My old man- The 60 year old child February 05 2018
I contemplated writing this because I figured most people wouldn't care to read it. I then thought how great of a story it is, and the people who don't care to read it don't have to, but the ones who stick it out will enjoy it.
This isn't a story about trying to make you feel bad. It's a story about a man who was knocked down a few times (literally), then stood up and said, "I ain't done yet.” In my last blog, I wrote about how life is all about perspective and how you handle the situations you face. I had no idea that I could segue that into what I am about to write. The thought to write this really hit me after I posted my Instagram picture of him while I was listening to the Pat McAfee show on SiriusXM. He had a quote which I really loved: "Chapters come and go. Let's just enjoy the book!"
When I was in fifth grade, we were living in Anniston, Alabama. My dad was a truck driver, and momma was a kindergarten teacher at Temple Elementary in Temple, Georgia. My brother and I would ride with her to school every day. It was a little over an hour drive to and from, daily. The year was 2002, and I was in the 6th grade. My old man was loading up his 18 wheeler to make his route. He walked out from behind the truck, and another truck was coming and hit him right there in the parking lot. The accident messed his back up pretty badly, which is a conversation you can have with him if you're in search of details. He wasn't supposed to be able to walk again, but through tons of rehab, he ended up defying those odds. He was later told that he would need to change his style of rehab - he would need to play more golf (how miserable of a prescription from your doctor) to help his back move better.
Here is a short background story to fill in some blanks: As of 2017, dad refereed high school football for 40 years and has since "retired" from the game. I started refereeing with him my senior year of high school (fall 2008.) I'd play on Friday nights and call ball on Saturdays. When I moved to Jacksonville, Alabama in 2009 for school, I called many games, and most were with him.
Let's fast-forward this story to the summer of 2011, 9 years after the accident. I was coming off of my second year of college (if you know me and know how much fun I had, you will know why I didn't say Sophomore year). He wanted me to join him at Pell City High School for a Spring jamboree. I did not enjoy it near as much as he did nor as much as he wanted me to. I was 20 years old, about to be 21, and my focus was on drinking beer with my friends on the weekend. I had canceled on him to go to Pell City and made plans to go with some of my fraternity brothers to drink cold beer in Rockmart, Georgia (we were 20 and there was a pool). Let's just say I received a phone call which went to voicemail for Big Gary, not too happy that I let it go to voicemail. He very much let me know how he felt about the entire situation. He cussed me up and down, told me I was raised better than that, etc. I ignored the voicemail and we went about our day. Shortly after arriving to this magnificent day of cold beer, sunshine, and a beautiful swimming pool, I got a phone call. My cousin called and said, "Hey man, your dad is fine, but I wanted to let you know he collapsed on the field today." We all thought it was his back. I sat around waiting to hear what was going on for sure. He ended up having an aortic aneurism, and apparently theres a very small survival rate after that. The doctor told him he was approximately 3-4 minutes from dying. I rushed back to Jacksonville and met up with my dads good friend, Charles Ogle, to ride the rest of the way to Birmingham. When I got there, momma and I walked in to see him, and he was just loopy. If any of you know my dad, you know he is a big flirt. There were some pretty nurses walking around the hospital, checking in on him periodically. I wish I could remember the things he was saying because I was in tears. I know I rambled a bit there but I felt like you should know the type of person we've got here on a table being told he is going to have to learn how to walk again. We are thinking, “Great, here we go again. Another round of rehab, more time and patience,” but he crushed it and got back to living. While dad was laying on the table, I believe he had a moment where he realized that he had an opportunity that not many people get. He had a chance to live after he was statistically supposed to be dead.
A year later, I got a phone call from the owner of the only two bars in Jacksonville, Brother's and Pelham's. The conversation started because I had gone in their bars for a while and the entertainment would report back to Dan about how there was a young kid who would come in, have a great time, and always brought a crew. That kid was me. The guys who really pushed my name were my friends from the Eric Dodd band (go listen to his music now). I became the promotions director for both bars. Dan wanted life back in Brothers, which he opened in 1976, and it was great. I always joke with people about how I had the best job any 22 year old could have. I partied so much, started getting paid to party. I met so many awesome people and great bands. I made some great friends throughout that time of my life, but that lifestyle will take a toll on the body.
Derrick Stroup, who I wrote about last week, was doing standup comedy periodically at Pelham's. The crowds were getting bigger, so we decided to have a show at Brother's because it was a bigger venue and we could charge at the door. We needed to add more people on the show. Dad would come around often and just hangout with us. One night after the show was lined up, Stroup said to me, “We should get your dad to open the show," so I made the phone call. We lined it up, and dad came on stage for the first time in late 2013. He mostly just talked shit about me, but it worked the crowd. It was awesome, but it also inspired him to give this comedy thing a try. Dad ended up doing some comedy school and really learned how to become a better comedian. They started bringing more people in to work the shows with them. Darren Knight was one of the guys we had in. Some of you might know him as “Southern Momma.” Stroup, Darren, and my dad were all working on making their comedy careers happen.
I graduated with my bachelor’s in 2015 (finally), which only took me 6 years to accomplish. Stroup had a bright idea to do a comedy show graduation weekend because graduation weekend in Jacksonville always brings some older folks back to town. We capitalized on who was going to be in town, I promoted the show, and we all crushed. Little did I know that I would be setting up a little roast session for myself. I got destroyed that night, but I loved every second of it. I also think that night was the night that really pushed dad to make a big run at the comedy world.
Darren started making videos (not quite sure when these started), and the social media world we live in loved them. They set him off on a rocket headed toward the moon. Dad is opening for Darren on the “Southern Momma an 'em'” tour, and they have been absolutely crushing crowds, selling out all across the Southeast. Stroup is out in Denver working a completely different scene. I'm super proud of all the hard work the three of these guys have put in and continue to put in.
Mostly, I'm proud of my old man for overcoming many difficult odds and never giving up. When I was younger, he taught me to never lie (which is why I'm always overly honest, a story for another time), and he would never let me quit anything. Once I started something, I had to finish it because once you quit something, it just gets easier to quit everything else (which explains why he hasn't quit smoking cigarettes). When times get hard, stand up and face it.
Float your Boat!
God bless and happy 60th birthday, pops!