walking around pushing carts selling Tamales.  Some of his friends bought a ton of "hot tamales" and shared them with Granddaddy.  This was his first "mexican food" experience.  He LOVED them and has never forgotten just how good and authentic they were.  He was disappointed recently, however, when he went to a local "Mexican" restaurant in Clinton, NC and they had NO idea what tamales were.  We later figured out he was talking about Taco Bell.  No wonder they had no idea......

*On the same "troop train" mentioned above, but in a different part of Texas, Granddaddy and his military friends were riding along going around 40-50mph.  They all looked out of the right side window (the details he remembers amaze me....seriously, the RIGHT side??) and there was a jack rabbit KEEPING UP WITH THE TRAIN.  They all looked at it and the jack rabbit turned his head, mid-stride and stared right back at them.  Granddaddy said, "I don't know how far that jack rabbit went, but it was a LONG way from where he started."

* Granddaddy and Grandma (Essie) named one of their sons, Gary Douglas Raynor, after two people:  Gary Cooper, an actor of their time, and General Douglas McAuthur who led the "return trip" to the Philippines to liberate them from Japan in WWII.  Granddaddy was part of General Douglas McAuthur's "return trip."  The other three sons were named after him (James Robert Raynor, Jr - Jimmy) and both of their granddad (Andy was named after their paternal granddad - Bertus Andrew and my dad, Emmit Shelton, was named after their maternal granddad - Emmit Marshburn).  Somehow, when my dad (Shelton) went into the Army, the spelling of "Emmit" was changed to "Emmett" which is how he has signed his name as long as I can remember.  His birth certificate, however, it is spelled "Emmit" after his grandfather.

*Speaking of the Philippines....Granddaddy was in the hospital March 9-13, 2010.  Part of the time he spent at Wake Med, where his heart doctor is.  One of the nurses he had was Asian and he spent part of his day silently wondering what country she was from.  He mentioned it to one of his children who later asked part of Asia she was from.  She replied that she was from the Philippines.  Granddaddy's interest was sparked by that and a conversation ensued about what part of the country she was from.  She replied that she was born in Cebu.  Granddaddy told her that he was part of the infantry during WWII that returned to the Philippines (with Gen. McAuthur, specifically to Cebu) to liberate them from Japan.  They were successful and the Philippines became independent in 1946.  His nurse came over and gave him a big hug.  That story of the past and present nearly brings tears to my eyes.

*This particular day (3/14/10), my Aunt Delores was over at Granddaddy's house cleaning up and came across a living snake.  It was gray with diamonds on his back and a diamond shaped head.  It was small, thank goodness and she was able to kill it.  Granddaddy immediately said it was a cottonmouth and that they are dangerous.  He proceeded to tell us a story about when he was fishing with some of Essie's (Grandma) brothers.  They were driving down a dirt road near Richlands, NC and they saw a live rattlesnake stretched across the road.  They ran over it and backed up over it again to see if they'd hurt it.  They had done nothing to piss it off.  Granddaddy was standing up in the back of the truck and when they came back across the snake, it jumped up and Granddaddy was staring down the snake's throat as it stretched over the top of the top of the cab of the truck.  They were able to kill it and eventually wrapped the front bumper of Uncle DeWitt's truck with the snake.  One of their friends that was studying or working for NC State later asked if he could have the dead snake for his studies.  It was the largest rattlesnake he has ever seen to this day....

The Story of My Great Grandmother Losing Her Eyesight....

My cousin, Debra Freeman emailed me this story about my Great Grandmother, Grace Walker Cameron and her sister, Helen Walker Buchan.

Grace & Helen grew up in Pennsylvania.  Their father had something to do with a mine.  The girls would hitch up the buckboard on payday and go to the mine to pay the working men.  Also along for the ride was their pet goat.  On one of these trips, the girls were stopped by bandits and robbed.  At some point, "guns were fired" and Grammy was hit, either with a bullet or debris, in the face.  This resulted in her losing all or part of the vision in one eye.  One of the questions they got asked often was whether or not they went back on the road again.  The answer was, "Yes - the men had to be paid." After this incident, they always carried a gun with them.  Grammy (Grace) and her sister, Helen were born in the late 1800's.  Grammy died in 1964.

Packing Your Parachute.....

Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam.  After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface to air missile.  Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands.  He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison.  He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, "You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft, Kitty Hawk! You were shot down!"

"How in the world did you know that?" asked Plumb.  "I packed your parachute" the man replied.  Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude.  The man pumped his hand and said, "I guess it worked!"

Plumb assured him, "It sure did.  If your chute hadn't worked, I wouldn't be here today."

Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man.  Plumb says, "I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy Uniform:  a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell bottom trousers.  I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said, 'Good Morning, how are you?' or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor."

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time, the fate of someone he didn't know.

So...."Who's packing your parachute?"

Funny You Should Ask....
--Rick Reilly (Sports Illustrated, April 12, 1999)

So we were lying on our backs in the grass in the park next to our hamburger wrappers, my 14 year old son and I, watching the clouds loitering overhead, when he asked me, "Dad, why are we here?"

And this is what I said.

"I've thought a lot about it son, and I don't think it's all that complicated.  I think maybe we're here just to teach a kid how to bunt, turn two and eat sunflower seeds without using his hands."

"We're here to pound the steering wheel and scream as we listen to the game on the radio, 20 minutes after we've pulled into the garage.  We're here to look all over, give up and then find the ball in the hole."

"We're here to watch, at least once, as the pocket collapses around John Elway, and it's fourth and never.  Or as the count goes to 3 and 1 on Mark McGuire with bases loaded, and the pitcher begins wishing he'd gone to med-school.  Or as a little hole you couldn't get a skateboard through suddenly opens in front of Jeff Gordon with a lap to go."

"We're here to wear our favorite sweat-soaked Boston Red Sox cap, torn Slipper Rock sweatshirt and the converses we lettered in, on a Sunday morning with nowhere we have to go and no one special we have to be."

"We're here to rake on a jack-high nothin' hand and have nobody know it but us.  Or get in at least one really good brawl, get a nice shiner and end up throwing an arm around the guy who gave it to us."

"We're here to shoot a six-point elk and finally get the f-stop right, or to tie the perfect fly, make the perfect cast, catch absolutely nothing and call it a perfect morning."

"We're here to nail a yield sign with an apple core from half a block away.  We're here to make our dog bite on the same lame fake throw for the gazillionth time.  We're here to win the stuffed bear or go broke trying."

"I don't think the meaning of life is gnashing our bicuspids over what comes after death but tasting all the tiny moments that come before it."

"We're here to be the coach when Wendell, the one whose glasses always fog us, finally makes the perfect backdoor pass of all season.  We're here to be there when our kid has three goals and an assist.  And especially when he doesn't."

"We're here to see the Great One setting up behind the net, tying some poor goaltender's neck into a Windsor knot.  We're here to watch the Rocket peer for the sign, two outs, bases loaded, bottom of the career.  We're here to witness Tiger's lining up the 22-foot double breaker to win and not need his autograph afterwards to prove it."

"We're here to be able to do a one-and-a-half for our grandkids.  Or to stand at the top of our favorite double black on a double blue morning and overhear those five wonderful words:  'Highway's closed, too much snow.'  We're here to get the frisbee to do things that would have caused medieval clergyman to burn us at the stake."

"We're here to sprint the last 100 yards and soak our shirts and be so tired that we have to sit down to pee."

"I dont' think we are here to make SportsCenter.  The really good stuff never does.  Like leaving Wrigley at 4:15 on a perfect summer afternoon and walking straight into Murphy's with half of section 503.  or finding ourselves with a free afternoon, a little red 327 fuel-injected 1962 Corvette convertible and an unopened map of Vermont's back roads."

"We're here to get the triple Dagwood sandwich made, the perfectly frosted malted beverage mug filled and the football kicked off at the very second your sister begins tying up the phone until Tuesday."

"None of us are going to find ourselves on our deathbeds saying, 'Dang, I wish I'd spent more time on the Hibbings Account.'  We're going to say, 'That scar? I got that scar stealing home from Consolidated Plumbers.'"

"See, grown-ups spend so much time doggedly slaving toward the better car, the perfect house, the bid day that will finally make them happy, when happy just walked in wearing a bicycle helmet two sizes too big for him.  We're not here to find a way to heaven.  The way IS heaven.  Does that answer your question, son?"

And he said, "Not really, Dad."

And I said, "No?"

And he said, "No, what I meant is, why are we here when mom said to pick her up 40 minutes ago?"