article. part 1. {re-post}

 
Hey Guys!

Last year I posted a 2-part blog about the redemption God gave me about my dad, long after he had passed away. We (unexpectedly) talked about it on the show yesterday; it wasn’t planned at all. But, since we did, I thought I’d re-post the 2 blogs today and tomorrow.

Here’s Part 1. I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow! In the meantime, I’m gonna go and see if I can dig up a picture of my dad. I don’t have very many, but I will try and find a picture to post with Part 2 tomorrow.

 
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Tomorrow is Father’s Day.

The last few days I’ve thought a lot about an article I received last May after our Giftcards for Alabama outreach that helped a tornado-torn community near my hometown of Jacksonville. I’ve actually debated for a month or so on whether or not to share this article on my blog. The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt my family. But God has redeemed and healed a deep wound in my heart, that I really can’t not share. This is only part 1, though.

There are a thousand “only God” details I could share with you that happened this time last year, but just know for sure that through a series of well-orchestrated, providential events, Bob found me online as he was searching to hear the interview we’d done with his pastor. Bob had no idea the morning show page he was searching for would lead to me, Carmen, daughter of Ken. Bob reached out to me, and we exchanged several emails. I cried as I read each one. (for whatever reason, I don’t remember much of my dad’s funeral services; I’m blank on that day except for riding in the car with my aunt. I also remember not feeling anything.)  Eventually Bob sent me this article (I’m sharing a portion of it) he had written about my dad. I was sitting at my desk late one day, when I opened Bob’s email and read the following. Years worth of hurt, regret, pain, dysfunction, and anguish made it’s way to the surface that afternoon. Alone, I bawled my eyes out, grieving what I never had, grieving what would never be, grieving what I didn’t in November 1994.

Bob nailed my father. He captured him perfectly in this article.

Tomorrow, I will share part 2. And the “moment” God healed this broken daughter’s heart.

Meet my dad….

Ken

The Jacksonville High School Golden Eagles 1964 football season didn’t make the record books. Ken, a loud mouth freshman, was a running back. He’d run back and forth, on and off the field with an ice water bucket, ammonia capsules, and off-­the-­cuff, off color jokes.

Ken truly brought an extra flare of entertainment to the game. Ken was Dennis the Men­ace, Don Rickles and Rich Little all in one.

His impersonation of one of our beloved coaches nick-named “Rat” left us in the locker room hyperventilating from laughter before the game while our dwindling number of fans wondered how we could lose so many games with so much talent!

Hate Ken or love him, there was no way to get rid of him! I was one of the ones who loved him.

Graduating or simply turning sixteen and dropping out of school changes everything. Life gets much more complicated. The foot loose, fancy free days of runnin’ with like-minded high school buddies, locker room jokes, and competing for the girls’ attention is gone forever.

When I heard Ken enlisted and headed for Vietnam, I knew the troops over there were in for some entertainment. And they didn’t even have to wait for Bob Hope or Red Foxx! Unlike some of our buddies, Ken made it back, but like so many, not without deep personal, emotional damage and baggage. He married and became the dad of two children. He even became a preacher, a real zealot for God. The Baptist Church definitely had a spark plug!

That was until….

Ken was so outgoing that he could sell anything: Rocket Burgers, Jesus Christ, or furniture. The furniture store was his headquarters during the week. After hours, doors closed and locked, out would come the bottle, in would come the drink and out would come the demons.

Alcohol put Ken’s conscience to sleep. The Baptist Church lost him. The devil got him. He lost his family, his dignity, his self respect. Years later, a meager, monthly US Government disability check would become his enabler.

It was 30 years after our care free high school days I found Ken held up in an old dilapidated, wrecked, mobile home, electricity disconnected for non-­payment; a God awful stench from a toilet seldom flushed. A fat, fluffy smelly puppy he named, Bear, after his hero Bear Bryant, the legen­dary football coach.

Bear, the dog never went outside. Ken’s trailer was like stepping into one of hell’s garbage dumpsters: dog poop and urine, old molded cottage cheese cartons, empty beer cans strewn all over the floor; ashes and cigarette butts accumulated everywhere, and there sitting in the middle of it all, layin’ back in an old worn out, caved in, faded, unraveled, fabric arm chair, propped up against a rotten, roach infested wall under a rusty, crooked, Alabama Crimson Tide plaque, unkempt, drunk out of his mind, still crackin’ jokes was our old high school buddy, Ken.

His face was wrinkled way beyond his years. His skin was like weathered, sun baked pork rind; nicotine stained hands trembling, one holding a cigarette butt he’d gotten off the floor and relit. His hair was gray, thin and receding. The noticeable scar on his forehead was the reminder of one of the nights he took a beating. His drunken, smart mouth called for blows and another drunk beat him in the head with a pool cue and left him in an alley for dead.

I walked on in. My heart broke. I told Ken that I loved him and offered to help him clean up his place. He mumbled some smart remark about Bear Bryant and fell asleep. I put out his relit cigarette butt, took Bear outside and began some straightening and cleaning, a task impossible to finish in one day or month for that matter. I made a dent in it, however, let Bear back in, went home, threw my smelly clothes into the washer, took a shower and returned the next day to check on Ken.

I took him to meet his appointment with the doctor, health department, probation officer and anywhere else he felt he needed to go. Any where other than the beer store, that is. One day with Ken became two, then another and another. Two weeks later, Ken’s sister called, amazed Ken had been sober for so long. I was so idealistic to believe after all these years the nightmare could miraculously end and Ken could be a sober new man overnight.

One day I missed seeing him. A week went by. I stopped by his trailer to check on him and there he was the same as before. His check had come in and when you’re an addict, and you’ve got money, you have no trouble getting a ride. Some of Ken’s friends would come by to check on him only at the beginning of the month. Sounds like love with a hook, doesn’t it?

Ken was like an owl, a nocturnal creature of the night. He loved to find and stay in touch with old friends and make new enemies! Each night, drunk, he’d get a bad case of what we call “black cord fever,” getting on the phone sharing jokes and keeping the social network going. He gave no consideration to who might be sleeping.

My wife, Patti and I were awakened from a deep sleep one night, the phone blaring like a fire alarm! “uhhhh…..hello?”

“Hey Bob…” his tongue thick, Ken remarked, “me and Coach Bryant are over here talking about “the great Bob, Golden Eagle linebacker turned songwriter and just wanted to call and say I love ya!”

“Bullxxxx! NO! You don’t, Ken! You love that bottle!” Don’t you ever call here again!”

I slammed the phone down, and stayed wide awake, spending the rest of the night cussin’ Ken!

I thought to myself, “The nerve! Why did I ever give that hopeless, inconsiderate jerk my phone number? He’s nothing but a nuisance. Patti, I’m sorry.”

The next day was Wednesday, the day my friend Mac and I would work out. Mac was an old college football teammate who had become a college professor at Jacksonville State University. We’d warm up for our workout by jogging around the track above the gymnasium in the Pete Matthews Coliseum.

It was summer camp time and junior high kids from all over the county were waiting for their counselors to arrive at 9 AM to get things started. Most of the kids were crowded near the front door, excited and energetic.

However, there was a loner … a precious, little girl, no taller than 4’5″ at the end of the gym trying her best to throw the large basketball through the hoop. Never mind if anyone was watching. She’d hold the ball in both hands, stoop as low and she could and with all the energy she could muster, push upward, the ball falling way short of the 10′ hoop. With amazing tenacity and determination she’d run for the ball, move back in front of the hoop and try again and again. As Mac and I would jog by, we’d cheer her on. “Hey, try it again! You can do it!” we’d shout as we’d run by.

She began looking over her shoulder for us to come by again. As soon as she’d see us again each time getting closer and closer.

“You can do it! Try it one more time!” Mac and I would shout.

Then, to our amazement the ball swooshed through the net! We began to clap, dance and cheer!

“We knew you’d make it! Way to go! You’re awesome!”

About half a lap later, I felt a deep conviction within my heart. God spoke: “Bob, you gave up on Ken. I didn’t. Go tell him he can make it. Try one more time!”

“Mac,” I said, “see ya next Wednesday, I’ve got somewhere I’ve got to go.”

Ken lived in the subculture of alcoholics. I found him in a run-­down apartment of one of the likely crowd.

“Ken, I gave up on you. God didn’t! Let’s try it one more time!”

He smiled, totally un­offended, but drunk as usual.

A few years later, Ken was serving weekends in the Oxford City Jail for a DUI conviction. The jail was really his home base. He was a stray during the week, sleeping in corners, under trees, back seat of old clunkers, an occasional night on the ragged sofas of friends from the subculture who were way beyond being embarrassed by him.

At the jail, he could shower, wash his clothes and eat regularly so when the judge ordered him to do weekends in jail, it realy was throwing brer rabbitt into the briar patch!

After Ken had suffered a stroke, his speech was impossible to understand, especially when he was drinking. One Saturday afternoon he called me from the jail. I could understand him so I knew he was sober.

All he said was, “Bob, I love Jesus and I love you!

“I love you too, Ken.” was my predictable response.

“Listen to me! he said, “I love Jesus and I love you!”

And then, without further conversation, he hung up the phone. An hour later, while washing his clothes, Ken had a massive heart attack and died.

His sister called and asked if I would share at Ken’s funeral.

“Of course,” I replied, trying to hide my immediate since of dread.

How do you eulogize someone whose life appears to have been so tragic? What comfort can there possibly be for the grown children who had been so embarrassed and hurt, the ex-­wives who may dare to show up?
What about the subculture of addicts who were sure to come? Do you tell them it’s ok to continue to live a drunken, destructive, wasted life and continue to hurt the people who love them? And if you read from the Good Book, in good conscience, can you ignore passages like Galatians 5:19 where we’re told drunks will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

Saturday afternoon, 2:30 PM, K.L. Brown’s Funeral Home Chapel was an overflow crowd, standing room only. In the parking lot were new slick, polished Cadillacs next to rusted out, barely runnin’ clunkers with worn out, jumper cables layin’ in the floor where the back seat use to be!

From dignitaries to derelicts, Ken’s life deeply touched this community. Everyone loved him, even those who had hated him! And I had the honor of sharing publicly my own love for this colorful character and in particular, his last phone call from the jail! Somehow I suspect he knew, with that call, he was giving me “fodder” for his own funeral!

The night before, while praying, contemplating, and preparing, I felt God remind me that He didn’t check in with me when He created the Universe, and He doesn’t check in with me as to who is in Heaven or not. I’m not here to judge another’s soul. I’m here simply to be available to God’s Spirit that He might bring comfort and hope to those who remain. Only His Spirit can do that! I am nothing. He is everything!

There’s so much bad in the best of us. And so much good in the worst of us! It behooves all of us not to judge.

God put His love in my heart for ragamuffins and outcasts. One of them was named Ken, and I was honored to hare a part of life’s journey with him.

As the funeral service got under way, I shared with the congregation that I knew Ken loved
me!

“He told me enough times over the phone in the middle of the night!” I said jokingly.

Many in the audience laughed and I realized during Ken’s “black cord fever” spells, he’d been calling them too!

After the chapel service, I rode with K.L. in his hearse carrying Ken’s remains to the cemetery to continue the service at the graveside.

K.L began to laugh and told me of one eventful late night Ken had called him.

“K.L., you got any false teeth at the funeral home?” he blurted out.

K.L., half asleep, replied, “WHAT?!?!”

“Yea, I got drunk and lost my teeth. You don’t bury them perfectly good teeth do ya? Do you have some extras?”

“Yes, Ken, I do bury them. And no, I don’t have any extras.”

“Shame on you, K.L. but thanks anyway! And Roll Tide.”

I was alone driving home following Ken’s funeral service, reflecting on his life, the trail of broken relationships, the heartbreak. And the loved ones who, admit it or not, are probably relieved he’s gone.

I was grieving, realizing there’s so many more like him around us and the nightmare is escalating. Who among us, young and old alike, has not been outrageously violated by this demon called “addiction”?

3 Responses to “article. part 1. {re-post}”

  1. Gloria V. June 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Thank you for sharing the story of your Dad. Sad to say, you are not alone as there are many in the same situation with missing fathers stolen by the disease of alcoholism. What is also sad is that he missed so much in his lifetime, and you missed getting to know the good in him that God knows he had. God bless you!

  2. Shirley Colteryahn June 15, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    Very touching Carmen. I heard parts of it last year but never read the blog. Thanks for sharing. Hard to imagine the number of hurting people out there.

  3. Christi June 15, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    A very emotional story Carmen. It really touched me. My heart goes out to you and thank you for sharing. I found comfort in the fact that your dad had someone to count on….at his worst. A lot of people do not have that. As the others have mentioned. …you aren’t alone.

    My daughter doesn’t know her father for this very same reason. Believe me, its not for her lack of trying and it has been very hurtful to have to watch her ache, anger, and cry after every failed attempt. He had a massive heart attack last year at age 44. She had the highest of hopes he would “change his ways”. He did for a while….a few months maybe. But…. The up side of it is that God has given her a step-father that she now calls “dad”. She knows that he loves her and will always be there for her. Praise God! Thank you again for sharing.

    Blessings.

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