Andy Hollifield 4-11-18
As I sat and pondered on what to write, I was scrolling through my home page on Facebook and saw multiple pictures of groups of siblings. I didn’t even realize that there was such a day as National Siblings Day, but I decided that I would just write a tribute to my three siblings to honor them on this special day which was Tuesday April 10th. I realize that they had no choice in the matter as to who their siblings were and neither did I. As far as my part goes, I would have had a hard time picking any better ones and I have already sent them a greeting and told them and how blessed they are to have me as their brother. I am not conceited, just beating them all to the punch. As a matter of fact, since I am the one writing this, I will tell you my opinion. I am the second oldest and also the second son. My story has always been that mom and dad knew they couldn’t do any better after me, so they started having girls. When they realized they still couldn’t do any better, they just quit and waited for the grand kids.
Actually on a more serious note, I do really want to tell you a little about my life growing up and my siblings. It may wind up being a bit more comical than serious but I guess that is because that is how our life was; full of happiness and laughter. At least that is how I remember it. It wasn’t always easy but it was always good. We grew up in a home where we always had love that was in bountiful supply. I don’t guess there was a one of us that ever really had to wonder if we were loved. Regardless of whether we were right or wrong, we knew that we could always count on mom and dad to support us. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t the type to think their kids were little angels because they were smart enough to know better. They didn’t defend us when we were wrong except to a point but always supported us. We grew up in a day when we were made to mind. We weren’t bribed or talked into it, we were promised judgement if we didn’t and one thing they always done was kept their promises. They taught all of us to always keep our word and that all we really had of value was our name and what we made of it. Dad would always finish a promise with these words; “If nothing happens.” He always had every intention of keeping his word but wanted to allow for being hindered by sickness and such as that. He never intentionally broke his word to anyone. Mom was always at home with us until Norma started school and was then a lot until we got older. The words we feared the worst from her were; “Wait till your daddy gets home.” If you ever got told that, you knew you were in trouble. You just hoped she would go ahead and get a switch and wear you out rather than make you dread it all day waiting for dad. He didn’t beat us or nothing but he was handy with a belt but you could always count on a good lecture that shot holes in your defence and made you feel about 2 inches tall. We even joked about loaning dad out to give lectures to our buddies that didn’t get them at home. In later years, dad got a kick out of us thinking he was that good at it. Now, I have become my dad. I do the same thing but it’s frustrating with an autistic son because either I never get my point across or he is smart enough not to let me know I did.
Now to get on to the “sappy” part of my story as my wife would say about it. I prefer to think of it as my “Hallmark” side. One of my most treasured photos is one of Jim bear-hugging me from behind when I was about 2 or 3. We either lived on Deaverview Road or Mill’s Place at the time. He had me in a bear hug with my feet lifted off of the ground and I think mom said he was trying to keep me away from the road. He always kept that protective instinct and another time it came into play was an event in high school. We were at band camp in the summer and I was a freshmen and he was a sophomore. I had spent hours the previous night polishing the cymbals I had been assigned to carry and it was a task because they hadn’t been polished in a long time. As we were getting ready to go to the practice field to march, everyone was gone but us and one other boy. As the other guy came through, he started commenting on how shiny they were and starting putting his fingerprints all over them. Before I could get them off of my wrist and light into him, I heard a rumble behind me. I looked and saw that Jim had thrown down his sousaphone (tuba) and was already at a dead run across the third level of the room. He laid one hand on the rail and leaped over it landing from the approximately 6′ drop with a double thrust with both fists into the boy’s chest driving him into the wall. He then explained in no uncertain terms that if he ever touched my cymbals again or messed with me, he would answer to him. Then we calmly walked on to the practice field laughing about how we didn’t think that guy would ever bother me again and he didn’t.
I have written many times about January of 1983 on that Wednesday I came home from the doctor with the news that I was going to have to be on dialysis or have a kidney transplant, at age 18, within a year. I had already left for church when Jim, at age 19, got home from work. When mom gave him the news, he immediately said, while fixing him a sandwich, “I have two if he needs one. Just let me know when I need to take off of work.” That was the entirety of his thought process for that major decision. The night before surgery we were visiting with my pastor Bruce West and his wife Stella who had came down to sit with mom and dad. Jim looked at me and said, “You better take care of it because you ain’t getting the other one.” We wound up being as close of a match as you can possibly be without being identical twins and the kidney started working within 30 minutes of being hooked up. It has lasted for 35 years come this October 6th. Thank God for his grace and an older brother that insisted on taking care of his kid brother.
I will mostly talk about the girls together but there is one funny story I want to share about Norma. She was younger than her teens but I don’t remember how much. I don’t remember what she had done, but mom had told her to go outback and get a switch. Jim and I were sitting at the table and I was facing the back door and Jim was facing me. As Norma came back in I could see she had a small stick about 6 inches long and as big around as my finger. Mom was at the sink washing dishes and was out of sight of the back door. When I saw what Norma had, I kind of cringed and looked at Jim and cut my eyes for him to look at her. When he did, he turned his head away from her and mom and just waited because he knew what was coming. As she stepped out of the back hall into the kitchen and tried to give mom that stick, to say mom wasn’t happy would be an understatement. I don’t know whether mom or Norma got the next one but I don’t think Norma ever had that problem again.
We all did our share of stupid stuff growing up but we were always there for each other. There were 2 times I remember being grounded and thought I could get away with going somewhere once and watching TV another time. The time I was not supposed to go anywhere, dad came home and even though I had tried to park my car in the same spot, my heart nearly stopped when he walked over and laid his hand on the hood. He came in and told me it was still warm and he wanted to know where I had been. I got grounded a little longer. The other time involved either all four of us or just me and Jim. It was on a Tuesday evening and we were not supposed to have the TV on until our homework was done and we had straightened up the house. Me and Jim got the bright idea that since it was grocery night and they would get in late, we could turn the TV on and post the girls as lookouts. It worked pretty good until they came in the door and saw all 4 of us doing our homework and that was a dead giveaway. Dad walked over and put his hand on back of the TV and asked who had it on. We were pretty good at a lot of things but getting one over on mom or dad wasn’t an easy thing and didn’t happen much.
There are a couple more things I want to mention about the girls. When I came home from the hospital after my transplant, I walked in the house and noticed little pieces of paper all over the furniture. When I asked the girls what it was, they told me to read them. I was a little too cool to appreciate it then like I do now, but all of those pieces of paper said stuff like “The chair missed you” and “The table missed you” and “The lamp missed you” and so on. They were all throughout the house. You don’t forget stuff like that and it gets me a little watery as I think back about it.
They also had a bigger hand than they probably know in determining the course of my life. All I had ever dreamed of was being a long haul trucker. When I finally got my chance when I was 19, I found out that I couldn’t do it. I had a deal with my neighbor who was going to teach me how to drive and help me get my licence and I would ride with him until I turned twenty one. At that point, I would take over the truck and he would just broker the loads and take a cut. I went on a trip to Boulder, Colorado with him and on the way back we stopped in Lincoln, Kansas to backhaul hay to a horse farm in Newberry, SC. That night I called home and talked to everyone but Jim because by then I believe he was living in Charlotte. Before I got off the phone with the girls, each of them told me they loved me and missed me and to hurry home. That was pretty tough to take. Then I got on the phone with dad. After talking about my trip for a few minutes, he told me to be careful and he loved me and would see me when I got back. Dad didn’t say stuff like that a lot, at least since we had gotten older, but he always showed it. After that phone call I sat down on the back of that empty trailer and bawled like a baby. Here I was with my dreams of a lifetime coming true and I realized that it was something I just couldn’t do. I knew that when the sisters you are supposed to fuss with start telling you they love you and miss you, and then dad; I knew I was in the wrong place. I have often wondered if they hadn’t of told me that, if I would have followed through with my plans.
Well that about does it I guess. There are a lot of other stories I could tell but I don’t know if they would mean anything to anybody but me. Even while I was writing this, Jim, Norma, and I were going back and forth mouthing at each other on Messenger. She’s 450 miles away now and Jim is about 35 or 40 miles away and Robin is about 18. Her and I were the last two to leave home so we got a different kind of bond I guess or maybe we just had longer to get on each other’s nerves. I love them all and I have been frustrated at times with all of them, as I know they have me, but I wouldn’t trade a one of them if I could. So, Happy Siblings Day yesterday to my brother and sisters. My life was as good as it was because y’all were in it. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!
Andy Hollifield 4-11-18