I watched the new movie “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” last weekend and I find that I’m feeling quite thankful for a lot of things, not just a table full of food with family around.
In that movie, Tom Hanks, playing Mr. Rogers, turns to a reporter and asks him to “consider for one minute the people who loved you into being.” The really cool thing is that in the movie, Tom Hanks’ character looks straight into the camera, basically asking everyone in the audience the same question.
I don’t know about everyone else that was there but I did what he asked. I thought about my mom and dad, aunts and uncles, friends, and my wife.
My parents were a bit older when I was born. My dad liked to say he had to practice a lot to get me. He had his first heart attack when I was 5 so the dad I remember was never very active (cardiac science back then was that you essentially did nothing). But he was always there for me.
When I built a tree house at 12, he sat at the bottom of the tree and coached me through it. When he was unable to tend to our bees, he sat in that same chair and talked me through the process.
His sixth grade education meant he could never really help me with my homework, but he still demanded excellence in the classroom. My summer job in college was at a local factory, the place where my father had worked until his heart sent him home. The guys there would tell stories about how hard my dad worked. He was a little man but could outwork anybody.
My mom was this tiny lady but with strength it’s hard to fathom. When my father’s health failed him, she went to work, first in the elementary school cafeteria and then at the same factory where my father had worked. Although dementia tainted her later years, she lived 94 years and was feisty up until the very end.
I was blessed with aunts and uncles that helped mold me. Soon after my dad had to retire, my uncles took me to Knoxville to buy me a proper sport coat and pants, something I didn’t have. They were role models, maybe good and bad, but they loved me and I knew it. Most say I look like my Uncle Dood.
My Aunt Gin had style and flair and if I have either of those, it came from her. I did her eulogy where I complied with her wish that I add “my Aunt Gin was a hoot.”
I have been blessed with great friends throughout my life. Ricky Alexander and I practically grew up together. He was the kid who lived closest to me, and we were always at each other’s house. Scouts, football, hunting, fishing — one adventure after another. If I ever went to battle, I would want Ricky there with me.
Ronnie McNabb and I were friends from an early age but became inseparable in high school. Countless hours on the tennis court, dated best friends, roomed together in college. We don’t see each other often enough, but still consider each other brothers. If I needed anything, he would be there.
As an adult, I have had many great friendships, some lasting literally for decades. Ken Bell and I can drive across the country and enjoy each other’s company for days on end. I’ve spent thousands of miles riding bikes with Steve Bright and trust him like no one else. Danny Smith who does physical therapy the right way all the time. Others. Friends that love you like family even if they aren’t.
And then there’s my wife. Forty-three years and going strong. I look forward to getting home to her each evening. I’m gone a lot (work, volunteer stuff, bicycling, politics) but she remains my rock and my foundation.
So who loved you into being who you are today?