A Trojan & A Spartan

Preface: Remember the Trojan War that started when a Trojan prince went to Sparta and abducted their queen? Well, this is kind of like that; except this time the Trojan was a college boy and the Spartan queen was Miss December.


You have to have a union before you can have a reunion. Feel free to quote me on that.

Typically when I think of a reunion, I think of a group of people striving to be thinner, healthier, happier and appear more financially successful than they really are. You know, kind of like in Facebook World. But, as I discovered this weekend, that is not always the case.

Late last week, around the office, people were asking, “Big weekend plans?” You know the routine. My answer for this past weekend: “Why yes, we’re going to my Amazing-Missus’ high school reunion.” Typical reply: “I bet you’re thrilled about that [wink-wink].”

Actually I was looking forward to it. This was not my first gathering with the Bixby High School Class of 1972. This group reunites relatively regularly, and although I’m an outlier of several sorts, I’ve always been welcomed. Of course, why wouldn’t they, I am married to their Miss December (no centerfold involved), according to the 1972 Spartan Yearbook. And I am happy, blessed and humbled to say, that Miss December and I hold the title of being Married The Longest to the Same Person among this cohort.

How Miss December got out of the house without her mother seeing that dress...?

How Miss December got out of the house without her mother seeing that dress...?

I am a few years older than these youngsters; proud Senior ’69 and only a few years away from being a 69 year-old senior. Not only am I older, but I didn’t even attend their school. Worse yet, I attended their biggest rival—the school just across the river. I was a Jenks Trojan.

If you’ve ever been around an Oklahoma University football fan, you know that if they see someone in a red shirt they will holler, “BOOMER!!” in hopes that the person will respond, “SOONER!!” In that spirit, if a Bixby Spartan hears the word “Jenks”, they reflexively reply, “Jenks Stinks!!”

Although it’s been many years since I attended a Jenks football game, as we gathered for the first of the reunion activities, a tailgate party at a Bixby Spartan football game, I couldn’t help feeling somewhat creepy and disloyal; like I might feel at a Re-elect Trump rally.

But this had nothing to do with old school rivalries or the fact that Bixby beat Jenks in football this year for the first time in 40 years. This was about re-unioning, re-membering, re-calling tales of simpler days; basically re-collecting.

In the last event of the weekend, a few of her classmates picked up guitars and provided a soundtrack of sorts for the reminiscing. And as a bonus, these guys were good, really good. I thought to myself, “I wish I had brought my drums.” One of my favorites of the night was Eric Clapton’s “Old Love”, somehow apropos for such a time as this. 

At one point, in that last event of the weekend, as they were scanning yearbooks of their youth through their bifocals, I thought about standing and admonishing them to remember the words of the Old Testament:

“Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.” Ecclesiastes 7:10

Or, for those who don’t speak King James:

“Don't long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.” —New Living Translation

But surely it can’t hurt to reunite every few years and rekindle, can it? Sitting as an outsider watching the Bixby Class of ’72; NO, the answer is no, it can’t hurt a thing. After 45 years these people weren’t worried about waistlines, bottom lines or goal lines. They were just humans being human for a few hours.

As my Amazing-Missus said her good-byes and we left the reunion, I thought of this Beatles song, and her, and me, and Spartans Class of ’72, and the Trojans Class of ’69:

"In My Life"

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more


Maybe Good Is Better Than Best

“Father Knows Best” is not an empirical reality, it was a TV show in the late 50s and early 60s. Apparently though, the idea that Father Knows Best acquired the status of a cultural norm that has caused men for years to make long road trips without consulting a map, to attempt to assemble stuff without looking at the directions, and to wreak household havoc by attempting various plumbing and electrical repairs.


Speaking as a father I can say with a morsel of confidence that in those times when I did Know Best, it was by probably by sheer accident. Let me say early in this little essay: thank you to the spouses and children who are kind enough to let Fathers believe that We Know Best, and for forgiving us when we can’t admit that we don’t always Know Best.

There are many areas where I would like to Know Best. Family vacations were one such category. To plan a good vacation was to know what would be fun for all, to demonstrate your command of geography and wider culture, and to create lasting memories (hopefully good ones). I would plan our annual odyssey with Griswoldian fervor and ambition. 

Ellen: You set standards that no family activity can live up to. 
Clark: When have I ever done that? 
Ellen: Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays... 
Clark: Goodnight Ellen
Ellen: Vacations, graduations...

If I’m not Clark Griswold, I’m Don Quixote; approaching life like a knight in shining armor. When asked about his quest, Don replied:

It is the mission of each true knight...
His duty... nay, his privilege!
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;
To right the unrightable wrong.
To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!
This is my Quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!
And I know, if I'll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars!

That’s all I’m asking for.

Knowing that I won’t always Know Best, I would like to at least know what is good. This is more than just a grading scale as in Good, Better, Best. See if this makes sense: I may not know what’s Best for my children, but I do think, by now, that I know what’s good for them, theoretically. I want the Best for them, but more importantly, I want them to know what’s good. Kind of like I want them to know what’s pretty, but even more I want them to know what’s beautiful. I want them to know honesty, but even more I want them to know truth. Am I making any sense at all?

Sure it’s good to regard the best, the pretty, the honest, but what if you could know deeply the good, the true and the beautiful?

One of my favorite parts of scripture are those verses in the creation story that say, “and God saw that it was good.” Except for that one time that He said “this isn’t good.” He was speaking of man’s relational status. He said it is not good for man to be alone. And at that point it was obvious that we are created to be connected to others. That’s a good thing; and true and beautiful. In fact, it may be the best thing.

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