Tag Archives: memories

THE GRAND WALL

“Are you proud of your grandchildren?” This was a question I was asked as part of doing a “story a week” presentation about events in my life from childhood to adulthood. The following is my response, which is story #47 of 50.

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Yes, I am very proud of my grandchildren. I am so proud of them that I created something to honor them—something that reminds me of each one of them every day. My creation isn’t as awesome as developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus or riding on the first American made Spacex rocket that launched two American astronauts to the International Space Station on (5/30/2020), which, by the way, is the first manned launch from American soil in nine years.

My creation is simple, but it symbolizes some of the many blessings God has bestowed upon me throughout my life. The subject matter of the following may not impress anyone who takes time to read it, but I assure you, it means more to me than you can possibly imagine. It represents memories from a past once lived and inspires hope for futures yet to unfold.

++++++ THE GRAND WALL ++++++

I designed and built a perimeter wall in my backyard in 2008. It consists of concrete block and wooden slats. Kathy and I planted Carolina Jasmine on alternating sections of the wall which provides a softness contrast to the harshness of the concrete block and the aging beauty of the wooden slats.

The final touch for The Grand Wall was when I placed a simple-metal-frame figure of each of my five grandchildren on separate panels of the wall. Those figures symbolize that I think each grandchild is a special blessing to me—they are all different and special to me in their own way.

These symbols of my grandchildren greet me each day, which warms my heart tremendously. You see, I spent many wonderful days in my backyard playing with my grandchildren. From our days playing games such as kickball, dodgeball, “tag-you’re it” to practicing baseball, I felt a joy that no words can effectively describe. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were creating memories that I would cherish in the final stages of my life—the days when the laughter of children with their smiling faces would no longer physically grace my backyard.

As time passed, my five grandchildren grew up in a flash. They rarely come to my house or play in my backyard anymore. They have moved on with their lives and no longer have time to spend with their Big Tom—me.

It saddens me when I look at THE GRAND WALL and see their images, but no longer hear their laughter or voices filling the air around me. I guess that’s what memories are for—to make you smile as you remember what was, but no longer is. There is no doubt that I enjoyed each grandchild in real-time and feel blessed to have many good memories of what once was. It is the memories that must sustain me and fill the void of their absence in the final days of my life.

Now, allow me to introduce those special grandchildren who brought me great joy and made me smile many times. I’ll present them in the order in which they came into my life.

As each grandchild pursues their dreams in life, I wish them the very best. I pray they find their God-given talents and fulfill His purpose for their lives. That would be a wonderful blessing for each of them. So, my advice to each grandchild is to set your goals high and always give your best. If you choose to do this, you will succeed!

Enjoy every minute of your journey through life. There will be ups and downs, but don’t you ever give up! Pursue your dreams and make them come true!

++++++++++ SIDE NOTE ++++++++++

As I typed this story, I was watching the riots that were taking place in America on 5/30/2020. Looting, burning down buildings that housed businesses of people hurt by the 2020 pandemic filled the screen. I watched the news broadcasts in disbelief. How could Americans be acting this way?! It’s a very sad night and breaks my heart.

I can’t help but wonder what the world will be like for my grandchildren in their future. I pray that God will hold them in the palms of His hands and allow them to live a full and productive life with liberty and justice for all.

May God bless America and bring peace to a nation in turmoil. This I pray from the bottom of my heart… Amen!

++++++++++ END OF STORY ++++++++++

Tom Tatum – Author 2020

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OLD PHOTOS SPARK MEMORIES OF OUR PAST

Memories of our past are important for they provide gateways that help us understand what we are today. A simple photo from years gone by can spark many memories.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos of me from my youth, but the one below brings back many fond memories of the fun I had in this backyard — enough memories to fill the pages of a book.

Yes, I consider myself blessed for having had many wonderful experiences during my childhood. Although those glory days have long since passed, I look forward to watching my youngest of three grandsons play the game I love so much. You know it as baseball. However, baseball is much more than just a game — it’s life being played out on a field…

I was nine-years old when the photo was taken and I had a dream — a dream of playing baseball in the majors. I pursued my dream with passion for many years, hoping to succeed — to be one of the few to beat the odds — to rise above others — to play major league baseball!

Unfortunately, my God given talents did not allow me to attain that lofty dream, or maybe, I just didn’t work hard enough to develop the talents God gave me. Either way, I fell short of my goal. However, my passion for the game lives on — watching my grandsons play the game has brought me joy that replaced my own shortcomings in life. I feel more alive now with every pitch — more alive than in those days long ago — days of experiencing the bitter disappointment of falling short, having to establish new dreams and new goals for my future.

I am grateful that I can now write about my experiences of the past — write about others who now have dreams of their own — dreams that are similar to a nine year old boy growing up in the 50’s and 60’s with the passion to make it happen in the 2010’s and beyond.

My novel, “On Green Diamonds: Pursuing a Dream” was a joy to write because I was sharing my childhood passion with others. The story is fiction, but involves many personal experiences of my past — a young boy’s dreams to do what only a few ever have a chance to do in life. I hope you take the opportunity to read the whole story and have your heartstrings touched by the experiences of “watching” a young boy growing up pursuing his dream.

Maybe the story will even inspire you to spend a few moments reflecting on your own fond memories of long ago. Be grateful for each memory you can recall for they made you who you are today.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

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TIME CHANGES THINGS

TIME CHANGES THINGS

As I reflect on my memories
in life, I find it interesting
that what seemed to be very
bad long ago doesn’t seem as
bad today, and what seemed
so good back then seems even
better now. Time seems to
heal old wounds and enhance
our moments of joy.

May all your memories from the past be a blessing for you and bring you great joy in today’s world!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2017

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MOTHER’S DAY ROSES

A rose for all Mothers on this special day.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

RoseForMothers

There is nothing more beautiful than the tender love a mother gives her children, nor more powerful than her will to protect them from those who would do them harm.

Thank you for the gift of life and for all you do!

Tom Tatum – Author -2016

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YOUR DASH IN LIFE

I recently attended the Celebration of Life service of a friend who was a loving father and devoted grandfather. A man of character who was loved by his family and friends.

It was a dreary-rainy day as my wife and I arrived at the chapel. Naturally, the tears falling from the gray skies added to the somber mood of the occasion. Then, as if queued by the words the minister was extolling, I noticed the stained glass windows begin to brighten—a clear indication the clouds were parting and God was shining His light down on a life once lived.

The timely transition from rain to sunshine in a matter of minutes was inspiring, but it was the message delivered by the minister that grabbed my attention most. I have heard the message many times before, and you probably have too. However, it never hurts to have a little reminder.

The minister began by praising my friend and then started explaining the meaning of the DASH that appears between the two dates on a tombstone. I am paraphrasing his words, but the essence of his message was this:

There are two dates on a tombstone. The first date is the day a person’s life began. The second date is the day that life ended. Both dates are important, but what matters most is the DASH placed between them.

TombstoneDash1A

You see, that DASH is not simply a short line carved in stone; it represents a person’s entire life. It contains all the things done and the dreams for a future left undone. It holds the memories family and friends will cherish as they grow to accept the loss of a loved one.

Though that DASH may look the same to the casual observer, it has a different meaning for each person who had an opportunity to share moments in the life it represents.

As we gather here today to celebrate a DASH, we are also making our own DASH in life. Therefore, I ask you, what memories will your DASH represent for those you leave behind? What memories will they have about you when your DASH appears between two dates? Will they be good memories? I pray your answer is yes.

Although, we cannot control what others remember about us, we can control the things we do in life and how we treat others.

As you leave this chapel today, I want you to think about your DASH. One day you will be a memory for your family and friends. Try to leave them with good memories by making your DASH in life the best it can be.

May God be with each of you as you continue making your DASH in life.

Certainly something worth thinking about.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2016

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FATHER’S LETTER “TO MY SON”

LetterToMySonRiver

John Johnson recently moved to Orangeburg, South Carolina and purchased thirty-acres of land bordering the majestic-cold-black water of the slow-flowing Edisto River. Abandoned many years ago, nature had reclaimed the property with underbrush so thick it made walking about very difficult. With a machete in hand, John started exploring the land to see exactly what he had blindly purchased. What he found changed his life. This is his story…

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As I started walking away from the riverbank, I noticed an old shack on a hill about one-hundred yards directly in front of me. I was shocked when I saw it because I didn’t even know the shack existed. The structure was in such a state of ill-repair I figured I would likely have to demolish and replace it with a new cabin.

LetterToMySonShack

As I stood on the front porch, I tried to imagine who might have lived there long ago. Who were they? Where did they go? Why did they abandon this beautiful property?

Not knowing what critters might be lurking inside the old shack, I banged on the door as if expecting someone to answer. No person or critter responded, so I eased the door open. The eerie, screeching sound made by the rusted hinges was an indication the door had not opened in years.

To my surprise, the interior actually appeared to be in good shape—the natural color of the unpainted wood created a warm-inviting atmosphere. There were even several pieces of furniture neatly placed, as if someone had left just minutes before my arrival. The only telltale sign of abandonment was the thick layer of dust coating everything in sight.

The first object that caught my eye was an old-mahogany chest standing against the wall to my left. It seemed so out of place because its beauty rivaled any antique I had ever seen. I opened the top drawer and found a small metal box containing a sealed envelope with the words “To My Son” written on it.

Suddenly, I felt guilty, as if I was invading someone’s privacy, but I proceeded to open the envelope anyway. A letter and a small black-and-white photo of an old man sporting grey hair appeared. The deep lines etched in his face were telltale signs of stress and years of exposure to the sun. The scars on his cheeks and forehead were indicative of serious accidents or having lived a difficult life. Yet, his eyes beamed with the warmth of a kind, gentle soul. His face looked so familiar, as if I should know him. Could it be possible I had seen this face before?

When I gently rubbed my finger across the image, I could sense the pain the old man must have endured—the experience was surreal, as though this man and I had some sort of connection. I brushed the thought aside and quickly refocused my attention to the letter and began reading…

To My Son,                              July 12, 1998

If you are reading this, it’s because I am no longer here to talk to you in person; I’ve gone to my final resting place in my Father’s house of many rooms and no longer feel the pain of my youth. However, there are a few things I never had the opportunity to tell you. Allow me to do so now.

Please read these words carefully as they will help you be a loving father to your son. I say these things not seeking your pity, but to open your heart and mind to God’s love.

When I was a young boy, my father didn’t treat me very well; he never even told me he loved me. In fact, he beat me many times, even though I begged him to stop. He said he wanted to toughen me up and teach me to be a man. He yelled and cursed me to stop crying like a big baby. Each time he hit me, I tried to protect my face with my hands only to have the hard blows of his massive fists break my fingers and send blood pouring from the wounds he inflicted upon my head. I prayed each day for God to take my pain away, and promised Him I would never treat my son the way my father treated me.

I never had much in my life, but I gladly give you this beautiful piece of heaven where you are now standing. The shack is small, but it’s very cozy, and the view of the river from the front porch will astound you—look at it often and you will find peace. I pray God speaks to you just as He did me. All I ask of you is that you keep this little shack standing tall and full of love. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of you, but if I’m wrong, I will understand.

Don’t be alarmed as you continue reading this message I share from my heart, but I know you’re probably not my son. That’s okay—I love you as though you are! You see, I was serving my country in Vietnam when I heard you were born. It was the best day of my life! I couldn’t wait to hold you in my arms and give you all the love you deserve—the same love I prayed for many times.

Unfortunately, I was involved in a bloody battle with the enemy the day following your arrival. I became a prisoner of war in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for six-long years.

Enemy soldiers beat me many times during my stay there. Memories of my dad teaching me to be a man filled my mind each time they hit me. I think I finally became the man dad wanted me to be because the only information I ever gave the enemy was my name, rank, and service number. They did not break me because the thought of seeing you one day kept me going—you were all I had to sustain me. I thank you for easing my pain.

When I returned home, I learned the army had listed me as MIA (Missing-In-Action). Your mother had remarried and wanted nothing to do with me, so I never had a chance to spend time with you. God didn’t bless me that way. I’m not sure why, but I never questioned His will for He blessed me in so many other ways. At least I was able to catch a brief glimpse of you playing in the yard on the day your mother broke my heart and sent me away.

Maybe God sent you here this day that you might become my son, and I—well, your father. I know how strange that must sound, but the thought comforts me, and paints a smile upon my face as I write these words. It would please me greatly if you choose to call me Dad. I will never harm you in any way if you do. I will honor my promise to God and give you the love I never received from my father.

My simple wish for you is that you find peace and happiness here in this little shack by the river. I pray you will love your son and teach him to know God. You do not have to hit him to teach him how to become a man. Do unto him as your Lord in heaven does to you—love him with all your heart; he will understand what it takes to make a real man strong.

Now, go hug your son. Tell him how proud you are to be his father, and never let your fists strike him in anger or any other way for that matter. God chose to bless you with a son, so love him as I do you on this very special day.

With all my love to the son I never met,

Matthew Johnson

As I read the man’s name, my heart swelled with emotion. Could this man possibly be my real father—the father I never met? The flow of the cold-black waters of the river paled in comparison to the stream of warm tears flowing down my cheeks. I felt as though God had led me to this place, in His own time, to meet this old man. I was humbled—no, I felt blessed by the experience and couldn’t wait to get home to hug my son. I was going to shower him with the same love an old man’s words in a letter had bestowed upon me.

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Well, it’s been two years since I discovered that old-abandoned shack on my riverfront property. My thoughts of tearing the place down never materialized. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I restored it. My wife, son, and I now call this our home. We named our little piece of heaven by the river “Matthew’s Place” in honor of Matthew Johnson.

On the wall above that old-antique-mahogany chest is a frame displaying the photo of Matthew Johnson and his “TO MY SON” letter. It serves to remind me of the day I received a special message from an angel. Although the Lord’s house has many rooms, I will dwell in Matthew’s Place until the Lord calls me home to meet Mr. Johnson.

LetterToMySonFramed2

Matthew Johnson, may you rest in peace knowing that I, John Matthew Johnson, now think of you as my dad. Though we never met, your kind letter touched my heart. You, Matthew, now have someone to call—SON! May God bless and keep you until the day we meet in paradise!

John 14:2 (NIV)

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

Give your children a hug and tell them how much you love them—do this each day of your life.

The names herein are fictional and do not represent any real characters.

Tom Tatum – Author 2016

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Finding Dad

FirstGameNoDadWPFond memories often invoke some sad ones too. My dad came to every baseball game I played from little league through American Legion. He and my mom were obviously the most loyal fans I had watching me. Mom was more of a spectator while Dad taught me everything I learned about the game. Just his presence at the ballpark was a stabilizing mental factor for me, serving as an anchor for my performance during the games.

Each time I took the mound, I looked around the fence line to see if Dad was there to watch me play. I knew he would be, but it was tough finding him sometimes because he never sat in the stands. He liked to walk around the field, perching himself in different locations, and never stayed in any one spot very long. He’d always tell me to concentrate on my game and forget about him being there or where he was.

I never listened to him though. I would look around the field every inning until I found his new location. Seeing him standing quietly by the fence gave me the self-confidence I needed to perform at my very best. It was as if we were playing a little game of hide-n-seek within the baseball game itself.

The first time I pitched without Dad watching me occurred at my first college game. It was very difficult for me. Even though I knew he wasn’t going to be there, I still searched every foot of the fence line around the field in hopes of finding him. You see, a heart attack had taken Dad away from us three months earlier at the young age of forty-five—the very number I chose to grace my uniform. The thought he would never be there to see me play baseball again was a tough reality I had to accept.

I was scared, nervous, and had more anxiety than ever before. The butterflies in my gut were about to push me to the point of feeling as though I was paralyzed from the neck down. I sat in the dugout before the game wondering how I was going to pitch that first time without Dad being there. I wanted to play—heck, I needed to play our little hide-n-seek game within the real game, but he was nowhere to be found. I felt all alone on the green diamond for the first time in my life. I finally collected myself and found enough courage to force myself to run from the dugout out to the mound for the first inning. It was the longest run in my baseball career.

It was time for me to suck it up and do exactly what Dad had taught me to do—BELIEVE IN MYSELF! With my back facing home plate, I removed my cap and looked up at a puffy, white cloud in the sky. I prayed, not for God to help me, but for Him to let Dad somehow be with me that day. I tossed the rosin bag to the ground and then faced the batter. My whole body was shaking as I toed the rubber for my first pitch in a game without Dad being there to give me that much needed confidence.

I took several deep breaths as the catcher signaled for a fastball with his index finger pointing straight down. Visions of Dad doing the same thing a million times flashed before me, causing a warm feeling to spread throughout my body. I felt an inner peace, and my self-confidence quickly grew stronger. I realized I had found Dad’s new location and felt his presence in that puffy cloud high above the field.

My anxiety seemed to vanish as I hurled my first pitch of the game and heard the umpire yell Dad’s favorite word, “Stttriiikkkeee!” It was exactly the sound I needed to hear at that critical moment in my life. From then on, I knew exactly where to find my Dad at the ballpark—he was always looking down at me with a big smile on his face, and that was all I needed.

Dad, thanks for all the things you did for me, but most of all, thank you for all the things you did WITH me…

If you are a player, I hope your parents are there supporting you the way mine did. If you are a parent, be there and cheer for your child, but let the coaches do the coaching. Your presence means more to them than you can possibly imagine.

Topic from the novel, On Green Diamonds: Pursuing a Dream.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2015

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