Going Home Again

You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.
— Dave Barry

My father was once pastor of a Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Looking back, I probably didn’t make it easy for him or my mom, the pastor’s wife. I think I was just about Sixteen at the time. Do I need to say more?

There are witnesses to the fact that I may have been at most obnoxius stage of life; to this point. As I slide into full-blown senior adulthood though, it could be that my worst self is yet to come.

"Like I said, things never turn out exactly the way you planned. Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day, you're in diapers; next day, you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place... a town... a house... like a lot of other houses; a yard like a lot of other yards; on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is... after all these years, I still look back... with wonder." From The Wonder Years.

Now about this church in Tulsa. They have something now they didn’t have when I was a teenager there — a Facebook page. I’m a “follower”. Chronicled on the church’s FB page is a sort of reinvention for the church, which is something that probably could have happened to me during my few years there—reinvention that is.

I found myself a little troubled about the church’s actions, something they called a “reboot”, which included redesigning the church auditorium and changing the church’s name (for heaven’s sake). Why should it matter to me? I only spent a few years there, but they were important years. My dad and mom though, gave all there.

I think this is why it matters. It’s not as though the reboot necessarily does away with the seeds my folks planted there so long ago. It’s just hard sometimes when the bedrock stuff of your life shifts. Not long ago we drove down the street where I spent most of my growing up years. Our little house is gone now, and the Bordens Cafeteria where I can remember getting fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy for Sunday lunch has been replaced by a “dollar” store.

My folks are 92 and 89. My mom still checks “The Facebook” from time to time, when they have a good wireless connection at the assisted living village. If they have taken note of the changes at the church, they haven’t mentioned it. Probably they would see it as progress, and therefore, cause for thankfulness. They are like that.

For me I have the memories: like playing that little game during the sermon where you match up song titles from the hymnal to see what funny combinations you can come up with. My personal favorite: “Have Thine Own Way!” & “O, Why Not Tonight?!” And, I remember the wonderful people there who served with humility. I remember the man who taught my Sunday School class and wrapped up every, single lesson with this: “Now, boys, the lesson in a nutshell is…”

Maybe the point of this essay in a nutshell is this:

"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." — from the book, You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe

Football & Fall

BACK IN THE AUTUMN OF 1974, we left Tulsa and headed west. Being young and fairly newly wed, leaving friends and family brought challenges and great times. We’ve been gone from Tulsa for a long time now, and even though we return often, I still miss it. When we are there, I feel like I’m Home.

You’ve probably heard the old joke: Show me someone with an OSU (Oklahoma State University) hat and I’ll show you someone who went to OSU (or had a family member that did). Show me someone with an OU (Oklahoma University) hat and I’ll show you someone who went to Wal Mart.

If you live in Oklahoma but outside the Tulsa metropolitan area, chances are good that you either have a red shirt or an orange one. You might not even know there is another Division One football team in Oklahoma.

There is. It’s the Tulsa University Golden Hurricane. Strange mascot moniker, right? Why the mascot picker chose “hurricane” for a school that’s 500 miles inland, I have no idea. And, why the singular hurricane is golden is even more perplexing. But I don’t care. TU is my school. I went to school there and have the hat. I can whistle the fight song and even know most of the words. The Gold and Blue and Red stir me as much as the red or orange of those other teams do for their fans.

Tulsa’s best season was in 1942, going 10-0, including wins against Oklahoma (23-0), Oklahoma A&M (now OSU) (34-6), and Arkansas (40-7). The Golden Hurricane went to the 1943 Sugar Bowl against Tennessee. Tulsa lost the game on a late Volunteer touchdown, justing missing a National Championship.

Being the smallest school in Division One, as Golden Hurricane fans, you never go in to the season thinking this could be another 1942, the year we win it all. Here’s the cool thing about that, you can just enjoy the atmosphere of a college football game in its innocence and simplicity. If you have indigestion after the game it is likely because the hot dog, nachos and “cheese” covered pretzel you had are indigestible, not because the “game” has become so much more than a game that we work ourselves into a frenzy that sets priorties that might include going out to find another multi-million dollar coach. (Although, I will confess that I’m really glad to have that former Baylor Offensive Coordinator, with his high-flying offensive schemes as our head coach.)

Spending an autumn Saturday afternoon at Skelly Field in the heart of Tulsa is just as fun today as those Saturday afternoons I spent there as a kid.

GO Tulsa! and Sooners! and Pokes!

Going Back

Are you one of those who experiences dread with “Back to _________(fill in the blank).” 

If you’ve checked social media in the past few weeks, you’ve seen adorable photos of adorable kids (and maybe an adorable adult or two) in adorable new outfits holding their little chalkboards telling you what grade they will be in as they head Back To School.

Pictured above: Karlee (Grand-Girl #1) and Aaron.

I love Fridays! And I like my job, but I still dread going Back To Work on Monday. I enjoy holiday food feasts, even though the holiday passes and it’s Back To The Diet.

Without a doubt though, when it comes to the dread of going Back, nothing compares to School—for me. Thankfully I haven’t had to go Back To School for several years. Looking back, I’m not sure why it seemed so dreadful.

Maybe it was that summers were so much fun for me. Fortunately I grew up in the day before mosquitoes came from the West Nile and ticks didn’t bring the fever back from the Rocky Mountains with them. The guy selling sub sandwiches wasn’t a pervert and the guy driving the ice cream truck wasn’t a meth addict. We left the house first thing in the morning and didn’t return home until we had a jar full of fireflys after nightfall.

Maybe it was that Back To School brought such pressure. I knew I would be expected to “work well with others,” and “work up to my potential.” I’m sure my parents held some hope that this year might be better. There was so much to remember: locker combinations, homework, teacher’s rules, bus number, which was the “up” staircase and which was the “down” staircase. Does this teacher want homework folded vertically or horizontally? Does the name go in the upper right hand corner, do we include the teacher’s name. I must remember not to ask obvious questions, like: “Why should I write your name on my paper Mrs. Teacher, don’t you know it?”

Maybe it wasn’t so bad afterall. Maybe going Back is a good thing. Maybe it’s good to have something to go back to. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I dread retirement. What will I do on Monday morning? Maybe if I ever do retire, sometime around mid-August, I’ll go to the store and buy myself a new pair of jeans and a couple of #2 pencils, some glue and an eraser just for old times sake. Maybe I’ll write something on a sheet of notebook paper and then I’ll fold any way I want to, or maybe I won’t fold it at all. What is there about Back To School time that brings out the obnoxious, rebellious little devil in me?

Pops & Popeye

Happy Birthday Elvis. I can’t believe you would have been 80; it seems like only yesterday.

Normally I don’t dish out birthday wishes to celebrities here at About Pops. But I do normally talk about myself and getting older.

“Then,” you might say, “you must be a big fan of Elvis and his music.”

No, not really. I looked at my iTunes library. I have one Elvis recording, Here Comes Santa Claus. That was a song on a Christmas album I bought.

You see, the deal is, Elvis and I share a birthday; today, January 8.

[cue up The Beatles, "When I'm 64"]

I talked to my Mom and Dad last night. (We senior adults call and check on one another when it’s bitter cold outside.) They were recalling the night of my birth. Apparently, I just barely made it on the 8th. A few more hours and I would be saying, “Happy Birthday” to Kate Middleton, Richard Nixon, Jimmie Page and Dave Matthews. Now there’s a couple of guys whose music I have lots of.

No complaints though. The King and I share the 8th with some pretty cool people and at least one nut-job. I’ll let you guess which one (or more): Stephen Hawking, R. Kelly, Noah Cyrus, Kim Jong-un, and Soupy Sales, just to name a few.

Birthdays are one of those contemplative days for me. You know—looking back and thinking about the days ahead. As happens, well-meaning people, and people selling books, tend to offer insight on days like this. This is from the WWW:

Capricorns born on January 8 seek to balance worldly concerns with an expression of their soul-needs. Although they strive for a pragmatic approach to life, they have a superstitious nature. They are gifted yet may be riddled with self-doubts. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that they have difficulty expressing their feelings through words.

Friends and Lovers
Because of their basic distrust of others' motives, it is hard for January 8 people to make friends. If trust is breached, the friendship is likely to end. They have a powerful love nature. They are romantics who demand total devotion. Even if they are not especially attractive they can cast a spell, drawing lovers to them with ease.

Children and Family
Even when they do not feel bound to family members, people born on January 8 are generous to them. They may have had a strict upbringing from which they lapsed in adulthood, creating guilt and dishonor. They make doting parents, anxious to give their children material as well as spiritual riches.

It’s like someone’s been reading my journals. I’m tempted to click the link and spend “$19.95 for the full report”.

On second thought: for what?! At 64, when it comes to stuff intended to make me more self-enlightened, I’m with Popeye, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.”