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“College football is approaching rather rapidly.   And to many, it’s become a religion.   It was a religion to me.   At least once.   Back in 1976. In Tampa.”

 

 

Those are the only five or six sentences I had written to post on The Lunar Report this week.   It was supposed to be about a gathering of my family and their friends on the weekend of September 11 of that year.   gatorIt was supposed to make fun of the Florida Gators who lost to my team after throwing the ball out of bounds on fourth down to stop the clock.   It was supposed to be about my Aunt Edith who, on Sunday morning, had to put her bloody mary on top of the motel room television set so that she could hold her bible and hold prayer service.   It was supposed to be funny.

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Well, it’s not so funny anymore.   I just learned that Bill Dooley, arguably the most successful football coach ever at The University Of North Carolina, passed away this morning.   I remember Jim Hickey, the coach who took Carolina to the 1962 Gator Bowl game.   But that’s my only memory of Coach Hickey.   Most of my early memories of Carolina Football came from the man who took over for Hickey in 1967.   From the man who died today.

Dooley brought us Don McCauley, Ron Rusnak, Ken Huff, Charles Waddell, Mike Voight, “Boom-Boom Betterson.”   And Lawrence Taylor!   He also brought his fans 69 wins in 11 seasons.

But to me, he mostly brought some wonderful memories.   He was the only football coach we had when I was a student at Carolina.   And I will admit my memories are a bit fuzzy.   Even Bill Dooley couldn’t stop the flow of sweet bourbon on warm Saturday afternoons in Kenan Stadium.   For me, my friends and a few times for my brother.   He just couldn’t stop that.

In October of 1975, my senior year, my brother came from our home in Jacksonville, Florida to go with me to the Notre Dame game in Chapel Hill.   My mom and dad sent a couple of things for my brother to give to me.   One was a letter from my mom, telling us to enjoy ourselves and begging us not to drink at the game.   The other was a twenty dollar bill from my dad with instructions to enjoy ourselves and to buy some bourbon.   So what did I do?    Well, my brother expected me to buy a pint and pocket the change. I bought a half gallon instead!

BeamOn the way into the stadium that day, I wrapped my sweater around the bottle.   We were so excited about the game, I think, that we walked faster than we usually did.   Somewhere near the entrance gate, I fumbled big time.   That damned glass bottle of Jim Beam slipped from my sweater and hit the hard brick sidewalk we were walking on.   I think I yelled, “Oh my God!”   Then I looked down and saw the bottle just spinning on the brick.   There were no breaks at all.   I think I told my brother that, even though we were not the Irish, “we will be lucky today!”

Joe Montana

And we were.   For over three quarters.   In the fourth quarter, Carolina led the always powerful and lucky Irish team, 14-0.   That’s when Notre Dame put in their third string quarterback.   That’s right.   THIRD string guy!    Joe-freakin’- Montana!   That’s when the bottle broke!    Figuratively. of course!

 

Well Bill Dooley didn’t win that game, but he gave my brother and me one of the best memories we have ever shared.

boom-boom-boomAnd, he gave us “Boom-Boom.”   I’m not sure I appreciated that at the time.   “Boom-Boom” and I shared a lecture class of some sort.   I don’t remember the class, but I remember one day.   I went to the bathroom or something, and when I returned, my text book was gone.   After class, I looked everywhere for it.   Nothing!   So, I said, “What the hell?” and went to the student union to grab a bite to eat.   And there he was.   “Boom-Boom!”   And he had my book.    I could tell it was mine from the tattered spine I had tattered myself.   So I approached him about it.   When I got to his table, he flexed his arm muscles as he covered the book, and looked up at me.   He was a strong man, and frankly, he scared the hell out of me.   I read the look in his eyes.   “So, what the hell do you want,” was what I read.   I just held up my hands, backed away a bit and said something stupid, like, “Hey! Great class today, huh?”   And then I got the hell out of there.   What did I care anyway?   I never read that damned book!

Coach.   This is nonsense, but it’s nonsense that means the world to me.   Thank you for the memories.   The wins were great and fun.

But, damn it.

Thanks for the incredible memories!

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daddy and mattThe man was called away a while back. But I saw him again the other day. That happens often.

The first time I recall seeing him again, he was with two other guys – Herm and Gene. Herm is my son’s granddad. Gene is my uncle – the brother of my son’s other granddad. Those three joined my son and me in Atlanta for a University of North Carolina football game against LSU a few years ago.

On that Atlanta day, my son and I celebrated the life of one of his young friends who had recently been called away. The friend was a huge LSU fan. I hope that kid somehow saw what I did that day. If he did, then he is sharing some pretty awesome Heaven time with three great guys.

All three have been called away. But on that day, they lived. On that day, I saw in my son the no nonsense determination and joy of Herm. I saw the friendly and constantly engaging and fun-loving glow of my Uncle Gene. And I saw in my son the sort of bold and twisted fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants love and humor of the other man.

That other man is my dad. I called him “Daddy.” I also called him “Joe.”

July 16th is Joe’s birth date.

Just a few days ago, I spent some time with my three grandsons. They came to my place for their first “sleepover” at my Charlotte home. Just as their dad did on the Atlanta trip, my grandsons brought Joe to Charlotte with them.

daddy airforce

 

 

The oldest grandson let me see again the sort of crazy but treasured fly-by-the seat-of your pants leadership stuff that defined my dad.

 

 

 

 

 

The younger grandson showed me the compassion and understanding of the man.

 

 

 

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My youngest grandson displayed, consistently, my dad’s desire and ability to entertain his friends and loved ones.

 

 

matt

 

 

 

And through each of their actions and thoughts and words, I saw my young son. My dad’s grandchild.  My grandchildrens’ dad.  The living testament of Herm, Gene and Joe.

 

 

 

We all are called to go somewhere else. And we have to go.  But you know what? We never leave.  We just don’t.

Thanks, Daddy, for sticking with us.

And Happy Birthday, my friend!

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Devastating moments are hard to overcome. Especially when those moments are created by oneself and all that one’s self encompasses.

Believe me. I know about this.

But I also know about joy. And about how such devastation can lead to the good stuff.

 

My son believes that I am one of the most positive human beings he has ever known.  Actually, I kind of get the impression that he thinks I am the most positive. Well, if that’s the case, he’s wrong. Sorry to be so negative here, but he knows the same positive folks that I do. I will never hold a candle next to those folks.

I proved that last week. And it devastated me. For a while.

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My mother was the second oldest child in her family. She had four other sisters. All of the sisters lived mostly in Alamance County, North Carolina from the time they were born until the days they each left us. Mama left her home in the Alamance County town of Burlington to be with my dad. First in Vincennes, Indiana where my oldest sibling was conceived during my dad’s World War Two training days. After the war, they lived in Victory Village, a college housing community for veterans and their families at The University of North Carolina. Then after a short stint back in Burlington, Mama went to Roanoke, Virginia and eventually to Jacksonville, Florida with her husband and three children. Her sisters all stayed home. In Alamance County.

 

Just like her sisters, my mom loved being at the family home in Burlington. Whenever she could do that, she did. And just like Mama, her kids – the grandchildren of those family home folks – cherished their young days there as well. After we moved to Jacksonville, we would spend weeks during the summer at the old and warm Maple Avenue home of my gardeniagrandparents, living for a while among the aroma of gardenias wafting in from the side yard.

We were always welcomed at that place. Always as my feelings recall. On every morning that we left my grandparents’ house to return to our home in Florida, my grandmother would sit next to me while I ate Frosted or Corn Flakes at her kitchen table. She would place her left hand on my right knee, move her face and eyes and concerned and loving and disappointed look toward my face and simply say in her elongated southern tone, “Don’t go!”

At the end of one visit there, something kind of devastating happened. I have never been clear on what it was. I was a kid at the time. But something did. And I believe to this day that, before it happened, my grandmother once again said to me, “Don’t go.” But as we drove out of the Maple Avenue driveway to head south, my mom was in tears. Something happened that made her not feel so welcomed at her mom and dad’s house on that final day. To this day, I hate that Mama felt so badly about leaving her home and the flowers there after being where she was once so loved. And I really hate the feeling I had as we drove away.

Look, growing up in my life at our Florida home was difficult. My mom had emotional problems. My dad had some problems as well. But my siblings and I always felt acceptance and our presence there was always a requisite. And after I left to pursue my own life in another state, I was always welcomed back into their home – my old home place. So was my son and his friends. Neither of my parents could have lived with themselves if they ever turned me, their grandson or his buddies away from wherever the hell the two parents of mine were at the time. That was simply an impossible notion for the grandparents of my child.

A couple of weeks ago, I blew a big-time opportunity. Just as my grandmother did so many years ago. I have a list of excuses for doing such a thing. I learned listing from my mom. But I won’t do that here. Whatever happened all those years ago, and what happened earlier this week deserve no excuses. Both were just blown opportunities.

carowindsOn that Monday of that week, I spent the day with my son, his daughter, her cousin, two of my son’s young sons and a few other folks at a Charlotte area amusement park. The day at the park began early. And early on and throughout the day, I kind of reconnected in some very special ways with my three grandchildren and their cousin. (“Cousin!” Listen to me. That cousin is my grandchild, too!) He and my granddaughter are older, though. Young teens. The two of them and the other older kids there went to the big rides.

But I was charged with taking my two young grandsons to do rides they would enjoy. And so I did. And this old man rode with them. Being with those two at those moments and during every moment I encountered that day, well… The entire day was a blessing. A real and very true blessing.

FUN-040 8 Hurler

The youngest of those two pulled a Burlington-grandma-thing on me many times that day. “Don’t go,” he said to me in his own words. His real words were, “Paw-Paw, sit with me!” “Paw-Paw, I’m a little afraid. Do you mind holding my hand on this ride?” “Paw-Paw, are you coming to our house?” The last thing, I think that kid said to me that day was, “Paw-Paw, can we eat pizza at your place?” or something like that.

 

I am called “Paw-Paw.” My grandmother was called “Nanny.” Maybe my grandson heard me pull a “Nanny” on his dad that night. After we left the amusement park, his dad, my son, asked me if they could get pizza and eat it at my house before their thirty-minute drive to their home. The question was a beautiful one. The answer became the devastation that night. To me, anyway.

It was almost eight o’clock, and I was very tired. It had been a wonderful day with those guys, but at the same time, the day was brutal on my body. Honestly, I reached a point where I thought my day just needed to end. So, when my son asked me, “Dad, is it okay if we get a pizza and eat it at your place?” I chose to turn a beautiful, selfless and loving day into a self-serving and devastating ending. I answered, “Man, I’m sorry, but, no. I gotta get some rest.”

I don’t know. Maybe I was justified in giving that answer. My son understood. That’s the way he is. But I somehow lost the understanding of that question. And the answer I gave confused me. More likely, I was so self-consumed at that point that the feelings of others didn’t matter at all to me at the time.

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After telling my son what I did and on the ride back to my place, I thought of my grandmother and my mother. And the dominant vision kept coming back to me. The one of my mom crying because she no longer felt welcomed at her mother’s house. My son didn’t cry. Neither did my young grandson. But, damn it, I made it clear that they were not welcomed at my house that night.

I hope my response didn’t devastate those guys as much as it did me that night and as much as my grandmother’s response, or something, devastated my mother all those years ago. But, right now, I am grateful for what happened.

I hate myself for my selfish reactions to my son and his dear child. But I hate myself more for missing the perfect opportunity to make my son and his guys feel nothing but welcomed in my home. At any time. And in any circumstance. The way my mom and dad always welcomed me.

The good stuff from this devastating moment? The recognition that this shit will never happen again. Not at my home. Not on my watch. Not as long as I am a living dad and granddad!

The folks I love most deserve better.

Click buy cytotec oral for the new Lunacy, “Stephen Curry Challenge.”

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors - Game One

I will be honest with you. This is an outright challenge to Stephen Curry. He’s a Charlotte guy. And he will understand.

Almost 30 years ago, I was carried by paramedics from an Atlanta, Georgia hotel room to a hallway in the emergency room of an Atlanta hospital. The best those at that place could do for me was to prescribe some pain killers for the blistering back and sciatic pain that made me totally disabled for quite some time. Thanks to the support of my brother who lived in Atlanta at the time, I was able to rest in pain for a few days at his place after the others in my group drove back home to Chapel Hill, NC.

My brother made sure I flew back. That’s how my brother is.  And that’s how badly I was hurting.

Last February, I spent four days in a Huntersville, NC hospital, recovering from pneumonia caused mostly, I suppose, by the COPD the docs diagnosed. At the time, I was a weak and terribly under-weighted guy.

My son took care of me on this one. That’s the way my son is.

Well, I recovered from both of those devastating times.

chymca2That first back thing happened when I was less than 40 years old. I was told by doctors that I may never be able to even mow my own lawn with a back like the one I had. For several years, I believed them. But at the age of 40, I joined the local YMCA in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I lifted weights there. I shot basketball. Eventually I played ball again. With a group I fondly call “Geezer Ballers.” Because of that wonderful YMCA in the Hill, and because of the “geezers,” my back is now fine. So is my life. Both have been for some time.

After leaving Chapel Hill a few years ago to move to Charlotte for work and grandchildren, I stopped even trying to play ball. Then February hit me like a ton of bricks! Weakness, dizziness, lack of weight, long-term breathing problems. Man!

Shortly after leaving the hospital, know what I did? I joined the local YMCA about a mile east of my Charlotte home. It’s the McCrorey branch. There’s a great deal of history there.

mccrory ymca

 

 

So, anyway, I have been working out on weights there for a few months. I have also been shooting hoops. I am not certain when or if I will ever “play” geezer ball again. But, damn it, the Charlotte McCrorey YMCA is giving to me exactly what the Chapel Hill Y gave to me so many years ago.

Strength. Health. Hope. Promise. And the sheer joy of basketball again!

 

 

 

And I have to say, my shot is back! I am shooting better than I did as a starter on my high school basketball team! And now I am a 62 year old with COPD!

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a basketball shooting contest against some youngsters from Atlanta on the Georgia side of Lake Hartwell! (Okay. I was at a friend’s house for Memorial Day weekend. There were only two old friends in the contest with me at that lake house. But they are younger than me. Okay. By just a couple of years. But those guys still play competitively. In Atlanta!) The thing is, I beat those big-city Georgia youngsters hands down! There was little question about that!

chapel hill ymca 1Look, the whole point of what I am saying is that the YMCA means the world to me. The Chapel Hill Y and the geezer ball guys there saw me through the back stuff, deaths, a failed marriage, a failed business and so much more distressful stuff. Every day through all of that, the Chapel Hill YMCA was there for me.

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The McCrory branch in Charlotte is no different. Just seeing and receiving the smiles from the folks who work and work out there have made breathing and living so much easier for me.

Many of the regulars there, my “new geezers,” when they see me with a basketball, they ask, “So how’s that shot coming along?” I have to be honest with them. So I said to a couple of them, “If I don’t have to run and jump, I will be a great basketball player!” Then I almost always say to each of them, “Bring on Stephen!” They love it when I say that.

So, come on Stephen! In a few days, you won’t have anything better to do for a while! You and me in a shooting contest! At McCrory!    I will even invite the Chapel Hill geezers to come watch us!

I just really need to see the smiles on the faces of all those old guys who ask me about my shot these days. Sorry, but they need to see me beat you, Stephen!

Seriously, one day I hope that I can provide the same smiles and encouragement that each of my YMCA geezer friends in Chapel Hill and Charlotte continue to give to me.

Actually, this is an outright thank you. One from my heart.

To the YMCA.

Just for the heck of it, here is a video I shot and edited years ago for the Y in the Hill!   buy cytotec

And here is the link to an old Classic Lunar, “Geezer Ball!”  buy cytotec 200mcg

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moonI owe some dear friends an apology. Or, at least, an explanation. I owe most of my family the same. If you are reading this, you are one of those folks.

Most of you know this, but back in mid February, I got sick. According to my “follow-up” doctor, I was “very sick.” I didn’t know that at the time.

At first, I thought it was the worst case of flu I had ever had. It turned out to be pneumonia, and it landed me in a hospital for four or five days.

Now, I will admit, as I did in a recent Lunar Report, that thoughts of old age, dependency and even death sort of occupied my mind for a while during the first hours of the hospital stay. And some beautiful things came from all of those thoughts.

Maybe it was because of the beautiful things. Maybe it was because of my sheer determination to get the hell out of that hospital and to make myself strong. Maybe it was simply because I had the dearest man alive by my side. Whatever the reason, I never really feared the illness. I really didn’t believe that I was “very sick.” I laid in a bed, was waited on hand and foot, had all the food and television available. And I had my son. But I never had fear.

Naturally, my son and his family knew about my deal in February. He drove me to the doctor. To the hospital. He stayed with me and was my strength.

And, just as naturally, my dearest friend from Chapel Hill texted me while all of this was going on. Because she couldn’t physically be with me in Charlotte during all of this, she refuses to acknowledge how very much her constant concern meant to me. Well, she needs to get over that. And to understand what she really did.

Since the time all of that happened, I have talked with my sister and have been with and talked with some other dear old friends. The compassion and concern during those talks and visits warmed my heart and encouraged me greatly. At the same time, their underlying sort of angst, I guess, was apparent. They were almost angry with me because I didn’t tell them what I was going through. One of those dear friends came to Charlotte a couple of weeks ago to play golf with his son who lives here. They both included my son and me in the golf that day. At one point during the round, my friend pulled me off to the side and said to me, “Look, when you get sick like you did, you really need to let me know.”

I got his point. My sister and a few other friends made the same point to me when they first found out about the whole hospital thing. I get theirs as well.

My excuses? “I didn’t think I was that sick, I had everything I needed, I just didn’t feel like talking with anyone – I was sick!” Look, I love all of those guys who needed to hear from me back then, but, honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with that part of such an experience. Not at the time I was sick.

But I do owe you guys an apology. I now know exactly how you are feeling about me and the February illness.

Just last night, I learned of one of my old college roommates and also a longtime and dear friend. He had heart surgery today after having a heart attack. I have heard nothing since last night. But last night I left a message on his wife’s phone. “Tell Tim that he has a lot of good folks in Chapel Hill and Charlotte who are pulling for him!”

Look, you guys, my sister and Tim have taught me so damned very much lately.

We love. And we are loved. Both are equally important to all involved.

IMG_0496And forgive me, please forgive me, for not allowing, even for a brief time, the folks I love so much to simply love me back for a while.

Click buy cytotec no prescriptionfor a lighter view of things.  The latest LUNACY, “Bathroom Rights!”

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Please don’t take this as some political position paper here, okay? Look, I just haven’t been able to understand the legal language in North Carolina’s “House Bill 2” well enough  to take a firm position on the entire bill. But I did hear some guy on television the other day mention “taking away bathroom rights” from transsexuals

Now that hit home with me. Where did that right come from, and if it is really a right, then why the hell was my right to go to the bathroom denied me so damned many times?

circle kIn my life, and as recently as just a few years ago, I have been denied access to toilets in Circle K’s, Seven-Elevens, and many family owned convenience stores. “No public restrooms here!” I was always told by the honest ones. “Toilet out of order,” was the other excuse for denying me my right. And my favorite – “We have no toilet.” I always wondered what those workers did when they had bowel issues while at work.

toiletPlease bear with me while I tell you a few key bathroom rights stories from my life. It all began when I was very young and barely old enough to even use a toilet. Look, I had a dad, and I have an older brother. My dad traveled with his work. The brother was quite a bit older. So when I was a small child, I really never saw much of either of them. I hung out with my mom and slightly older sister. One night after my Dad returned home from work, he saw me sitting on the toilet to urinate. Sitting was something I learned from my sister.

His words to his wife when he saw what he did? “Marie, you’ve got to separate those two!”

Now, two things here. Where the hell was my right to privacy at that time? And why the hell was I denied the right to use the bathroom the way I wanted to? Now look, I’m a guy. So I’m kind of glad he did what he did. But still!

Then there were a few more instances that occurred during my college days in the mid-seventies and even later. Another happened when my son was old enough to follow televised “rastlin.”

I think it was the Spring of 1974 when some friends and I left Chapel Hill, North Carolina to spend Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale. The beach and the beers and the parties were fantastic. But one evening, toward the end of our break, a few of us decided to travel to Miami. We just wanted to see the place. Hell, we were from a place about a thousand miles away from Miami. We had to see it while we were there. We had no desire to go “clubbing” that night. We could no longer afford such a thing. We were simply sight-seeing.

miamiThen it happened. One, then two, then all of us had to use a bathroom. We walked from establishment to establishment, begging the proprietors at each of them to allow our normal and natural bodily functions to do their normal and natural things. We were denied that process at every stop. We had to be their customers to pee on their porcelain. Our only recourse was to public-urinate in a downtown Miami alley. Thank God the local police were doing a Crockett and Tubbs thing on the waterfront or something somewhere else.

We were not arrested.

beerProbably it was a couple of years later when a dozen of us piled into two cars in Chapel Hill to drive to a lake near Chattanooga to visit a friend who had a house there. Now, we clearly broke the law on that trip. Beer cans were popping open even before the engines on the two vehicles properly fired. The last can was popped as we pulled into the lake house. So, you can see why, at some point on the trip, all twelve of us needed to exercise our bathroom rights.

Now, I am not certain of the sexuality of all of the folks on that trip, but I do know that there were men and women along. And all of us needed to urinate at the same time. The problem was, we were on some middle-of-nowhere Tennessee road. There wasn’t even a Circle-K or Seven-Eleven! And, because we weren’t twelve guys who had to go, we had to find some place. Twelve guys could have gone in a dozen empty beer cans while driving and riding if we had to!

motelThe best we could find was an old family owned motel. It was kind of late at night, but the office lights were on and the “vacancy” sign was still flashing. So a few of us, I think all guys, went into the motel office and very politely explained our situation to the old woman behind the desk. And asked to use the motel restroom. The dear old lady pulled a Circle K on us. “No public restrooms here,” she declared. We begged her. We explained that the girls on the trip needed a place to go. Still – “No public restrooms here.”

pee-and-vomitDamn. The other guys and I returned to the cars, told everyone else what the old lady said, then did what we needed to do. We pulled the cars ahead about a hundred yards and everyone jumped out and ran to the safest and most private places they could to urinate. The girls all ran to huddle next to brick at the base of the motel cottages. The guys mostly just took a few steps away from the car to get somewhat closer to a tree, then let it fly.

Well that’s when something else let fly. Bullets from the rifle of that old Tennessee woman’s husband. He was firing shot after shot in our direction. To this day, I don’t know if he was aiming at us, or just trying to scare the hell out of us. But the latter is what certainly happened. Until that night, I had never seen a female run with her underwear around her knees. I did that night. And I ran, too. Finished or not!

Ric-Flair-WWE-videoThings like this never happened in Chapel Hill, one of the most progressive towns ever. That’s where I lived even after college and after my son was born and got old enough to watch “rastlin’” on TV. One of the most popular rastlers at the time was Ric Flair. They called him, “Nature Boy,” so you would likely figure that what he did was in complete alignment with his nickname. But one late weeknight, Nature Boy was arrested in our town. For urinating behind a bush.

womens roomAnd one time I actually chose to use a ladies restroom. I am sure that was against the law. It was in an office building in Lynchburg, Virginia. I saw where I needed to go, and I went for it. At first, I was a bit puzzled by the lack of urinals there, but I calmly entered a stall, curiously noticed the feminine hygiene machine on the inside wall of the stall, lifted the seat and did what I needed to do. About halfway through my biological function, I heard a woman’s voice. Man I was confused. I wanted the hell out of there! Once I left that bathroom, I realized the sign on the door had been changed. It was one of those sliding things that read “MEN.” instead of “WOMEN.” Some clown had switched the damned things.

no menLook, no government entity and almost no business ones these days deny anyone the right to use a restroom. But it happened often to me, to my guy friends, my girl friends, and to Ric Flair. Our problems were never sexual. They were never political. They weren’t even about big city law.

Our only concerns those times were about our bladders. And we dealt with it. And we survived.

Well, Nature Boy probably paid a Chapel Hill fine. But his bladder is doing well these days, I suppose.

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uptown with stadium

I know that God works in mysterious ways. The past few years I have come to understand that He travels some mysterious routes as well. The thing is, I think that I am the only living guy who understands why He chooses to so often travel Independence Boulevard and other nearby roads in Charlotte, North Carolina.

For a while now, I have heard quite a bit of timely music He has sent my way. I have mostly heard the tunes and lyrics while traveling myself down the mysterious road of Independence Boulevard. My work takes me on that route. And I have written about the songs He gave me at some incredibly opportune times. The sounds of those trips took me to loving places I needed to be. With my buy cytotec over the counter. With my buy cytotec with no prescription. With my son. With those wonderful God-given gifts – my grandchildren. (click “mom” and “dad” to read the others.)

The most notable trip with God and song happened on Easter Sunday a couple of years ago. The day my son and a couple of his children were baptized in a church-side pond. Elton John helped as well on that day. His lyrics reminded me of my mom. And she was a faithful woman who went to her grave urging me to become baptized. I never was. But on that day her grandson and his children were.

I heard music again a couple of Sundays ago.

Look, I shouldn’t have needed to hear the tunes and words I did at that time. I have known what I have needed to know for decades.

Over the years, I have listened to this song many times since it was created and recorded. And every time I heard it, certain emotions kicked in. They were ones that mostly made me close my eyes and see the faces of those folks I love most. And beneath the closed eyelids those times, there almost always appeared a tear or two while I understood the faith I have in my loved ones – and in “life itself.”

Those times I closed my eyes while listening to this song and hearing the musical lyric “you,” my ears and my heart and my mind heard, felt and understood mostly what I feel for my son, his wife and children, and some very dear and loving friends and other family. If I ever lose anything with those guys, there really would be nothing else for me to do in this life. But there was, to me anyway, a more subtle notion in those lyrics.

Those couple of Sundays ago I wasn’t traveling down Independence Boulevard. Not that time. On that day, I was on a parallel road, traveling to my work. I was on a road called Providence Road. Man. How appropriate.

myers-park-methodist-2The road was clear. No traffic problems at all. But you have to understand that a road called “Providence” has a church or two on every other corner in a town like Charlotte, North Carolina. And I had to stop a few times while local off-duty police officers allowed church goers to park their cars wherever they could. It was at the very first Providence Road church traffic stop that I heard yet another song.

At the very same time I heard the harmonica play the opening measures of that song, I saw folks of all ages crossing streets, walking sidewalks and holding church doors open for others. Those visions were the same ones from the Sundays I, at a very young age, spent with my mother, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles.

At that intersection, I saw old folks like my grandparents, carrying their old and tattered bibles, wearing their finest clothing and walking briskly to make the sermon. It reminded me of the spiritual moments I spent with my grandmother, grandfather, their daughters and their families in a Burlington, North Carolina Baptist church. I saw younger older people, too. They were dressed up as well, but not quite as committed or determined to hear the beginning of the sermon. That sight exhibited the more laid-back Jacksonville, Florida approach that reminded me of my mom and me at our neighborhood church. Then I saw a young couple walking to the church door. The man was wearing shorts with a dress shirt that wasn’t tucked in. That reminded me of the new and wonderful direction worship services are taking these days. It reminded me of my son, his wife and their God-loved family who live and go to church near Charlotte.

At that very moment, I knew exactly what that song was saying to me.

Over the years, like most of us, I guess, I have from time to time lost my faith in science, my belief in the holy church, my sense of direction. I have surely been a lost man in a lost world from time to time.  I have lost my faith in the people on TV and in politicians and so much more.

That song I heard that day? I researched the meaning of the lyrics. The song-writer wrote an article to explain his song.

He wrote, “It’s quite easy to be precise about the things I’ve lost faith in – politics, media, science, technology, the things that everybody has. And yet I, along with most other people, have a great deal of hope, and a feeling that things will and can get better. So, what do we place our faith in? I can’t define that as easily as I can define what I don’t believe anymore. So, I haven’t defined it. I’ve just said if I ever lose my faith in you, and ‘you’ could be my producer, it could be faith in God, it could be faith in myself, or it could be faith in romantic love…. It could be all of those things.”

The research I did made it clear to me the artist’s intentions. He simply wanted the lyrics to breath. And to take on whatever life they need to. For whoever needs them.

One of the lines in the opening verse of the song is, “You could say I lost my sense of direction.” That has surely happened to me. So damned many times. But after hearing that song on my drive a couple of Sundays ago, and after ending up at a church crossing on Providence Road, I looked up the definition of the word, “providence.” I discovered that it means “a manifestation of divine care or direction.”

That definition kind of explains it all to me. The song’s chorus is “If I ever lose my faith in you, there’d be nothing left for me to do.” Well, that Sundays’ manifestation of divine care and direction gave me all that I need. It gave me the ultimate vision of all of those in whom I have faith. My son. His wife. Their children. My mom. My dad. My sister. My brother. My family. My loved ones. All of them!

But especially the one who rode down Providence Road with me that day. And He doesn’t just travel that road and others with me. He leads me down those wonderful paths. All of them. That I understand.

Look, at the time I began writing this several weeks ago, I never thought I would be posting it on a day meant to honor the woman who first taught me faith. But Mama always worked in mysterious ways as well!

And, thanks to Mama, I have known all of my life what I am going to say to you now.

If I ever lose my faith in God, there’d be absolutely nothing left for me to do.

Here are the lyrics to the song written by Sting in 1993.

sting-tree

“If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”
You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse but
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do
Some would say I was a lost man in a lost world
You could say I lost my faith in the people on TV
You could say I’d lost my belief in our politicians
They all seemed like game show hosts to me
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do
I could be lost inside their lies without a trace
But every time I close my eyes I see your face
I never saw no miracle of science
That didn’t go from a blessing to a curse
I never saw no military solution
That didn’t always end up as something worse but
Let me say this first
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do

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golf-course-vacations-and-resorts

It’s Mother’s Day, and I am playing golf with an old and dear friend, his son, and my son.

Now, I will be okay.  I am healthier and stronger than I have been in some time.  And the weather today is going to be fantastic.

But I am living as a single man, and my mom passed away a few years ago.  The other three in the group?  Well, I think we are looking at four, maybe five or more mothers who belong to the guys in the group.  Those mothers will not be joining us – or we them.  For a while anyway.

I think one Mother’s Day years ago, I played golf with some guys instead of spending time with my wife or mom.  Well – the outcome wasn’t very pleasant.

But cheer up my golf partners of this Sunday.  On that Mother’s Day years ago when I did the same thing, it was kind of nice to be called “Mother” before the other much more vile word was yelled at me!

On that day, it may or may not have been appropriate.  I’m not talking about playing golf.  Heck no.  I mean being called what I was called.

But really.  It felt kind of good to be called “Mother” on that day.

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new-directionThis is all about choices, I think.   I really have no other direction to take here.

Look, when it happened, I only dwelled on the silly notion for a moment – when that moment suddenly arrived to encourage my thoughts of the future.

When my child was born, I chose to question what that new kid’s life would become. Will he become presidential material? A star athlete performing in the NBA Playoffs one day? A doctor or lawyer?

Well, it crossed my mind. For that one brief moment. Then I chose to simply adore the kid and adore the life he chose to deliver to his mom and me on that day.

The kid, my only child and son, made many choices growing up. Some weren’t all that good. But he was a kid and a guy. Those choices were expected, really.

And the good ones he has made for 31 years? Well, his mom’s family and mine have given the youngin’ some pretty decent blood lines, but his choices have been made by the kid himself. Well, with the guidance of thoughts directed to him mostly by God.

Look, the kid hasn’t yet chosen to be presidential material. At age 31, he’s probably too old to choose professional athletics. And, while he is still young enough to become a doctor or a lawyer one day, the kid proudly owns every choice he has ever made.

On a warm April Sunday morning, five years ago, my mother died in Jacksonville, Florida. Six days later, she was taken to Graham, North Carolina to dwell forever next to my deceased dad. She was with her husband again for only seven days when another warm April day and a wonderful sunlit Carolina path led to something else.

I don’t know. Maybe Mama talked to God about this. You know – to make sure things stayed on course and that the new something else would all happen the way it should. She didn’t need to, though. The choices had already been made before she left us.

But on that day, on that happier April afternoon, my world and those of so many others who witnessed what I did were blessed with the validation of choices made by the two most wonderful human beings I know.

On April 23, 2011, my son married the wonderful woman he chose. And my daughter-in-law married the wonderful man she chose.  Five years later, they both very proudly own those choices.

And right now, as happy for them as I am, I choose to believe that their four children are more happy than I will ever be about the choices their parents made.

I tell you what. Wishing those two a “happy anniversary” on this day is silly, too. Making “happy” wishes to them is kind of directionless.

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Especially when compared to the beautiful path they both chose to take five years ago.

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