Sgt. Pepper & Other Memories

THIS IS THE 50th ANNIVERSARY of the release of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, the album that made a huge mark on the music and recording industries and provided a sound track of sorts for my first coming-of-age.

Months ago, I read a book by Mary Karr called The Art of the Memoir. While reading, I took her challenge to give it a try—writing a memoir, not for publication or anything like that, in fact, not even for anyone ever to read, but as an exercise in remembering stories. Mary Karr warns in her book that it is not an easy thing to do and in fact can be dangerous.

I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.
— Mary Karr, The Art of the Memoir

Still, I highly recommend you give it a try. Maybe go back in your life, grab an experience and write a few paragraphs. It is eye-opening, soul-searching, and scary.

She also warns that remembering and writing it all down can be hurtful to yourself and others and that being honest is hard to do. She’s right. I do want to be honest in my recollection of the past, but my memories are hazy and sketchy. I’ve apparently edited those memories over the years.

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love. 
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

As I started on the challenge I knew I didn’t want to write my whole life’s story so I chose to focus on three summers, the first, 1967. Because, in the past few days, my mind has been drawn back to that time with of all the news of the Sgt. Pepper anniversary and re-release of the album, and these lyrics running through my head:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

I’ve decided to share just a snippet of the memoir project here.


To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, —Ecclesiastes 3:1

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

—from the lyrics of Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds

The First: The Summer of 1967

Coming of age in the 1960s, fascinated by the Hippie lifestyle (or my perception of it), raised in the home of a Southern Baptist preacher, the horizon loomed large, and I didn't realize it.

On January 8, 1967, Elvis turned 32 and I turned 16. Although we shared a birthday, I was never drawn to his music to the point that I would have bought one of his albums. My music budget demanded careful curating of my vinyl library. Early in the Summer of 67, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club was released. I was smitten and ready for stardom on the rock and roll stage. Ringo Starr and I both played Ludwig drums, all I needed now was long hair, despite the edict of The Beatles that "All You Need Is Love". The first fall was into adolescent angst, triggered in part by things like the battle over hair.

The summers of youth make for a good season for ad lib in the sense that they tend to be more unfocused. The rhythm of the school routine pauses, along with a requisite amount of self-discipline. Summers as a teen felt natural to me. I didn't have to ease in. I was ready for the freeform of it all on the first day of the break.

The summer of ’67 though, had a cadence to it; figuratively and literally. I was playing drums in a band that was headed for the World's Fair, "Expo '67", in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. So the days between the end of school and boarding the tour bus, were spent in long rehersals.

I had no idea that “Expo ’67” was such a big deal until we arrived there. I had no idea how big the world outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma really was. I had no idea how much I would be changed after that summer baptism of worldliness.

(to be continued)

So there it is. Probably the only part of the memoir exercise that I will ever share with anyone.

Let’s close with Ringo singing…

What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends






Malachi & The Formidable 5

WHEN I FIRST DECIDED to write a blog, I chose the name “About POPS” because first and foremost it is a role I cherish: being Pops to five beautiful, stong, talented and determined Grand-Girls. And, yes together they are formidable.

On May 12, 2017, a miracle happened. (On the issue of miracles: when someone says they don’t believe in miracles, I assume they’ve never held a newborn baby in their arms.)

Malachi David Fuller was born in the wee hours of the morning. His beautiful mother, his stalwart father and two loving, big sisters welcomed him and let him know from his first breath that he would be part of a very special family. For us grandparents, we watched on with awe and gratitude.

When my son Kyle, whose birth I vividly remember, came to the waiting room to invite us in to greet the baby, I immediatley asked, “Is it a boy or a girl!?” 

“Come and see!” he said.

A boy indeed. And then they told me his name: Malachi David. It was like a dam broke in my soul and humility and honor rushed in. Right away, I thought, “Oh I have some stories for you little man. We’ll have a unique kinship and maybe a few inside jokes we’ll share and keep from the Formidable Five. While they’re watching their princess shows, we’ll get the old Tonka dump truck that your daddy and Uncle Corey played with, and we’ll make a new road in the dirt and in the story of our family.”

Don’t get me wrong, the Grand-Girls collectively and individually hold a very special place in an old Pops’ heart; but it will be so nice to buy a Christmas or Birthday gift that’s not pink and purple—the official colors of the Grand-Girl Queendom. While they’re dancing, singing or being dramatic, maybe we’ll go oil our bicycle chains or take a leak in the woods.

Malachi, we are so glad you’re here. You are so fortunate to have the big sisters you have. They were sooooo excited to meet you for the first time. Your mother is an amazing human with a courageous soul. She has been an inspiration to me and others for a long time. I hope you will inherit her joy and compassion and talents. Your father is my son. I’m guessing that you will take great pride in him, just as I do. He wears two uniforms: one of the U.S. Army and one of an officer of the law. More importantly he is your mother’s husband and your Dad. Regardless of uniform or role in life, his soul is beautiful. He is a kind, humble and loyal man. He will be with you every step you take. Your parents will be the first examples you will know of God’s grace. Don’t you ever forget that little man.

And, don’t forget this either: at any family gathering, if the Formidable Five get to be just a little too much, just let Pops know and we’ll go skip rocks and talk about how to understand women or something.

Old people are distinguished by grandchildren; children take pride in their parents.
— Proverbs 17:6 The Message

About Babies

LET ME INTRODUCE YOU! This is Brooke and Kyle's little baby and our sixth Grand. It is no secret if you read this blog at all, that we have five beautiful, gifted GrandGirls. Will this little one be another girl or maybe a boy? We won't know until it makes its grand entrance sometime in May. One thing is certain, as you can tell from it's picture here that it is a lovely and loved child.

So, it's Christmastime, that wonderful time when many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus, our hope and peace. What if, and I'm just imagining here, ultrasound technology had been available to Mary and Joseph? I hope it's not impious to picture the young teenage parents at the clinic. The technician says, "It's a boy!" and Mary says to Joseph, "The angel was right!?"

I'm guessing that only a young, expectant mother can begin to understand the emotion of that moment, when it all first becomes real, when a human sort of advent begins. In my over-imaginative mind, I picture Mary laying her hand gently on her belly and saying, "I hope he has his Father's eyes."

As it turns out, not only does he have his father's eyes, but he said, "If you've seen me, you've seen my father."

If you'll allow me, an old man, to use that masculine reference "Father", I would only hope this season that I too could have my Father's eyes--that I will somehow be able to see people as He sees them. To see His creation as He sees it. To somehow see beyond the hate, the division, the bleakness; and to see the beauty of it all.

Last year about this time I posted here on the old About POPS blog some thoughts about Beauty and Pain. I invite you to check it out by clicking this sentence.

Merry Christmas Ya'll.


Merry & Bright; But Not That Bright!

If you are a child of the 50s/60s, maybe you remember suffering a malady of temporary blindness every Christmas morning. Sixty some years later, it doesn’t seem there are any lasting ill-effects. It was all well-intentioned, an attempt by fathers everywhere to capture the childlike wonder on that special day.

Every dad, theoretically, wants Christmas morning to be special for his family. This spirit of well-meaningness is personified in the affable Clark Griswold as chronicled in the movie “Christmas Vacation”. We laugh and relate to Clark’s story because in some ways it’s our story too.

If, from Clark, we can learn what NOT to do, could it be that there’s an outline, a plan for the guy who wants to get it right, leaving the family with happy memories of Christmas 2016?

If we go back a couple of centuries we find this advice:

1. Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
2. ’Tis the season to be jolly,
3. Don we now our gay apparel,
4. Troll the ancient Christmas carol,

5. See the blazing yule before us,
6. Strike the harp and join the chorus.
7. Follow me in merry measure,
8. While I tell of Christmas treasure,

9. Fast away the old year passes,
10. Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
11. Sing we joyous all together,
12. Heedless of the wind and weather,

Fa La La La La La La La La

Let’s interpret this line by line and see if it works in the 21st Century.

1. Decorate the house.
2. The season is fraught with the potential for stress and frustration. Don’t worry, be jolly.
3. Feel free to wear whatever crazy sweater you want.
4. Crank up a Christmas playlist and sing along at the top of your lungs.

5. Build a good fire, if you have a fireplace.
6. Maybe you don’t have a harp to strike, but a ukulele or kazoo will do.
7. Encourage others to join in the merriment.
8. Definitely tell the Christmas story.

9. Savor every moment. They pass quickly.
10. View tomorrow with a youthful optimism.
11. More singing.
12. Turn off the TV and the hyper-reporting of Oklahoma’s TV weather prognosticators.

Fa La La La La La La La La

And by all means make memories, take pictures and video. Today we can do that without blinding our children and grandchildren as our dads did to us with that bank of flood lights they would turn on with their 8mm movie cameras just as we awoke on Christmas morning to see what Santa had left under the tree. Usually by 11:15a or so our eyesight would recover so we could join in the merriment.

If you’re not familiar with those lights dads used for their film to work in indoor settings, you can still see them today keeping the french fries warm at McDonald’s.

Fa La La La La La La La La