Monday, May 31, 2010

Thank you to those who serve

Both of my grandfathers served in the military. Both fought in the Pacific in WWII and fought honorably. My mom’s father was on his way to San Diego from Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and they had to immediately turn around and get back there after the attack. I also know he, while in the Pacific, had to release the bodies of the dead into the Pacific Ocean. I can only imagine they things they saw and understandable why very little of what they saw made it to me over the years.

The things I remember about them are great memories. My dad’s father passed away just past my seventh birthday. I9 remember walking in and they told me grandpa had a stroke. Not having a clue as to what that meant, I just said “cool.” Granted, I was seven; however, there are so many times I think of that and feel horrible. He let me sit in his old chair and listen to his police scanner. He did not even let his own sons sit in that chair. I remember sitting there acting like I knew what was being said no the radio but I had no idea. He also would always take me out in his old truck and we would drive along the streets of Metairie, LA, a parish outside of New Orleans. I called them “the boomps” when we would go over a bump in the road. I think he loved hearing me call them “boomps” but I also think he was loving spending time with his grandson. Sometimes, after he had worked all day and I wanted to play at night, He would sometimes tell me he had a bone in his leg. That did not sound good at all so I would leave him alone. Always makes me smile when I think of that phrase.

The picture to the right is from the last time I saw him. It was the summer of 1986 and my parents were finalizing the deals on a new house and I spent a few weeks with Grandpa and Grandma.  What I am attempting to do in this picture is something called “Second Line Dancing".” I was dancing around that boat like a crazy fool but had a blast.

My mom’s father passed away in November 1991 when I was 11 years old. We would spend nights and nights sitting watching baseball games. He is where I get my baseball obsession. This is when ESPN would carry back to back baseball games on Wednesday night. I would do everything possible to stay awake while watching the games and I would not succeed. He would carry me to bed AFTER the game was over. I think he wanted me to subconsciously take in as much baseball as possible. He was a man who loved God, loved 14his family and loved his country. The relationship between papa and his wife, granny, can be summed up by one event. A long time before I was around, they were out in the yard playing baseball. My Granny can hold her own when it comes to sports (ask my father and me about a certain HORSE basketball game.). Papa was pitching and threw a fastball trying to sneak one past granny. She had none of that and lined one right back at him. It makes me smile just thinking of the shock on papa’s face when that ball came right back at him.

When he passed, the one who told me was my brother who told me “papa died.” I got my stuff at school and we started the process of going to Shreveport for the funeral . It was the first funeral I had been to of a close family member. His eulogy had several mentions of me and our love of baseball. As I passed the coffin, I remember losing it and bawling.

There was a part of the event I will NEVER forget.  We are driving to the ceremony and we were the car right behind the casket. About halfway there, we passed through an intersection and I look to my right and there on the side of the road a gentleman stood there and saluted the car. It gives me chills remembering that moment. For someone who did not know my grandfather to salute him as he made his way to his final resting place gives me chills. That moment taught me to remember those who serve our country, whether I know them or not. They are standing up for us and giving me the chance to be free. 

So one this memorial day, stand up and salute those you know or do not know. They are giving us or have given us a sense of freedom. We watched the movie “Taking Chance” the other night. It is based on a true story in which the main character played by Kevin Bacon accompanies a soldier home after he has been killed in the Middle East. Everywhere they stop on their way home, they are saluted and appreciated for their sacrifice. The part the reminds me of the man saluting my grandfather, is when the General accompanying Chance is asked how he knew Chance. He said, “I did not know him. He was from my hometown.” He didn’t know him, yet it still meant a great deal.

There are families all over remembering today their fallen loved ones and those overseas. I would just like to say thanks from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

Well, today is the uh, 50+ birthday of my mother. It has been a few years since we have all been together to go out as a family on her birthday. Now that we have moved back to St. Louis, my brother has taken a job out of college in Kansas. So we still we will not be all completely together. But my mother’s birthday timeframe has always been filled with random incidents that have happened.

When I was 16, I was going to play in a TravisDanceswithMomMemorial Day Legion tournament and I decided to play the bumper car’s game about three miles from my parents house. No one was hurt but she was not too thrilled about that. A year later, there was an incident in our house between a few of my friends, a window and a blanket. I will simply leave it at that. A few years later, the sad incident from the previous blog (Ten Years Ago…) happened and I left for the funeral on her exact birthday.

She was already born on a major holiday weekend and not only that but with her father being in the military, well, her birthday may not have been celebrated like yours and mine. But my mom is not one to focus on her needs or her wants. I am sure she would rather not have had to deal with those things as well as a few others I am choosing not to disclose. However, she did deal with those issues with me and my brother too (no Andrew, I am not throwing you under the bus, just my issues growing up). That is the mom she is: never one to celebrate herself, but one to care for her family and be with those who need her to be there.

St. Louis 045 So on this your 50+ birthday today mom, please enjoy it. Let others repay you for all that you have done for them. We will do so in coming over and grilling some food and preparing the meal as you sit and relax with your grandson. Even with is being your birthday though, Grandpa may still want to hold him more.

I used to think “Oh I need to get her a Mother’s Day gift AND Birthday gift in the same month!! That is not fair.” No, it is fair and makes perfect sense that my mother’s birthday is in the same month as Mother’s Day. Also, she was never seeking “gifts” from us, she was simply asking for appreciation for all that she has done.

Happy Birthday Mom! We Love you!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ten Years Ago….

Ten years ago seems quite awhile ago, especially for someone like myself who is only thirty years old. However, I recall that day near the end of May like it was yesterday. It was May 28, 2000. It was a nice Sunday afternoon. Our college group was starting a softball team within our church and we were going to meet up at a park in Ballwin, MO to get to practicing. We were meeting there at 1, so when church ended I raced home to change and get my gear. I got ready to go and the weirdest feeling hit me. I realized much later what that feeling was but at that time, I just felt weird. So I got a glass of water and sat down in the living room. About three minutes later, the house phone rang.

It was a friend of mine who for the sake of the article, will be called Robert. Robert and I had been friends for a few years now. His family had started coming to our church when I was 15. Robert and his older brother Mark jumped right into the youth group. The three of us hung out ALL the time. We lived about 30 minutes from each other; however, we still made time for some late night stupid movies and a LOT of Hawaiian Punch. They would crash at my parents place and I would crash out at their parents’ home.

Anyway, Robert was on the other end asking what I was up to and I told him I was about ready to head out. He asked me if I had talked to a mutual friend of ours at church and I told him I had not seen her. He then asked if I had heard the news and I told him no and was getting more and more worried. He then told me that Mark had passed away. I do not know much of our conversation after that as I was left speechless. I remember him telling me that he had taken his own life the night prior. He told me he was picking up his youngest at the airport and that is about all I remember.

I hung up the phone and did not know what to do. I could not call my dad’s cell because this was before everyone had cell phones. I went next door to our nearly life long neighbors but they were not home from church. I had my very ancient cell phone but had no clue who to call, so I went to softball practice. As I went to practice, I left a message for my folks to call me when they got in from church. I got there and all the guys had started taking batting practice. I started to let people know what happened and everyone stopped what they were doing. We just stood there and prayed. No one had any idea what to say or do but pray.

We played for about an hour and we prayed again. Near the end of that prayer, my cell phone rang. It was my mom. I told her what happened and I lost it. I remember driving home to go talk to them. As I pulled in to the house, my dad was up in the circle working on the flowers. He saw me and made a beeline for me. Right there in the middle of Greenridge Manor, we hugged and cried. My mom came out and joined us.

I remember going to College Group that night in a daze. My ex-girlfriend (and God bless her for driving that night!) came over and cried with me. We were in shock and had no clue what to say or do. We sat around at college group and cried and prayed. I did not sleep that well that night and a few days later, a friend (God bless him too!) drove us to the funeral a few states away.

We rarely slept that trip. There was a lot of crying and talking at Steak ‘n Shake and poker with one of their uncles.

I have talked in previous blogs that life happens and how we respond to life happening is what makes us who we are. I will say this: I did not respond appropriately at all to Mark’s passing. I kept busy throughout the summer with work but started to develop a bit of a drinking issue. Late in the year, it turned into an issue with the liver (all cleared up soon after though).

That tragedy still hits home after ten years. Robert, Mark’s brother, graduated from college in May 2001 and soon after, we had a falling out. We have talked maybe ten times since then. He is married and has a few kids now. I have talked to their other brother once or twice online and the parents I have not spoken too since Mark’s graduation.

Even through all this pain, I learned life is tough. I learned that when you do not respond correctly to a bad situation, you can make it worse. Since then, I have had a few other tragedies and each time I surround myself with people that love me and care for me and I am grateful for that. Each time this has happened, I remember that we all have hope in Jesus Christ and that Him alone can save us from an eternal feeling of hopelessness and despair.

That gives me hope. That is the only thing that can give someone hope after something like this has happened.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My brother, the Mizzou Alum

Travis 054

Today is quite a big day in the Young households. My brother Andrew will be graduating from the University of Missouri. It is crazy to think that this moment has come in our family. Not that he is not smart because he is quite smart (sadly to admit, smarter than me); however, this is so big because Andrew and I are the only children to our parents. My parents I think have dreamed for this moment for the past 22+ years but I think it is something they will miss as well.

Andrew and I were INCREDIBLY blessed growing up, but not spoiled. We had to work when we turned 16 (I believe I was umpiring at the age of 14 and Andrew was working at a camp and with me at the Rascals at 16). They taught us that if you work hard in life and keep your focus on Christ, that you will be rewarded. Maybe not monetarily, but in other ways that you cannot put a priceTravis 053 tag on this Earth. Even through ALL the hardships we put them through (yes Andrew, we challenged science and how close we could give  parents heart attacks), they would always be there to back us up. They still do to this day with babysitting their first grandson while their son and daughter-in-law go out to dinner. To my parents, we say thank you as well. We might give you grief in things we do or say, but we appreciate all that you have sacrificed for us. We would not be the people we are today without your guidance and your love.

Andrew is more of the student than I ever could be. Not saying I had the gifts to be a better student, I just chose not to use them. Andrew did and got scholarships to Mizzou and got involved in different activities on campus. We both had different routes of getting to Mizzou and different experiences at the university. However, Andrew ends his journey today the same way I did.

I am proud to call Andrew my brother. I am excited to see what God has in plans for him over the next ten years. It has already been an exciting year as he has become an Uncle who LOVES his nephew. Now he graduates and he has a job with a major insurance company in Kansas (wear that Black and Gold proudly Andrew!) which he starts in just a few weeks. Travis 014

Today will be the last time for AWHILE to hear a Young graduating and walking to get his diploma. Soak in everything today Andrew. Enjoy this moment and be proud that you have gotten to this point. This is a major accomplishment. Use this and keeping on pushing forward. I am proud to call you brother, friend and my son’s uncle. I love you Andrew.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day!

Easter 10 009I am thankful for the mother’s in my life.  I do have to give credit to my father about one thing. But before that, about my mother.

My mom is a southern belle from Shreveport, LA. She grew up and went to LSU where she met my father while working for the school newspaper. They were married about half a year later. They moved to Houston and she finished her degree at the University of Houston. After a few years there, they moved to St. Louis, MO. Just over a year after that, here comes Travis (two weeks late).

To say I was a pain growing up is probably an understatement. I never got into drugs or ran away from home (further than Dairy Queen about a mile from home). I would seem to seek out an argument no matter how wrong I was. She got grief from me A LOT! But my mother is not a woman to back down. She dealt with my stupid comments many of times. (I think we still have a wooden spoon still lurking in the kitchen.) And did I deserve it!

One time, I sat down with a mentor of mine at a Hardees in Kirkwood, MO. I was in high school at the time and we were talking about the relationship between my mother and me. He made a comment I will never forget. He told me, “Travis, one day, you and your mother will become good friends. Trust me.” I kind of pushed it to the side for the moment; however, once I got on my own after college and I started to realize what he was saying. There is a reason I WANTED to be good friends with my mother. That leads to the credit issued to my father. He told me several times, “Travis, they say you end of marrying someone like your mother.” Man, I am thankful God put these strong people in my life to show me these things, because they are absolutely correct.

My wife has been an amazing mother these past few months with Cameron. She wakes up with him in the middle of the night (and this is HUGE for someone who treasures sleep as much as she does), she worries over him over the littlest of issues and she loves him with all her heart.

I see that caring, nurturing attribute in both my mom and Stephanie. It is a huge blessing to not only be on the receiving end of those attributes growing up, but to see them passed along to my son now.

I know I have put both of these women through a lot but two both of them, thank you. Thank you for all that you have done for me and will continue to do for my family. You have no idea how incredibly blessed I am to have two strong, Christian women in my life that love me so with all my flaws.

I love you Stephanie. I love you Mom.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Death of an era? Yes. But is it a bad thing….

Ernie Harwell This past Tuesday evening, I heard the sad news of Ernie Harwell passing. He was not a close friend of mine or someone I had even met before. He was the longtime Detroit Tigers baseball broadcaster. He spent 42 of his 55 years in broadcasting with the Tigers. That is unreal in this day in age!

It did make me think of a sad day in June 2002. I was just a month out of college and was working in minor league baseball when I heard that Jack Buck had passed away. Jack Buck was the longtime St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster who also called many World Series Games (“I cannot believe what I just saw,” Kirk Gibson’s Homerun in 1988.) to several Super Bowl throughout the late 20th century. What I think made the event even more challenging to Cardinal fans, was that just a few days later, the Cardinals starting pitcher Daryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room.

I remember those nights growing up that I would “borrow” my parents’ portable radio player (even had a tape deck too!) and had the headphones on listening to Cardinals’ games many nights growing up. I had to hide it when the parents would check up on me in my room and fake being asleep. They would leave and the radio was back on. I still specifically remember Jack Buck calling the last out in the 1992 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays (Otis Nixon: Really, a drag bunt for a hit and you hit it to the pitcher??? Come on!). Jack Buck had a patented voice and so did Ernie Harwell. Jack Bucks

Harry Carey was another one of the great broadcasters for the Cubs and so was Harry Calas of the Phillies. They are slowly passing away as their times have come. Some have had crazy reputations away from the both or in Carey’s sake, in the both while enjoying an ice cold beverage of choice. I have a feeling those times are changing. No more hiding to listen to games or no more patented voices like those mentioned above. These men would gather so many people together throughout the country by simply making you feel apart of the game. I still get chills hearing the call of all Cardinals’ calls “Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy.” I was FIVE at the time that happened and do not remember that exact moment, but Cardinal fans will always say they remember it.

Ernie Harwell lived 92 years and retired in 2002. He was quite a religious man and started the season with the same quote ever year.

“For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land” (Song of Solomon Chapter 2:11-12).

Enjoy these memories Tiger fans. It gives you a chance to reflect on your times growing up listening to Mr. Harwell at night as you quietly cheered on your Tigers. It does not look like there will be another, and to be honest, that may not be a bad thing. Sometimes memories are not to be relived; but to be remembered and to simply make you smile.