Poor Grades

I’m one of those persons that didn’t accomplish much in the classroom during high school. Instead, I majored in having fun. My report cards showed it. Had it not been for chorus, band, and P.E., my dreadful GPA would have been even lower than a underachieving 2.6. I just didn’t get some of the classes that I took.

During my sophomore year, I broke my left ankle during a football game. Saying it happened as I battle an opponent might sound heroic, but the truth is that I was knocked down carrying dry footballs onto the field. The following Monday our biology class had a test, and we were to draw the human heart. Mr. Lynch passed out sheets of paper on which students were to draw. I hadn’t cracked a book the entire weekend. Hey, I had been injured. At least that was the story to which I was sticking. I took the sheet of paper and drew a big valentine heart and pierced it with an arrow and wrote “I love you, Mr. Lynch.” The next day the tests were passed back, and the teacher had replied, “I love you too, but you still fail.” A large F was circled in red.

I can complete the four mathematical functions with little problem. However, when an X or Y is added, all understanding disappears. Algebra I was a pain, and I spent summer school taking it over. Geometry made no sense to me, and my mother grounded me for 26 straight weeks for making D’s in it. During my junior year, Algebra II was my cross to bear. The football coach gave 3 swats with the paddle for F’s on report cards, and I’d received my fair share. At the end of the semester, Mr. Graham took me into the hall. He told me that if I promised to NEVER take another math course that he would pass me with a D. Yes, I took the deal and never looked back.

I thought a typing class would be and easy course. The problem occurred when I couldn’t keep up with others during speed tests. Before long, I was cutting class and spending time in the band room. I did that for 13 days. When grade cards came out, an F was staring back at me. At the end of the school day, I walked to the typing classroom, rolled in the grade card, and typed a B over the F. It was close enough to keep me from being grounded for another long term.

In college, I became a dedicated student and maintained a B-plus average. I earned a Master’s Degree with only a couple of B’s and the rest A’s. I know how important doing well in classes and learning the skills taught in them are. My typing struggles to this day because I never increased my speed. Still, I probably wouldn’t change things if I went back. Sometimes experience is the best teacher.

Parkwest Saves the Day

I don’t remember bringing up our children as being such a tough time. In part, that’s because I left too much for Amy to do. I’ve also been told that my memory isn’t so good. At any rate, dealing with a grandchild is almost more than I can handle…evidently.

Okay, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. My grandson Madden made his first trip to our home without his parents on Thursday. Amy worked on Friday, so that left the boy and me to fend for ourselves.

Most of the day went splendidly. We visited KHS and my daughter’s favorite teacher from her time in school. Next, I took Madden to meet my long time friend Billy Hayes, who runs Quality Body Shop in Oak Ridge. Afterward, we arrived at home, and at some point, I fed the boy.

His parents are health-conscious individuals. I’m not so much so. Madden feasted on a bowl of spaghetti O’s and half a peanut butter sandwich. He was the meal down with a cup of milk. He finally lay down for a nap about noon but was up half an hour later.

We walked the yard and watched the trains going that pass close to our house. About 3:00, I noticed a little bump on his face. Within a minute, dozens more covered his face and neck, and by the time I got him into the house, the boy was covered.
To make a long story short, plenty of phone calls were placed to Amy at work and Lacey in Nashville. The pediatrician said that Madden probably had an allergic reaction to the peanut butter, which I discovered he’d never eaten and wasn’t to eat until after two years of age. A dose of Benadril should have fixed him up, but Madden woke, the rash still covered his body, and now his fingers and toes were a bluish color.

Immediately, I freaked out, and Amy and I rushed our little guy to Parkwest Hospital. The receptionist was rude, and when I complained about a possible anaphylactic reaction and bluish color of his extremities, she informed me that the staff would get to Madden as soon as possible.

THIRTY MINUTES later, we were called back. As soon as I spoke the words peanut butter, the entire staff of the emergency room at Parkwest sprang into action. Nurses and doctors came to Madden’s aid. They checked his vitals, looked at the rash, and asked questions. The genuine concern for our grandson was amazing.
Over the next 2 hours, no fewer than a dozen doctors and nurses stopped by to check on him. The last doctor to come examined Madden and said that his rash was not the result of eating peanut butter. It was some kind of rash that can be caused by a list of things as long as my arm. The bluish color is another symptom, and the doctor alleviated our fears even more when he told us that one of his children had dealt with the same thing not long ago.

We made it back home sometime around 11:00 p.m., and Lacey and Nick arrived from Nashville not long afterwards. Madden got up Saturday his usual loving, active self, and the rash had all but disappeared.

My praise goes to Parkwest Hospital Emergency staff. I’ve never had so much attention and care during a visit to any other place. I told one of the nurses that Madden couldn’t have received better care at Children’s Hospital. Everyone should know that Parkwest Hospital is a good place that offers the best of care from a dedicated staff. The only glitch is getting passed the receptionist at the front desk.

Parkwest Emergency Staff, THANK YOU for taking care of our grandson. We are indebted to you.

Who Was That Masked Man?

The wisest people from years gone by have cautioned us about discussing politics, religion, and war. It’s sound advice, but those who know me can attest that I never have been one to heed the wisdom of others, especially when the topic is the absurd behavior of an elected official who is running for an even more powerful office than the one he now holds.

Yep, I’m referring to the antics of state rep. Stacey Campfield at the UT-South Carolina football game. According to news reports, Campfield was wearing a mask despite announcements before and during the game that doing so was not allowed. Officials at the game said his behavior was bothersome, and he was escorted out of the game.

The representative’s acts should wave a red flag to voters. First, Campfield seems to be defying the rules set by the university. This individual who represents thousands and is charged with enacting laws that will serve the common good seems to think he can pick and choose which laws and rules to obey.

Campfield’s mask was one like some Mexican wrestlers wear. What’s that about? Mexican wrestling is characterized by rapid sequences of holds and moves, as well as high-flying moves. Campfield’s tenure in state government has also been sprinkled with some “high-flying moves.” He tried to introduce a bill that would prevent the mention of anything other than heterosexuality in schools. He then dredged up a bill that would require death certificates for abortions. Another bill attempted to limit which citizens are allowed to buy lottery tickets. All of them are “show” with no go. What seems even more bizarre is these bills have been introduced when such pressing matters as funding the state budget with less money and improving education with fewer resources are on the table.

For some reason, Campfield must not think he’s on the same playing field as the rest of us. He evaded process servers for a lawsuit over a case involving the return of a security deposit to a renter. His failure to address 47 code violations resulted in one of his properties being declared as "unfit for human habitation" and condemned.

Campfield represents a huge chunk of Knox County that includes part of Ball Camp, Ridgedale, Cedar Bluff, Rocky Hill, and Bearden. He is running now to replace Tim Burchett, a tireless worker and popular politician, in the state senate. Campfield has done little to represent his constituents and more to embarrass them with his submissions that gain state and national coverage. Still, he’s been successful in elections. His latest run-in at a UT football game might be one that lands him against the ropes of the political ring. Voters have the opportunity to put a choke hold on this politicians outrageous agenda and to body slam him out of state government. Down for the count, Campfield can return to Knoxville to manage his properties. Who knows? Perhaps he’ll begin a career as Knoxville’s answer to Nature Boy Rick Flair.

No Halloween Ghosts

Halloween night was uneventful at our house. A steady drizzle fell with the dark, and the black-jersey clad Vols game was broadcast on ESPN. That special day has changed in Ball Camp over the years.

When Jim and I were kids, we’d hook up with a gang of boys in the community and begin our search for candy. It wasn’t unusual for us to walk as far east as Lobetti Road and as far west as Ball Camp School. In all, our youthful legs would cover three or four miles. Houses with huge yards were sprinkled along the roads. We had to travel long distances to have even a modest amount of loot in our pillow cases or paper bags.

In those days, we didn’t waste precious time tricking many people. Every once in a while one of the boys would mark a window with a bar of soap. Toilet paper was too expensive to be throwing into trees and lining lawns. Besides, we boys had only a limited amount of time to complete our rounds before curfew arrived.

When my kids were little, their first trip was through the woods to Mother’s house. She loaded their bags with candy and rice crispy treats. Next, we traveled through the small subdivision where we live. Some of the houses were dark, a sign that folks weren’t home. I’d walk with Dallas and Lacey to a few houses on Ball Camp Pike, where traffic had become much heavier than in my time.

My children learned early to hide their candy stashes. I had a habit of raiding their piles of candy and would leave only the yucky stuff for them. Hey, it wasn’t as if they ate the stuff because neither of my children had much of a sweet tooth. One year Dallas hid his goodies and left them there. The result was a mouse invaded his closet and munched himself into obesity on the sweets.

Lacey sent us pictures of Madden in his Halloween costume. He wore a lemur outfit with a long tail. Amy and I “oohed and aahed” over the pictures. We miss our grandson, but two hundred miles is a bit too far for me to drive to see him in a costume. The family says that it’s good to have the distance between us because, if nothing else, Madden’s candy treasures are safe. They will be thrown out since Lacey and Nick don’t allow the boy to indulge in too many sweets.

The past few years, the number of trick or treaters has dwindled. This year, the doorbell rang one time. Neither of us answered since Amy was prostrate with the flu. We had no callers the year before, so I didn’t bother buying any candy. I looked out the window and was that most houses in the neighborhood were as idle as ours.

Ours is an old neighborhood. Once it was filled with kids. Now, younger families live in subdivisions on the far end of Ball Camp Pike and Ball Road. Moms and dads load up the kids in cars now and let them loose on communities that have braced for the onslaught of ghouls and goblins. That’s okay. I have plenty of good memories of past Halloweens to make me smile. Besides, I watched the entire ball game without having to answer the cry of “Trick or treat!”

A Dad's Look

Matt Lauer of the “Today Show” spoke about his son on the air today. He mentioned that the boy was a pro at the hula-hoop. The news wasn’t that striking, but the way that Lauer looked when he began talking about his son was something most folks couldn’t miss. Even a personality of such stature glows when the mention of a child enters a conversation. Something about a child turns on that glow in a dad’s eyes.

My dad died when Jim and I were only 13, so I can only speculate about how he looked at us. However, I have seen photos of Daddy when he held our older brother Dallas when he was a baby. The glow was there. Daddy could see what a beautiful person he’d just been given by the good Lord. He looked at that baby with a knowledge that great things could be reached. Had he lived, my dad would have been beaming as his three sons earned Master’s degrees. Education for his children was most important since he’d only finished the sixth grade.

When Lacey and Dallas were born, the glow came across my face. I couldn’t believe that something so precious had been entrusted to me. Over the course of their childhood, I made plenty of goofs. Sure, I was a task master and much too hard on them for inconsequential shortcomings. That didn’t keep me from being a proud dad when they excelled. Lacey was a tremendous musician, and had she stayed with the French horn, she might have earned a full ride through college. Each time she played that horn, I could feel the tears well up. She chose a different path for her life and was again honored for her accomplishments in college. I brag shamelessly about her awards then and her job with Sony Music now. Dallas made my heart swell with his baseball playing. Just the other day we talked, and I told him how much I miss watching him play. The game isn’t near so sweet now that he doesn’t play. This fall I’ve sat in front of a computer screen on Friday nights and watched via video camera as Dallas worked at WGOW in Chattanooga. He helped announce high school scores for the area. He’s gotten better each week, and I can’t wait to watch and hear him.

These days, I watch another dad glow. He’s Nick Chemsak, my son-in-law. Nick is a wonderful father who gives his attention and time to son Madden. The little guy adores his dad. Nick sits back and watches as new skills and acts come from his son each day. With each new word he says or each motor skill he develops, Nick watches with eyes filled with pride and love. I can assure my son-in-law that things will only get better as Madden continues to grow and learn.

Dads often times don’t do such a hot job of taking care of children. Sometimes they’re lazy. At other times they’re scared. Most of the time, however, dads are confused about what to do. Those men acknowledge shortcomings in so many areas. Still, they are our children’s number one fans. Fathers burst with pride at their children’s successes and try to lessen the pain of their failures. If anyone doubts that, he or she only needs to look into the eyes of a dad as he watches his child. That glow tells it all.