Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nelson and Lela

"My parents were married for almost seventy years.  They lived through the depression, my Dad going to war, the birth of three children and countless times of not having enough money.  My father always kissed my mother hello and goodbye and held her hand when they rode in the car. They celebrated two anniversaries, November 15, the day they were married and March 9, the day they met.  Dad loved to tell the story of his first meeting with Mom.  His family was moving into the White Springs community and a low overhanging limb was blocking the truck.  His father sent him to the nearest house to borrow a saw.  The closest house happened to be my mother’s and she helped him find the tools to remove the limb.  They were 9 and 8 years old.  The date was March 9, 1924.
I asked my father what his secret was  for staying happily married for that long.  “Son,” he said.”Your mother and I had an agreement.  She was to handle all of the small decisions and I was to handle all the big decisions.  Luckily there hasn’t been a big decision yet.”
"Don’t marry someone you can live with, marry someone you can’t live without."
"Love is like penicillin shot.  It’s good for you, but you know it’s going to be a pain in the butt."
"No matter how many times you help bathe your mother or how many times you help feed her or help get her get dressed, it will always be at least one less time than she did those things for you."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nelson and the Flying Lesson

Dad and I were enjoying our usual Sunday morning drive.  I knew Dad missed attending church, but we both looked forward to our weekly adventures.  As we neared the river, Dad reached for his Coke and peanut butter crackers and said, “Tom, if I were going to ask you to learn to fly, would you take lessons from a bird or a mammal?”  My father is always asking quirky and thought provoking questions but this one seemed fairly straight forward.  “A bird,” I said confidently.  "Why would you do that?” he quizzed.  “Because a bird can fly,” I answered.  Dad paused, took a long drink from his Coke and said, “An ostrich is a bird and it can’t fly.  A bat is a mammal and it can.  It is not what someone is called that is important; it is what they can do.  Find out if someone can fly before you label them." How many people could teach us wonderful things if we took the time to find out if they “knew how to fly”?
"Don’t try to be famous, try to be unforgettable. People forget famous people. You can’t remember who won the Academy Award for best actress in 1963 but you remember your fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Cunningham."
"I don’t have enemies.  I just have friends I haven’t convinced yet."
"If someone offers you a gift, take it.  Do not deny them the joy of giving."
"You have to change in order to become better."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nelson and Working on Sunday

There are some ways I'm just like him
Some ways he was just like me
And sometimes when the mirror's dim
His face is clear to see
Tonight the winds of heaven
Blow the stars across the sky
I brought my father with me
I couldn't say goodbye

Michael Smith “I Brought My Father With Me”

Dad was never happy that my brother and I did not continue the family tradition of not working on Sunday.  When we were younger we were not even allowed to fish or swim on the “Lord’s Day”.  My parents took resting on the seventh day seriously and in the years after I left home, my not resting was cause for many interesting and ongoing discussions.  During one of these discussions, I decided to use the Bible to justify my cutting grass on Sunday.  “Dad, doesn’t the Bible say in Luke 14 that a person can get their ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath?”  “Yes, Son,” Dad responded. “The Bible does say you can get your ox out of the ditch on Sunday.  You just need to quit putting your ox in the ditch on Sunday.”

"It’s called work because it’s hard to do.  Even a mule backs up to do it."
"The road that brought you in here mad can take you out of here happy.  The direction you travel is up to you."
"Worry is like rocking in a rocking chair.  It gives you something to do but you don’t get anywhere by doing it."
"If you have a car, you will have car problems.  If you have an airplane, you will have airplane problems.  Problems are the cost of having things."
"Teachers, be nice to your A students, they will come back and teach. Be nice to your C students, they will be rich enough to build you a new school.  Be nice to all of your students, because some will be taking care of you in the nursing home.  Everyone you teach will eventually touch your life."
"Whose life will you change today?"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nelson and the Yellow Jackets

My younger brother Kenny went to see my parents a few years ago.  He had promised to help Dad do some projects around the house and this seemed like a good time of year to get them done.  My mother was working in the yard when he drove up.  “Where’s Dad?” he yelled as he was getting out of his truck.  “He was headed toward the barn about 15 minutes ago,” Mom responded. “I guess he’s working down there.”  Dad’s barn was built in the 1920’s and had seen its better days.  It was filled with a collection of “treasures” that Dad had accumulated over the years.  Approaching the barn, my brother could see Dad in the loft.  He was standing in the loft opening about 8 feet from the ground, holding a pitchfork and staring at the stacks of hay he was moving.  Suddenly he started swatting at his ears and immediately launched himself out of the loft.  He continued swatting and my brother says that he would swear Dad was trying to fly.  As he neared the ground, Dad tucked his legs, hit the ground with a thud, and came to rest at my brother’s feet.   “What’s wrong Dad?” my brother asked. “Don’t you know a 75 year old man shouldn’t be jumping out of the barn loft?  You could have killed yourself.”  Dad slowly got to his feet and brushed the grass from his pants.  “To tell you the truth Son, those yellow jackets never asked how old I was and they probably wouldn’t have cared if I’d told them.”
"You can’t cure stupid. You can hope they go into remission, but you can’t cure it."
"Some people are on a different level of smart."
"You won’t ever know if you built it too strong but you’ll know fairly quickly if you didn’t build it strong enough."

"Can’t never could do anything."
"If lifting weights is good for you, why are they called dumbbells?"

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nelson's Bible (Conclusion)

“About a year ago I was in the auditorium at church and your dad was sitting in his usual seat.  I walked down the aisle and spoke to him.  ‘How are you doing Brother Nelson?’  I asked.  ‘Are you ready for a great morning service?’  ‘You know I am son.  Sit down. It’s a while until the service starts. That’s a nice Bible you have there.  Isn’t that the one your mother gave you when you and Tom were about 13?’  ‘Yes sir it is.’ I replied. ‘I have had this Bible my entire life,’  ‘It must be a good one’, he said. “Mine’s falling apart.’  “I looked at the worn, frayed book in his hands.  The cover was battered from being held by those calloused hands, the edges of the pages were torn from his fingers searching for just the right words.  There were stains on the pages, stains that could have been sweat from reading the Word after a hard day’s work or tears from comforting someone in need.  As my eyes moved to my Bible sitting on the pew, I thought about why our Bibles were different.  Your father taught me a great lesson that day.  In his own way he showed me that some people read the Bible and some people just carry it on Sundays.”  “Tom, Brother Nelson would be proud of me.  I am well on my way to wearing out my first Bible.”
"I say grace before every meal.  But most of the time only God and I know it."
"Belief is thinking that a chair will hold you up.  Faith is sitting in the chair."
"There is no right way to do the wrong thing."
"Live your life as if it is the only Bible someone will ever read."
"Don’t worry about what other people do.  It’s their little red wagon and they are going to have to pull it."
Tomorrow:Nelson and the yellow jackets

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nelson's Bible (Part 1)

The morning Dad passed away was a whirl of activity.  People were coming in and out the house and, being good Southern neighbors, everyone was bringing food.  I was numb and slowly beginning to get into survival mode.  I looked around the den and my eyes fell upon Dad’s Bible lying on the kitchen table.  It was battered and worn with many of the pages falling out.  You could tell it was well read and well loved.  I went across the room and picked it up.  This piece of my father’s life was the sum of everything that he lived for.  As I held it in my hand, I thought of all of the comfort that this book had given my family.  One of my lifelong friends had just arrived. “Isn’t that your father’s Bible?” he asked as he sat down at the table.  “I would recognize it anywhere.” “Yes it is,” I replied, pouring myself a cup of coffee.” “Well, actually it is his latest Bible.  There are three more worn out ones in his bedroom.” He laughed and reached for the Bible.  “Let me tell you a story about Brother Nelson,” he said as he gently picked up Dad's Bible.

"Churches should be hospitals for sinners, not museums for saints."

"Churches have stained glass windows so they don’t have to see what’s going on outside.
"If you have to tell people you are a Christian, then maybe you are trying to convince yourself.  If you really are, you shouldn’t have to tell them.  They should already know, because they have seen the way you live your life."
"The Lord provides for the sparrow, but he doesn’t drop the worm in his nest.  We all have to do in order to get."
"If someone tells me that they are going to pray for me, I let them.  I know I need the prayers and they may need to practice."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nelson and Shania

Dad and I were on our way to my brother’s farm.  Nothing special was on tap, Dad just needed to get out the house for a while.  I was deep in thought and he was staring out of the window of the truck.  When a new song came on the radio, Dad perked up.  “Isn’t that the one I like to watch sing?” he asked. My father was always interested in music but this comment surprised me. “Yes Dad. That’s Shania Twain.  I didn’t know you were into country music,” I said. “How do you know who sings that song?”  “I watch her on TV sometimes.  She’s real easy to look at.  You know God is good to all of us, but He was especially good to that young lady.”  “Yes He was, Dad.” I replied smiling.” Yes He was.”  After all, I am my father’s son.
"Your Uncle Cecil always said 'You can’t make men too rich, women too pretty, or coffee too strong'.”
"I like pretty women and I don’t like coffee. But both sure smell good."
"She’s not big, she’s just overfed."

"I wouldn’t take a million dollars for him and I wouldn’t give you a nickel for another one just like him."
"Good days or bad days depend on which side of the grass you are looking at.  If you are looking the top, it is a good day."
"'When saying something that is not flattering about someone, always end with 'Bless their heart'”.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nelson and The Doctor

The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band

Dan Fogelberg “Leader of the Band”

Dad was trimming limbs from the apple trees when the ladder slipped and he fell.  He tried to catch himself, but his head hit the base of the tree.  The impact opened a cut about 2 inches long on his forehead.  I put him into the truck and drove to Dr. Rowe’s office.  “This is embarrassing,” he groaned as we sat in the exam room. “An eighty year old man is not supposed to have his son take him to the doctor.”  “An eighty year old man is not supposed to be climbing apple trees either,” I quipped.  Just then, Dr. Rowe entered the room. “What happened, Mr. Robertson?” he asked.  Without missing a beat my father replied “Doc, it’s my wife, my firewood, my story.”
Some of you are requesting Nelsonisms on particular topics.  Here are some of his thoughts on life.
"It’s not a mountain for a climber."
"Anyone who thinks that the sweat of a working man stinks has their nose too high in the air."
"If you think you can, you can.  If you think you can’t, you can’t."
"You miss all of the shots you don’t take."
"The difference in a person who would like to do something, a person who wants to do something and a person who does something is the level of their commitment."
"If your choices are do nothing or do something, always do something."
"The person you are when no one is watching is the person you are."

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nelson on The Good Old Days

Dad was 93 when he died and loved to tell me about the "Old Days."  I cannot imagine the changes he lived through or the things he saw.  I know his head stone reads 1916-2010 but the two dates are not what's important, it's the dash in between.  Here are some Nelsonism's on the dash.

"My mother and father are gone. All of my brothers and my sister have passed. All of my childhood friends are dead. No one is alive that has known me for my entire life. It’s kind of lonely, but I don’t have any peer pressure now."

"I never took a driving test. I just went to the court house and paid a nickel and they gave me my license. I’ve never had a ticket and never had an accident. Best nickel I ever spent."

"You are your ancestor’s descendant and your descendant’s ancestor. Wrap your brain around that one."

"It only cost a nickel to get into the movies, but I didn’t have the nickel."

"I am getting stronger in my old age. When my wife and I first married, it took two hands to carry $10.00 worth of groceries. Now I can carry $75.00 worth of groceries with one hand."

"I have never had a credit card. If I can’t afford it, I don’t need it. I may want it, but if I need it I will save up until I can buy it."

"This is the fifth last car I will ever have to buy."

"I’m not hard of hearing, I’m tired of listening."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nelson and The Good Samaritan (Conclusion)

"Who would you be?"

I would be the good Samaritan,” I responded. “He’s the one who showed compassion and cared for his neighbor.” “In my younger days, I would have said the same thing.” Dad said.” But the older I get, the more I think there is something else to learn from this parable. I have decided that I would be the inn keeper. The Samaritan took the man to the inn and told the inn keeper to care for him. Not only care for him but spend his own money on the promise that he would be paid back. The inn keeper cared for someone he had never met and was given only a promise from someone he didn’t know. The Samaritan had a story written about him, the inn keeper did most of the work. We need to take care of people. That’s our job on this earth and our payment is God’s promise to us.” I just sat quietly and thought about what my father had said. This man was still learning and teaching from the book that had guided his life. As he slowly turned and looked out of the window I heard him say under his breath, ”Yep. We just need more inn keepers.” I hope to live my life as the inn keeper lived his. Nelson would be proud.

"The person you are when no one is watching is the person you are."

"If your choices are do nothing or do something, always do something."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nelson and The Good Samaritan (Part 1)

Dad and I were riding around on a warm Sunday morning, enjoying the beauty of a spring day. As he has gotten older, his Sundays are spent more often with my wife, Diane, and me than at church. “Do you want to talk Bible this morning?” he said. “Sure,” I said, knowing that this was the opening he was waiting for. My father had read the Bible literally every day of my life. Sometimes we read it as a family, sometimes he read it alone. “Do you remember the story in Luke chapter 10?” he asked. “It was always one of my favorites. “ I remembered hearing this story all of my life. “Isn’t that the one about the good Samaritan? I bet you thought I wouldn’t remember that.” “You’d better remember it, Son. I read that story to you at least once a month when you were little. If you could be anyone in that story, who would it be?” I thought about the story Dad was referring to.

Luke 10:30-37 Jesus answered, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?" He said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Who would you be?  As Paul Harvey would say, "Tomorrow, the rest of the story."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nelson, Little Brother and Me

After my post yesterday, Kenny mentioned to me that big brothers have the "I am older than you and Mom and Dad put me in charge so I now control everything. Shut up and do what I told you to do" meter.  He informed me that I ranked higher on the big brother meter than he did on the little brother meter  that I referred to on my last post so I think a few more Nelsonism are needed. 

The world’s a better place because you boys are in it. 

Your Mother and I raised you so everyone else would love you.  We were going to love you anyway.
When we brought your brother home from the hospital, you wanted to send him back.  I see you still feel that way sometimes.
No one can make corn bread, tea or fried chicken like you mother.  They may be good, but they are not your mom’s.  These are some of the things that you will miss for the rest of your life.
Try to better than average.  Average is just the top of the bottom.
Your mother and I always discussed the decisions we made concerning you boys.  Two hearts are better than one.
Let’s get this straight son.  You dropped your BB gun, it went off accidentally, and shot your little brother in the butt.  Five times.  Are you sure you don’t want to rethink the truth on that one?
The only difference in a brother and a bother is the letter “r”.
It takes two sons to make one brother.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nelson on Fathers and Sons

My younger brother Kenny is one of the best singer/songwriters I have heard.  I am not saying this because he's my brother, I am saying it because it's the truth.  Kenny used to be my "little" brother but  now we both agree on "younger" brother.  Like most little brothers, Kenny ranked high on the "pain in the %^&$" meter when we were growing up and as a result many Nelsonisms began to deal with fathers, sons and brothers.  Here are a few more of Nelson's thoughts.

"Lightning, lightning bug.  Only one word is different. Which one would you rather be hit by?  Little things do matter, son."
"My sons had a drug problem. I drug them to church. I drug them to school.  I drug them  everywhere they  needed to be."
"If someone says'you are just like your grandfather', you’re on the right track."

"The greatest compliment someone can give me is 'You’re your father’s son'."
"Take your little brother with you; he’s the only one you’ll ever have.  From the looks of it, he’s the only one you’ll ever need."
"Three and one half acres is not enough room for a horse." (Nelson, when I asked for a pony).
 "The dog pen is plenty big for a pony." (Nelson, when my little brother asked for a pony).

"My sons didn’t get their good looks from me, I still have mine."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Day Nelson Preached (Part 2)

As the week went on, he worked on his speech every night. When I visited his home, he would read parts of it to me. He was really proud of the thoughts he put to paper. When Senior Citizens Day arrived, he was ready. He slowly got up from his spot on the pew, the place he sat every Sunday for seventy five of his ninety years, Nelson’s seat, and slowly stepped to the pulpit. He drew himself up to his full height and began to speak. “The pastor asked me to share some bits of wisdom with you today. I will begin by telling you a great secret. The secret of how I lived for 90 years. It works and I promise that if you do this simple thing, you too will live a long life.” As everyone leaned forward to hear this wonderful insight into life, my father slowly lowered his head. When he raised his eyes, there was a sparkle that I had seen many times in my life. It was there more often before my Mom died, but now it was there again. With a voice as calm and strong as any evangelist, Dad told everyone his key to life. “Always remember, breathe in after you breathe out.” The pastor and congregation began to laugh. Dad had them where he wanted. He told them all of the stories that I had grown up with. My Uncle Cecil and the bees, meeting my mother, swimming across the river with his brothers and many stories about growing up in this community spilled from my Father’s memory. The next 30 minutes flew by. When Dad finished the story of his life, there was not a dry eye in the auditorium. He walked back to his seat and calmly sat down. He leaned over to me and said in a low voice, “I know it sounded silly, but I was serious about the breathing thing. We focus on all of the things going on in our lives and forget about the gifts God has given us. The simple gift of life is the best. Don’t worry about the length of your life; it will take care of itself. Worry about the width and depth of your life. It is the only part we control.”

When things get hectic in your life, remember the words of my father on that Sunday morning. “Breathe in after you breathe out.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Day Nelson Preached (Part 1)

My father was asked to speak at his church’s Senior Citizens Recognition Day. During my life my father has been, at one time or another, chairman of the deacons, assistant pastor, music director, Sunday School superintendent, custodian, finance director, and any other job that was necessary at White Springs Baptist Church. He had spoken to congregations all over the county and had always done a more than an adequate job. But this time it was different. He seemed nervous and when I questioned him about it he said simply, “This isn’t talking about the Bible, this is talking about me. The pastor wants me to tell the congregation my life’s story and I’m not sure what to say. I haven’t done anything interesting.” As I listened to him, I thought of the things that had occurred during his lifetime. He was born on May 17, 1916 and saw more changes in his world than I can imagine. His father bought the first radio in the community, he remembered seeing his first airplane, his first automobile, the first electric light bulb, five wars, cell phones, computers, a man orbiting the earth, Neil Armstrong, Jackie Robinson, John Kennedy and was married to my Mom for 69 years. He reared three children, fought in WW II, was the first fire chief in our town and served on the first City Council. But this man did not think of his life as anything other than what he was supposed to do.

“Just tell them about all of the things that you told me,” I said as we sat under the tree out back. “I always loved hearing about the old days.” “You had to listen,” he explained. “I controlled your allowance. These people are not interested in the ramblings of a 90 year old man.” I thought to myself, “If you only knew the impact you have had on this community.”

Tomorrow-The Day Nelson Preached (Part 2)

Monday, January 24, 2011

More on Getting Older

Word spread that I was collecting Dad's sayings and people have begun to call and tell me ones they remember.  This is becoming a way for the community to remember Dad and celebrate the way he lived his life.  Some of these Nelsonisms are from these calls.

"Don’t mess with old."
"Never say” good bye”, always say “See you later”.  It gives us hope."
If you asked Dad if he had been to a particular place or seen a certain event, his response, if he had not already experienced it, was always the same.  "Not yet."
”The Devil can’t have me and the Lord is not ready for me yet.  When He is, whoever is with me will be the second one to know."
"A man called the other day to offer me a metal roof for my house.  He said that it would last me the rest of my life.  I told him, 'I’m 91 years old.  A cardboard roof will last me the rest of my life.'  But now that I think of it that metal roof might not be a bad idea.”
"Tom, you need to order some more tags for the bags I make.  I only have enough to last 3 more years." (Nelson at 90)
Dad and I ran into one of his nephews one Saturday morning.  “It’s good to see you Uncle Nelson. How is it going?” he said.  Without missing a beat my father responded, “At my age if you are being seen and not viewed, it is a good day.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Getting Older

Dad  had a unique perspective on getting old.  I think he embraced the process of aging and truly believed that "whatever age you are is the age you are supposed to be".  The next few posts are some his thoughts on getting older.  Enjoy.

"I am not old.  I’ve just lived a long time."
"I never realized I went to school with so many old men."

"I’ve been to see the old people at the nursing home."  (Nelson at age 90)
"Try to live until you’re 100.  The obituaries rarely have someone dying after they are 100."

"When people ask if I have lived in Alabama all of my life, all I can say is 'Not yet'.”
"I knew I was getting old when people quit telling me I was good looking and started telling me I was looking good."
"At my age I don’t even buy green bananas."
"Surely I’ve got something they can use." (Said when he signed his organ donor card upon renewing his driver’s license at 90.)
"Getting older is better than not getting older."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nelson's Way

Hello. My name is Tom and I will be taking over the blog for the next few weeks. Nick is happy is his new home and sends everyone his best. I will try to post pictures of him every now and then to let you see how he is doing. We are getting ready for next year but for the next few post, I will be sharing some humor and wisdom from my father.

Nelson’s stuff– A collection of comments and rephrasing from the smartest man I ever knew.

'And now the old man's gone, and I'd give all I own
To hear what he said when I wasn't listening
To my old man'
-Steve Goodman “My Old Man”, 1977

It has been a year since my father passed away. Like most sons, I never really thought it could happen. I knew it would happen, I just never thought about it. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. When things aren’t going well, things he said pop into my head. When things are going well, things he said pop into my head. This is my way of coping with the loss of my best friend and remembering what people in my home town call “Nelsonisms”. Some he invented, some he repeated, some he rephrased, but all have had a profound influence on me. I hope you enjoy the wit and witticisms of my father, Nelson Robertson.

"Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the quicker it goes."

"The last pair of pants I’ll wear won’t even need pockets."

"I will accept you couldn’t, I won’t accept you didn’t."

"Don’t fight with an old man; we don’t have anything to lose."
"When things aren't going well, remember, this too shall pass.  When things are going well, remember,  this too shall  pass.  Things will always change.  Be ready for it."