Ricky Bobby

Ricky Bobby
If you ain't first you're last

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mimi and Del

Mimi........everyone should have a Mimi. If you've never known a true life "Southern Genteel Belle" and have always wanted to know one.....you should meet Mimi.

Mimi "to most everyone else" and Mom "to me" spent the second half of her life married to Ed Dozier "Pee Paw" who I wrote about a couple weeks back. There's so much about her that I've picked up along the way by just paying attention. She doesn't like to talk about herself much, particularly her past. What little I think I know about her I've just picked up by conjecture and a fair amount of "reckoning". The biggest challenge as I sit to talk about her is not which words to choose first, but which words should follow. She's first a New Testament Christian Woman.....having said that I must include Survivor, Believer, Mother, Wife, Encourager, Challenger, Worker...I could use up the dictionary, but before I get carried away try to remember; I'm going to have to qualify each one with a description.

Remember as I write, most of this is sheer observation and a keen ear. Some of it may be dead wrong, but I don't think it is. Mimi "is" what she has "lived". Survivor of a difficult marriage with a traumatic ending, Mimi held herself and three kids together out of sheer dogged guts. Later she would even survive Ed Dozier. She and Peep would eventually meet, marry and combine forces to raise a real life Brady Bunch of 7-9 kids depending on how you figure it.....that's a story for another day. She would ultimately survive the greatest fight. One for her own life. Not even cancer could beat her. I watched her dwindle to a shell, rally and win. She managed that fight even as Ed lost his. How does someone have the courage to endure chemo treatments and cling to a dying husband's bedside at the same time? I've only seen that tragedy play out one other time in my life..... my own Mother and Dad. My Mother would ultimately lose her battle....Mimi stood at the edge and never flinched. Only someone who has endured Chemo can really appreciate that fight. She won. And she fought only as someone with a courage born in faith can fight.

She's the matron of a large extended family that is now spread out all over Florida. Tilena is headed up there tonight to spend a couple of days with her. Those two are an awful lot alike in some ways. They both look like they just stepped off the cover of Vogue magazine any time of day. Mimi has a nature of encouragement. She believes the best in everyone in action and intent. Somehow you will always find yourself talking about "you" and your own achievements and seldom about her. In twenty minutes she can convince you that you're able to do anything. She is an unparalleled motivator and mentor. In spite of her generous and gentle spirit though, there seems to me to be a cautious undercurrent. The sort of unconscious wariness you see in someone who has been terribly hurt at some point in the past and has made a conscious decision to never be hurt again. I can't imagine anyone would ever want to hurt this lady, but I am almost certain somewhere, sometime she has endured great pain. Maybe disappointment is a better word. I also think she will probably always bear that alone. She is strong enough to bear it alone whatever it is. Although she is not quite as strong as she wants everyone else to believe.

She has a true way with kids. Whether out of self defense because of the vast number of children and grandchildren or simply a Gift from God I don't know. But I do know this.... She can walk into a preschool at recess and have them all lined up and saying grace in 45 seconds. It's almost eerie to watch your own kids interact with her. What looks to be an uprising on the reservation one minute, looks like a sunday school room as soon as she walks up. She simply connects with kids.

Mimi has held a job most of her life that insists she shows a favor to pink. But I think she privately prefers yellow. Not that that is an important point, I just think its true. She is at home in a Grand Ball room, but she prefers sitting on the floor playing board games with the grand kids. She is a tall, attractive and elegant woman with an unusual grace about her. I've never seen her dance or even talk about it, but I bet she can do it well. Although her hands are slim, soft, manicured and jeweled today, I get the sense they were calloused, cracked and worn at some point in her life. She just gives the sense of someone who has seen enough hard times to truly appreciate what God has blessed her with. I think there are things she still wants to do, but I admire the loyalty that binds her to the life she lives today. She has a warm and lilting laugh. I've just not heard it nearly as much as I would like to. I look at her and still see the caution and hesitation deep in her heart.....I don't know for sure why, but I do suspect. I know too she will never give in to it. She will win that fight too.

I would really like to know all that's on her mind one day. I'll bet there are some stories yet to be told, scars that never really healed and dreams yet to be revealed. I don't get to see her much anymore and I'm sorry for that. I know one day I'll regret it. She's really something. Knowing and loving her....being loved by her is one of God's great gifts. I consider it a blessing to be a part of her life. There's nobody quite like Mimi.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I went outside just before dark last Thursday. The day just seemed to get away from me so fast. There was a lot going on and I was focused on a problem. It suprised me to see how late it was. I hadn't even noticed the rain had been through until I went outside. The thought crossed my mind that we just don't stop sometimes to really look around at the world God has favored us with. Right there in the front yard was this sunset no one besides our Creator could paint.

Then, I started thinking. You know....I remember standing in front of the building my first day of kindergarten sobbing quietly as my Mom drove away. I was like that as a little boy; never would cry out loud. Never wanted anyone to see me cry. The next thing I know, I go to sleep, wake up and I'm wiping at tears as I drive away from the Primary School where I just left a little four year old boy for his first day of kindergarten. Then next time I wake up I'm holding my granddaughter. Life is like that. It's like we're rolling toward the cliff's edge and no way to stop. Dragging hours and blurred years. Where did it all go?

I'll be fifty years old soon. The memories are sharp in my mind. The events of forty years ago stand starkly clear in my mind. What I did this morning is a fog to me but I remember vividly standing in the seat of a 1957 Chevy next to my Dad when I was small enough to stand up in the seat. What's strange is the smell. So many memories evoke such a strong sense of smell. In my mind right now I'm standing out side the house on a winter day holding a football. It's about sundown and I can see my Mom through the kitchen window. The window's are all foggy from the heat inside and I smell fried chicken. Mom cooked every night. She got off work at four 0'clock and by six we had a full meal every day. I really miss my Mom. The feel of her hand on my face will never go away. I can still hear her voice sometimes. No one could ever call my name the way my mother could.

Do you remember running down a dirt road in you bare feet? Have you ever picked blackberries? Have you ever gone skinnydipping in a creek? As fast as it went by, I was truly blessed to have the childhood I did. I can still hear the raccoons under my window at night. They woke me up everynight as they climbed down that oak tree and started walking across the leaves. I would leave the house on Friday afternoon after school and not come home until Sunday morning for church. My cousin and I would camp out all weekend in the woods as 10 -11 year olds. Nobody worried about us...nobody bothered us.

There are a million other snapshots rambling around in my mind. Most are happy or random, ordinary events. But the smells.....the smell of the ocean....my Dad's cheap cologne (always Old spice)....the damp smell in the woods at home after a rain. These things have begun to come to me more often lately. I guess I've just come to realize that most of the ordinary everyday events and scenes are what we remember later on....and wish we could do again. It seems so strange how such an inconspicious moment will become such a clear memory forty years later. Real life and true living are in the everyday. I don't remember much about graduation, but I can see my little sister jumping rope on the front porch as clearly as spring water.

For years now I've made an attempt to see every sunset and sunrise I can possibly see. There have been hundreds and no two have been the same. You know something? Nobody can describe what the moonlight through a coconut palm looks like. You've just got to see it. Nobody can describe the feel of the late night South Florida summer breeze. You've just got feel it on your own skin. Nobody can describe to you the taste of the ocean. You've just gotta taste it. There's a thousand things I wish everyone could know like I know....the smell of Jasmine at sunrise. A million daily small pleasures are there for the taking. Most pass us by with little notice. The days we live are crowded with schedules and meetings. I wish I had worked a little less and experienced God's world a little more. Standing here now looking at fifty years old, it just doesn't seem like there's enough time left to do and see it all. It doesn't matter to me much anymore that I'll never be worth a lot of money. What really matters to me is that I have become the richest man in the world. I know that Christy, Ryan and Nick will look back one day and remember the smells of their childhood. In some odd memory they'll each remember me or Tilena in some clear singular moment. They know the smell of the ocean and they've seen the moon through the coconut fronds. They each know Christ Jesus and they know the love of their Mom and Dad...a rich man can't buy that.

Well troops, enough for today. Too many memories tax an old man's mind. I think I hear my Mama calling me............

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jungle Fever

When I talk about my interesting family, these guys are always at the top of the list. Last week I was talking about Peep and his insights on the world. A great deal of his knowledge of world events came from ole JP here. JP is married to one of Tilena's sisters...Diane. If not for JP, I would be the senior son-in-law in the family. I'm not really sure just how long JP and Diane have been married, but I know he was already hanging around when I showed up on the scene 22 years ago. For about 10 years, Diane didn't even know my name....I think she just thought I would be like all the other son-in-laws and just roll in and roll back out. She just figured it was not worth the trouble of trying to memorize my name I guess.
JP and Diane both work for the United Nations and live in the Congo. Their work and lives are fascinating. Their boys (Mark and Eric) are just finishing up their bachelors degrees at Eckerd in Tampa, and their daughter (Heather) is married and lives in a different jungle (Los Angeles) with her husband and daughter.Listening to them all relate their experiences in Africa is a great way to spend an evening. Watching them interact with one another is a royal treat. The obstacles they've overcome over the years just to remain together and even get a brief visit have been enormous. They've spent so much time apart just to ensure the kids got a good education. When they do get together it's fun to watch them laugh, love and enjoy one another.
JP is in the states on leave right now, Diane will follow in a couple of weeks. That is just another example of how they split up their vacations to ensure more total time visiting with the kids. With any luck we'll be able to visit with them while they're here. Diane is a stomped down Republican...like me..and keeps me worked up over her e-mails detailing just how wicked and evil the Democratic party really is. Mark and Eric have come down to stay with us on occassion for Thanksgiving Weekend. It's a good weekend to have some family around, and they get to enjoy Aunt Tilena's cooking as well. They are a handsome couple of boys and as well mannered as anyone I've ever known. Heather e-mails us all faithfully. She's grown into a wonderful Christian woman with a heart for our Lord. She has always been a stunningly beautiful girl. I don't know for sure what all JP had to do with any of that.....but Diane really made some good looking kids. Tilena and her sisters are all quite different in appearance; but they're similar in the fact that each one is so gorgeous, they make your heart skip when you see them....well, maybe Tilena a little bit more so than the others. Therefore all of their kids inherited those looks as well. Can't imagine how any of those girls ended up with a guy like me or JP.
Hey, that's about it for tonight. How do you like that.....an entire blog and I didn't whine, carp, complain or gripe about a single thing. I'm sure I'll make up for it next time.
Great is the King. God bless you all.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Middle East Answers

Iran has created quite a stir in the news of late, Especially in the last week. In the wake of North Korea dismanteling its own nuclear reactor, Iran seems to be posturing itself for aggression.
I've thought of Peep the more I've heard of Iran. Peep (short for Pee-Paw) is long gone from this world, but he always had an answer for anything. He told me many times if he had it his way, the US would park a couple of aircraft carriers in the center of the Straits of Hormuz and dare ANYBODY to sail as much as a jet ski through there. In his words..."them rascals would get tired of eatin oil before I got tired of walkin to the grocery store". You know, sometimes the politicians may not have all the answers. Maybe if corn and wheat were to cost Arabian Nations $145.00 a bushel, it wouldn't be very long till the price of crude oil started coming down a bit. It may also ensure somebody got a newborn respect for the American Farmer. Doesn't it gall you a little bit that our government is selling the Arabs a bushel of grain for $7.00 that cost some farmer about $50.00 to produce. So then we get a barrel of oil for $145.00 in return that cost them about $7.00 to produce? What's wrong with this picture? Our government says it helps "ease world tensions". Do you really believe some poor fellow sitting in a tent surrounded by camels and goats in the desert of the Arabian Peninsula ever gets a handful of that grain? Every last kernel is snatched up to feed oil sheiks, militia and terrorists.
Sometimes I get a newfound appreciation for Peep's simplistic insight. He wasn't the most highly educated person, but he was well read and had hustled a good living for his family sweating away as a plumbing contractor all his adult life. You know, the more I've thought about it, the more sense he made about a lot of things. It's awful easy to "over analyze" something. Our politicians are good at that. I remember many afternoons with Pee-Paw just talking away the afternoon. Well, actually I did more listening than talking. I really wish I had paid more attention. He knew somehow that Jimmy Carter was the worst diplomat ever on earth. He knew when the terror issue really began to heat up that Clinton would back down. He knew right at the outset what a dishonest man John Kerry was. He knew where his own mistakes had been, what it had cost him, and had learned the value of his family. He knew a man had to come to terms with his own fraility and sin in order to ever see the throne. It was amazing to me that such an outwardly simple man could know so much.
Looking back now I know how blessed I was to have those long sessions with him. I'm certain I know more about his hopes thoughts and fears than even Tilena. I've been his soundboard and his confidant. I know what it is like to be suspicioned by him and ultimately loved and trusted by him. I'll bet I know things about him and his kids (even Tilena) that they don't know I know. He experienced an awful lot in his life. But alas...a confidant is a confidant. I'll never tell. I do know there was an awful lot he never told me either. He had his own confidences. You've got to admire that in a person. He was genuine and fun, and he was truly sorrowful for the mistakes he had made. He regretted too that some things he had done, he had only done once. He had clear blue eyes that twinkled in delight one moment and flashed with anger and lightning the next. And believe me, when the lightning flashed, thunder was quick on its heels. I have a hundred images of you in my mind. I spend hours sometimes turning them over in my mind. I can still hear your voice. I can still hear your laugh. Ed..... Peep..... Pee-Paw.....I miss you. I wouldn't take anything for the memories. I love you Peep. See you soon. Have a Reuben ready for me.