Thursday, April 18, 2013

Love and Sacrifice

Love and Sacrifice

I think "hero" is an overused term these days, but try as I might, I've been unable to come up up with a better word to describe two of the most important people in my life. When I think of the word hero, I think of brave individuals who are willing to do whatever it takes to help those in need, often with little or no regard for their own well being. My mother and father, Betty and Stan Parker, have been faced with challenges over the last few years that would have put most people over the edge. Each have had life changing health issues that have forced significant changes to their lifestyle, daily habits, mobility and the way that they interact with the world around them. Most would never know it.

Mom has handled two total knee replacements, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other challenges thrown her way with incredible poise and a sense of determination that still astounds me. She stays active and involved with her friends and family and is always the first to offer help to someone in need. She has embraced technology and blogging with no fear and has a following of people the love her writing and outlook on life as much as I do. She's also a damn fine fisherman....

Dad has also overcome a multitude of ailments that have been debilitating to lesser men. Rheumatoid arthritis, meniers disease, myethenia gravis, PBC.... None of them got the best of my dad. He still works out multiple times a week and has taken each setback with an attitude that would make a prizefighter envious. He's had to make adjustments, but refuses to give up on things that bring him joy. Dad is no slouch with a fishing pole himself...

Now if all of the above wasn't heroic enough, when my grandmothers health deteriorated to a degree that she would no longer be able to live alone, they didn't hesitate. The opened their home, installed a stair lift, and just kept right on trucking. They, along with my Aunt Sue, became primary caregivers and did so incredibly well. And when her health deteriorated again and she needed 24/7 medical care, they were there every day to make sure that she received the best possible care. My grandmother, Nora Belle Campbell, recently passed and went on to be with my grandfather, Tom. I know they are smiling down with pride and love at their incredible daughters and my dad, who both had a special relationship with...

See what I mean? My parents wouldn't approve of me writing all this, if I had to guess. They are also very humble, private people... Another quality of heroes, by the way.... They do the right thing even when no one is looking and never want recognition... I'm so proud of the two people that raised me. They are incredibly strong, loving people that mean the world to their friends and family. They are my heroes in every sense of the word....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Fathers Day, Dad!

When I think of my Dad, so many things come to mind... My Mom refers to him as a southern gentleman (and does her best to help him look like one whenever possible) but I think he has always considered himself just a country boy. He has a story or saying for every situation.. He is a legendary storyteller and is "talked into" telling one at every family gathering, party, or get-together. I've been told that I'm a good storyteller too on occasion, and I think of Dad every time. A golfer that introduced me to the sport (a little later than he would have like, but..) and gave me the tools to do it. A fisherman that knew Fox Creek like the back of his hand and gave us the gift of just enjoying dropping a line in the water, whether anything bit or not. The rides there and back were jut as memorable in that gold El Camino listening to 8 tracks of Waylon, Willie, and the Statler Brothers... I never remember my Dad getting angry, unless one of us was disrespectful to my Mom or another adult. Manners mattered.. Always. That's a lesson that I have tried to pass on to my boys... Respect and understanding where you came from were important too. All the stories that Mom and Dad have told weren't just stories, they were history lessons that taught me who I am.

I love my Father. I will never be able to repay him for what he's taught me. About being a man, father, husband, worker, brother, and human being... At the end of the day, I hope i am what my Dad taught me to be ... My greatest hope is to live up to his example. I'm just a country boy and a southern gentleman here in Louisiana, and I'd never want to be anything else. I love you, Dad... Happy Fathers Day!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Mothers Day, Mom....

I haven't written in a while, but with Mother's Day coming up, I felt like it was a good time to tell my Mom how much she means to me... My Mom has definitely been one of the most influential people in my life. If I were pressed to say who I am most like, I would say her, but I do feel I got the best of both my Mom and Dad. Mom cares about people. She genuinely does. And that’s saying a lot considering the self-absorbed world that we live in. She has an intense love of her family, from distant cousins to kids and grandkids, which is returned with an equal amount of intensity. All of the grandkids treasure and look forward to any time that they get to spend at Mimi’s House. In truth, I treasure every moment as much as my kids. I miss being able to see Mom and Dad more than I will every truly be able to express to them.

So why is my Mom so great? Its impossible to put your finger on just one or two things. We have so many memories and examples to draw from that just highlight all the things that we love about her. She was the hard working and loving example that we saw during our childhood always encouraging us to also work hard and, equally importantly, to respect others and be good people. And after those long days at the bank, she always made sure that we sat down as a family for dinner and talked about our days. She was and is the person that always knew when something was wrong and asked the right questions to help us talk them out. She always listened and gave us her honest opinion whether we liked it or not (and more often than not helped us to see when we were headed in the wrong direction or off base). She was the wonderful daughter who reinforced the importance and the blessings of family and appreciating the opportunity to get together and spend time with them as often as possible. She is the entrepreneur that took her eye for beauty and aesthetics and turned it into a business that made so many couple’s weddings days just that much better. She is the healer that touched people through her work with Hospice and through her church. She is the woman who was initially afraid and intimidated by technology but who overcame those fears and created, published, and maintained her own blog. She is a writer with a love of words and a unique perspective on life that truly loves to share those perspectives with the world around her. She is the photographer that sees and captures the beauty around us that most of us fail to notice, from a flower petal to a string of rosary beads. She is, to use my Dad’s words, “tough as a pine knot” and refuses to let the health curves that have come her way beat her, overcoming every challenge with patience, tenacity, and a deep love for and a mutual reliance on my Dad. She is an incredible and caring daughter, who, along with her sister and my Dad, continue to provide for and take care of my Grandmother with that same patience, tenacity, and intense love. She is an incredible Mimi, who’s grandchildren idolize and love her into their 20’s with the same intensity that they did when they were 5.

See what I mean? I’ve barely scratched the surface of what my Mom means to me. She is always there as a sounding board and moral compass. I shamelessly use her advice today and pass it on whenever I can. I’ve had people thank me for advising them to ask for something that they wanted but were afraid to pursue. My mom used to say, “Worse thing that they can say is no. You won’t get anything you don’t ask for…” I’ve also had people express hesitation or reluctance about doing something or not doing something. “What’s the worse thing that can happen?”, Mom used to say. One of my coworkers still thanks me to this day for helping her to see both of those things by sharing the advice that Mom gave me. She said it really put it into perspective for her. She and my Dad have made me the man that I am today, and I only hope that I can live up to their example. I love you, Mom. Happy Mothers Day!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Big Brother!

Tomorrow is my big brother’s birthday. Now considering that I am 6’4” and 290 lbs, you may look at Steve and question that “big brother” status. However, anyone who knows Steve understands completely. Every since we were kids, I’ve been following him around like a puppy. He’s someone that I look up to in every way, whether it’s his business acumen, unique way of looking at the world, devotion to family, or just the fact that we will often start laughing at the same thing before anyone else in the room because his sense of humor has rubbed off on me during our childhood years.

When we were kids, I would hang around and follow he and his friends around all the time. If he minded, he never let me know. He always stuck up for me if anyone picked on me and was just a hero to me in so many ways. He was an athlete, popular with his friends, always joking and laughing, and really charismatic with most everyone that he met. I watched everything he did, and to this day, I still emulate some of the ways that I saw him make people laugh.

I still remember the day Steve left for Auburn. I was a little panicked, and the house seemed awfully lonely and empty without his jokes and laughter. I tried to pick up the slack where I could. When he graduated and started working as a broker, I had no doubt he would be successful. His professional success is only overshadowed by his success as a husband and a father. He has raised three absolutely wonderful daughters that make all of us proud ever single day. I see that he and Marian share a special relationship that is centered in a strong faith and the ability to make each other laugh. I’ve met several of Steve’s close friends and people with whom he does business, and its obvious that they have absolute faith and confidence in Steve in every capacity. I know that he is an active and respected member of the Birmingham community, and I couldn’t be prouder of all that he has accomplished.

So to recap….. He looks like Bill Murray…. plays tennis like Borg (still remember the racquets he used to use with Borg on them…thought they were so cool)……plays golf like Furyk (swing is a little unconventional…but it works)…. laughs on roller coasters (starts when he stands in line and gets worse all the way until the ride is over)…. is a master fisherman (freshwater, saltwater, fly, you name it…) …. cooks like Emeril (never tasted steaks as good as his…anywhere) …. And loves his friends and family with a passion that is truly amazing. I love you, bud. Miss you guys, and look forward to our next visit. Happy Birthday, Big Brother!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Parkers at War....

Our family has a rich history... So proud of their service to our country... I've posted some pictures but I didn't have pictures of all .... Another great story from Dad...

"I got to tellin' 'em the other day. Jean called Betty the other day and said "Betty... Stan needs to write those stories down! We've all forgot em". Betty came to me after Jean hung up and said, "I've got you figured out... None of the rest of 'em know anything, and you tell part of it and make up part of it. You can tell anything you want to tell and they don't know the difference." But I do, Rob, its amazing. I guess its a gift that the Good Lord gave me. I remember when Pearl Harbor.... I was six years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed... I remember that just as well... I remember when World War II ended... I remember all of the things that went on.. I can just recall and remember it...

See World War I had ended in the early 20s. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, everybody knew what was gonna happen. See the United States was already kindly in the War. They were helping Britain. If the United States hadn't helped Britain, Germany would have won. They would have ruled Britain like they took over France, but the British fought em. American kindly got to helpin them. Eventually they got into war with Germany. But when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt immediately declared War.

See, all the neighbors would get together at Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Fourth of July... make homemade ice cream and play Rook and pop popcorn and parts peanuts. See everybody raised their own popcorn and peanuts you know. You'd just make popcorn balls and everybody would just get together... And I remember how all the adults were so upset, cause they knew that their sons were going to War and they also know that alot of them were never coming back. Man they were upset. The men were sittin around talkin and shakin their heads and the women, many of them were cryin. They knew exactly what was going to happen. Well, immediately Bill and Cliff was drafted into the Army. Daddy 'n 'em managed to keep C.B. out to help farm. Daddy had a bunch of young kids... all the way to Carl. I mean a bunch, and C.B. got deferred. Me and C.B. is the only two that didn't serve in the Military. I was just 6 years old when the war started.

I had got hurt playin' football. When the Korean War started, Dan was in the army then. I was a senior in High School when it all started. When I got to be 18 years old they were going to send me to get examined cause the Draft was still active. Well, I had got hurt playin' football, and I was still under the care of Dr. Price Irvin. He was the team physician. I guess I had tore some ligaments or somethin. I had water on my knee. It was puffed up somethin awful. I couldnt hardly get my pants on and off. So I went to him. Course, I had tried to play baseball too and had aggravated it. He had seen the list of the boys that was goin off to be examined. He said, "Son, you don't need to go to Montgomery to be examined. Thats a waste of time! They'll get on you and ask you what in the world you are doin down there. You take this note right here and go give it to Ms. Helen Royer." Ms. Helen Royer was over the draft board. A bunch of guys was going next week, so I took it down there. She told me to pull my pants leg up. Well, I couldn't pull my pants leg up. I had those peg leg pants you know. So I had to drop my pants down...nothin on but my drawers. Embarrassed the heck out of me. She said, "I ain't sendin you. We'll catch you next time. A week before you're supposed to go when you get your next notice, you come up here again." So the next time I went up there, I told Betty, I wore big legged britches so I could lift up my pant leg and wouldn't have to drop my pants. When I went back, I didn't have as much fluid on my knee. She said, "I'm not going to send you. I'm going to reclassify you. We'll catch you later, but you're gonna have to go." I said, "That's fine! I want to go! The only reason I'm up here is cuz Dr. Price sent me here." So, by the time that that changed my draft status back to 1A, they abolished the draft and it was strictly volunteer. I never did go to Montgomery to be examined.

All six of my brothers served. Carl was in the National Guard, and he went to Basic Training. Nat's unit was activated. He served six months and was in the National Guard during the Korean Conflict. Nat's been to the Korea twice with the Guard. Dan served in the Korean Conflict. His unit was activated and going to Korea. Dan had an emergency appendectomy and they didn't send him. Travis served during the Vietnam Conflict. He was in Vietnam a number of times. Cliff was in World War II. He was in Europe.

Bill was in World War II in the Philippines. Bill went through the roughest of any of them. He was in the invasion of Okinawa and Saipan. He went to Iwo Jima. He was in the invasion Leyte, Tinian, all those Phillipine Islands. Bill is lucky that he made it back. Bill went through a living hell, man. When he first come back from the Army....that was in '45, I was 10 years old... I wanted to know. We all wanted to know. Bill wouldn't talk about it. Bill'd say, "I don't want to talk about it and you don't wanna know..." And that would be the extent of it.

Two years before he died, when Momma was in the nursing home, he'd usually ride to Florence with me. He knew that I watched the History Channel and that Patton was my favorite movie and that I had read books about Omar Bradley and George Marshall and MacArthur. He knew I was interested in that... He started talking to me about a lot of things. He told me alot of stories. Since, I have shared them with Billy and Betty. But he didn't talk to Mattie Dee about 'em. He didn't talk to nobody about it. He'd talk to me though. Me and him had a special relationship. He'd tell me those stories....some of the most amazing things I've ever heard in my life. He is lucky he made it back.

Now Cliff didn't have it too rough. Cliff didn't have to go right off, because they sent him to California. He went and took some special training to be in the Military Police. That's what they wanted him to be. When Cliff got to Europe, they come around wantin' volunteers to be Cooks. Cliff volunteered. He liked to cook and he was a Cook. That's what Ab was, part of the time. Ab told me and Betty that one of his responsibilities was to take hot food to the Front Lines for the troops. Most of the time all they had was K rations and stuff you open up and take out of a can. So Ab's responsibility along with a couple of other guys was to load that food up on a jeep and the Germans would try to kill them. Cause if they could blow that jeep up with that food on it, that made it rough for those troops. Ab told me that there was many times that he didnt think they were going to make it. They'd get it through though. Ol' Ab can cook, son. Let me tell you, he can make rolls.....what'chu talkin about. Now Cliff used to .... I never could get it down pat, but....Cliff used to fix a soup that he called "Army Soup". What it was was green split pea soup with potatoes in it and seasoned.... Aw man.... You talk about good... But, I'm gonna ask Ab next time I go if he remember the recipe. Cliff when he would come back, man. He'd fix up a pot of that stuff... You eat that would cornbread... What are you talking about... Man it was good ..

I'd seen Momma get real scared... See, the Courtland Airbase was really active. They were training pilots. And then the Redstone Arsenal was over here as well. And you'd see alot of those big ol black cars... See all of the roads wasn't paved. You would see a car coming by and you'd see dust just fogging behind. And, I've watched Momma a many a times standing in the cotton field. We'd see that black car coming down that road, when we lived at the Walker place.. And you could see the fear in her eyes. And the car never turned to our house.. It would just keep going. Those people was going to tell somebody that their son or their husband was missing or killed in action...

You know when I broke my kneecap, Dr. Prickett pulled two big ol syringes of fluid off my knee. If they had been able to do that back then, I would have gone into the Military during the draft. That was all that was wrong with me.

Now Mr. Campbell didn't go in til near the end of the war. They sent him to Japan. He helped recover after the atomic bombs were dropped.. That may have contributed to his early death. He may have had some radiation, who knows...

Lot of history in both sides of our family."

Mr. Campbell....

One of my greatest regrets is not knowing either of my Grandfathers. I know them both through the stories of my parents and siblings, though. This is a story that my Dad told about my Mom's father...

"You'd have really liked Mr. Campbell. He was alwas kiddin'. I fished with him and enjoyed being around him. He was one of my favorite people. He didn't live many years after Betty and I was married. Hah! Mr. Campbell was a pistol ball.... Lord, I used to laugh at 'im. He'd aggravate Steve.... Steve wore... Betty's got pictures of him... he wore short pants and boots that come up to here.... Mr. Campbell would aggravate him, and Steve would take those boots and kick him on the shin... I'd see his face, but Steve would kick 'im and hit 'im and he'd just laugh and keep on and on. He was a neat guy.... I just thought the world of him.

I may have already told you this, but Mrs. Campbell didn't want him to trade cars. He got to wantin' a new car. He called me and asked me, "Reckon I could trade here in Decatur?" I said, "Mr. Campbell I don't know but... "....he wanted an Oldsmobile..."I know one of the guys that's a salesman out there. I grew up with him" Bobby Hamilton was his name. "Next time you come up here, we'll go out there, and you can talk to him." Well we went out there, and Mr. Campbell drove it. I could tell, boy, he was just on Cloud 9, and he wanted that car. So I told Bobby, "I would love to have the car Mr. Campbell is tradin' in"...cause man, I knew it was a good un, and me and Betty needed another car..."If we can work out a deal, that'd be great... But now I want Mr. Campbell to be happy. After we trade, I want to buy that car." He said, "Well we'll work something out.. We'll trade with him and then we'll sell it to you at wholesale." I said, "Ok, if that's OK with Mr. Campbell." Well, that suited Mr. Campbell fine. It was a two tone, just a fine care.. It didnt have many miles... So, Mr. Campbell, he traded.

Comin' on home, he knew when we got home that Nora Belle wasn't goin' to be happy... He said, "Now Stan, you're gonna have to help me with Nora Belle. She's gonna be mad..." And she was. "Tom, we didn't need no car!" I just bragged on the car, but she didn't want it...

He loved Betty and Sue ... Me and him would fish. I had a boat, and I'd take him and Mrs. Campbell both... As luck would have it, Mrs. Campbell caught more fish than he did... He said, "Nora Belle, you ain't goin no more.... " Well that just tickled Mrs. Campbell to death. Yeah, l hate that you didn't get to know him."

Figurin' and Rurned Meat....

This is the kind of story that Dad just reels off... Love it...

"Daddy never had a sharecropper. He had a bunch of people moved on our place. The kind of people he got didn't want to sharecrop. All they wanted to do was to be laborers. If they worked all day, Daddy would pay em for a laborer all day or if they picked cotton they would get so much a pound. I had to keep up with all that. That was one of my jobs. Daddy was not good with figures. I kept up with that. I knew how much they owed us and how much cotton they picked. I did all the accounting. I helped Daddy.

See, Bill, Cliff, Dan, and CB all at once they got jobs at Wolverine. Wolverine at that time was the best place around here to work. And they worked all the overtime they wanted. It was a pretty good job....And all 4 of 'em got jobs one after the other. And Travis, my brother that was older than me, was goin' to UNA, or Florence it was called then. Travis wanted a career in the Army. He was takin ROTC. He wanted to be an officer, and he did, and was very successful in doin it. So, that left me as the "Tall Hog at the Trough". I was Daddy's "go to" man. He trusted me, and course I was good in figures. Daddy asked me sumthin', some kind math problem, and I could do it in my head. I was just good in figures. I didn't have to write it down and divide it out. I could do it in my head, and that amazed him, and that would please me. He'd say, "Son, I need this and I need this...", and I would rattle it off. Then I would go back and divide it out and make sure I was right.

You remember that list of stuff that Daddy was listing on that bank note? See, he had to have money to buy seed and fertilizer. See, the only things that they bought was cloths and shoes, flour (cuz we didn't raise wheat), sugar (cuz we didn't raise cane), and coffee. And everything thing else came out of the ground. They raised it. He cured his own meat... Killed hogs. Daddy knew how to cure... I used to fuss about country ham. We had it all the time. Now I go out here to Cracker Barrel and pay $10 for a piece like 'at right there.. I used to fuss and cuss about havin' it. I used call it "rurned meat". It was cured meat.

I couldnt ever figure out.... Momma and Daddy used to love to give people stuff. They would go out to the smokehouse and slice em off some country ham, and it would tickle everybody to death. I'd think, "Man, they crazy as a bessy bug...Why they want that kinda stuff" They would give 'em produce, and that just delighted Daddy and Momma both to be able to give stuff to friends and family. They were amazing..."