Monday, March 29, 2010

Berry Raymond Coppage

He was born in March of 1930 in rural Lowndes County, Georgia, to parents who were people of the land when that meant something.

Hahira, Georgia, would be made famous decades later by Ray Stevens in "Shriners' Convention".  But not then.

His momma and daddy farmed some, had a general store, and personified self-sufficiency, living and dying by that year's crops...or lack thereof.

He was my father-in-law, Berry Raymond Coppage.  At this writing, he's living day-to-day, waiting to go home.

He was the first--and only--child in his family to graduate from college.

He attended Norman Park Baptist College, Mercer University, and Union University.  And a little Baptist school in Louisville, Kentucky, THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I first met him when I took my future wife home from Mercer at the end of one school year.  Raymond, Velma, Ray, and Ruth lived in a church-owned house on Atlantic Boulevard in Vero Beach, Florida.  Debbie, the oldest, was married and lived just south of town.  I met them all while I was there, and became Velma's hero when Jennie cut her hand while washing a glass and I doctored the wound, saving her life.  Or you'da thought so.

Raymond was pastor of King's Baptist Church at the time I first met him.  He pastored Southern Baptist churches for over fifty years in diverse locations all over Alabama, Georgia, and finally in Vero Beach. 

A man is usually defined by what he does rather than who he is, and that's a mistake.  While Raymond was a pastor by occupation, he was much more than that.

He loved his wife, Velma, so much so that he always made sure he remembered her with gifts on her birthday, anniversary, and other Hallmark holidays.  The gift was always perfect...because one of his daughters usually did the shopping.  You hear about spouses that complete the other.  Velma overcompensated Raymond.

He loved his children.  While it was late in life before he verbally confirmed this (that rural thing again) they had to know.  He was a good provider and his family never did without, although they weren't rich by the world's standards.

His garden was a consistent source of pride.  When he built his house on 39th Street his family might have wanted a pool, but what they got was a half-acre garden full of tomatoes, green beans, Vidalia onions, name it, he grew it.  He knew you can't eat a swimming pool.  His citrus was legendary;  comparing his Ruby Reds or Valencias to something you'd find in a grocery store was like holding a watermelon up to a peanut.

He fished every chance he got, twice trying to kill me in the process.  He liked to catch any kind of fish that bit and loved most a big bream on his line.  Once on Blue Cypress Lake my sweetheart hooked a big bass and was fighting it to the boat.  Raymond grabbed the new net we bought him for Christmas and stood ready to scoop said fish up when Jennie got it close enough.  She reeled the fish up to the side of the boat, and, wanting to help the process, pulled it just far enough out of the water to make it easy for Raymond to net it.  Whereupon the bass stood up, smiled, and spit the hook at all of us as we watched.  We just leaned over the side of the boat, dumbfounded, looking at the dark water as if the bass would think twice, come back, and jump in the boat.  He didn't.

Raymond's favorite food was all-you-can-eat.  Jennie had her Senior Recital in the spring of 1978, and before the event our two families went to the Country Kitchen, a catfish place just outside of Barnesville.  Jennie and I left early enough for her to prepare for the biggest event of her college life.  Daddy and Mama and Raymond and Velma were finishing up when we left.

Or so we thought.

Did I mention it was "Shrimp Night" at the Country Kitchen?

Jennie had me checking again and again for our parents to arrive, since she wouldn't begin until they did.  At the appointed time--exactly--I stepped outside the Recital Hall on the Mercer campus to see Daddy and Raymond running (as much as you can run with all the shrimp you can eat in your stomach) holding flowers for Jennie, and Mama and Velma trotting behind.  The reason they were late?  The women couldn't get the men to stop eating.

Once Raymond and I were at an all-you-can-eat restaurant.  At some point they gave us twenty dollars and asked us to go somewhere else and eat.

Raymond loved God with simplicity and sincerity and consistency.  He preached the Word.  He loved gospel music and hymns alike.  He was willing to do things differently if it meant reaching people with the love of God.

He had open-heart surgery in 1991 and I spent one night at the hospital with him.  It was dark in the room and I thought he was asleep.  He wasn't, and quietly asked me to read the Bible to him.  I didn't really search out any specific verses.  But God knew what Raymond needed, and when I "flipped" open my Bible here's what I found:

How blessed is he who considers the helpless;
         The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.
The LORD will protect him and keep him alive,
         And he shall be called blessed upon the earth;
         And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies.
The LORD will sustain him upon his sickbed;
         In his illness, You restore him to health.

That was 1991. 

Raymond believed the Bible.  He knew God loved him, delivered him, restored him to health. 

I have a story account full of Raymond-isms, funny stories he's told, illustrations he's used.  I'm drawing on that to write this, and after he's in heaven, I'll make more withdrawals.  It's untapped wealth.

When I've spoken to him, he sounds weak--very weak.  But he's alert and always asks how I am.  I guess that's the pastor (or father) in him.  Slowly winding down himself, he wants to know everyone else is okay.

I wish I could guarantee that everybody he cares about would always be okay.  But that's out of my hands.

He's not afraid of death or dying.  I've never known him to be afraid of anything, really.  Men of faith are like that.

It's the rest of us who have a problem with it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ramblin' Man.

If the house is in Florida, aren't they ALL "Florida Rooms"?

Why do people insist on putting fried chicken in the refrigerator as soon as possible when at a family reunion/lake/beach it can sit out all day and it's still okay to eat?

And...if I'm not dead by now from eating said chicken, can any food really harm me?

Why is it that you can walk into an ER but when you're discharged you have to be rolled out in a wheelchair? Do they know something I don't?

Any conversation starting with the word "LOOK" will end poorly.

Why don't "country" stations play COUNTRY--"The Old Possum" George Jones, Conway Twitty and the Twittybirds, Johnny "The Man In Black" Cash, "Whisperin'" Bill Anderson, Dolly "They're Real But My Hair Ain't" Parton, Tammy "Stand By My Man" Wynette,

I'm going to start paying for everything with Monopoly money.  It should work as well as the real thing, and I like the colors better.

Back when Ronald Reagan was President we still had Bob Hope and Johnny Cash.  Now we have Obama and NO hope and NO cash.

I really don't like coconut.

I used to think I knew it all.  Then I found out I didn't.  I'm just surrounded by idiots.

I'm pretty fly for a white guy.  Back up..don't hate the player, hate the game.  It's how I roll.  I'm glad that's out of my system.

A mind is a terrible thing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I was watching the news this morning and I saw a clip of VP Joe Biden giving President Obama a man-hug and whispering loudly something in his ear.

Apparently it wasn't "congratulations, sir."

More than one report showed Joe Biden saying as he embraced the President, "This is a big f**king deal."

I'm not sure what he was referring to, but I think it was the health care bill.  At least I hope it was.

Now, I'm no prude.  I've done my share of cussing, sometimes justifiably, sometimes carelessly.  But I wasn't raised that way.

Mama and Daddy didn't cuss, except on those rare occasions when they used the most expressive word in the English language.  You figure it out;  if you can't, ask me.

Given Joe Biden's history of plagiarism, I think I know where he got it from:  either Batman, the Road Runner, or both.

I watched Batman when I was young, and anytime he would hit--yes, physically strike--a criminal, a cartoon balloon would pop up with "!@#$%^&*!" in it.  I knew the criminal was stating the obvious;  he was getting the snot beat out of him and expressing his emotions.

I watched Wile E. Coyote try to catch the Road Runner using the latest weapon from Acme, and fail.  Another balloon would pop up with--you guessed it--"!@#$%^&*!" in it. 

It didn't take rocket surgery to figure out what they were saying.  And I'm pretty sure Wiki Joe got his word from one of these cartoons.

So there they were, the President and Vice-President of the greatest nation in the world, standing on the precipice of "change" on a scale unseen since the 1960s, and all he can think of to say is "This is a big f**king deal."  Classy.  And Vice-Presidential.  No wonder they put "vice" before "president".

I'll tell you the big f**king deal:  a "health-care" plan with no funding, no plan, no parameters other than those hammered out in some back-room deal that taxpayers will pay for.  From now on.

Remember, government never gives you anything that they don't take away from somebody else.

Oh,  I remember now.  Daddy did cuss when he felt he was wronged by the government.

He'd comment "They screwed me without even kissing me first."

At least the President got a hug.  I think I know what we're getting.

Please, oh please, just kiss me first.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Sprung March 20. Snowing March 22.

It has snowed seven--seven-times since January 1.

Today it's snowing. Again.

It won't stick.

It won't last.

It don't matter.

It's getting old.

Wednesday's forecast: Sunny and 72.

Stinkin' global warming.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Have A Question

Let me get this straight...we're trying to pass a health care bill written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress which hasn't read it but exempts themselves from it, to be signed by a President who also is exempt from it and hasn't read it and who smokes, with funding by a Treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, all to be overseen by a Surgeon General who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke.

What the hell could possibly go wrong?

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
--Mark Twain

Friday, March 12, 2010

I'll Remember You

I sing this song--or hum some part of it--almost every day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Simon Says. And So Do I.

In the midst of all the commentary on things like the economy, earthquakes, Toyota, etc. I'd like to comment on something that really matters.

American Idol.

Our household watches American Idol.  Not always live, which would be unbearable;  we have a DVR (how did we live without them?) and record it so we can skip the commercials...and some of the drama.

Last night we watched the playback of that evening's episode.  Since it was already finished, and I hadn't seen it ahead of time or knew the outcome or knew what Simon Cowell would say about the female contestants and I'm not psychic (or psychotic, for that matter) I felt pretty good about myself as I made the judgment call on the girls.  Along with Simon.

Randy Jackson can "yo dog" all he wants.  Ellen Degeneres can make everyone laugh.  Kara can be kind and cutting at the same time.  But Simon...well, Simon is special, isn't he?  Just cuts to the chase and lets the chips fall where they may (Dr. Ellzey, forgive me for mixing my metaphors).

(It's always easier to judge others when you're not in their shoes.  So I qualify my comments by remembering that as I criticize the Idol eager eight, there's a reason they're on the show and I'm not.  I'm slightly outside the age limit for contestants.)

Anyway...I was uncannily accurate in my assessment of last night's singers.  I was right there with sweet Simon.  To wit:

Katie Stevens--sang a Kelly Clarkson song I didn't know because I listen to country music and Elvis almost exclusively.  I did know she was boring.  Simon says (that's the only time I'll use that phrase, but I just had to) that she sucked the energy out of the song.  I says she just sucked.

Siobhan Magnus--mu spell checker's going crazy.  Were her parents high when they named her?  Her dad was in the front row last night, looking for all the world like Phil Collins.  You make the call.  She sang "House of The Rising Sun".  My first band in sixth grade sang that song.  Simon said it was weird.  I said weird started before she opened her mouth.  Probably at birth.

Doctor Midwife/Birthing Tub Assistant:  It's a girl.
Mother:  What shall we name her?
Father:  I've been thinking (putting away his roach clip).  I really do like your mother's name, Cruella, but...oh, wow, man...look at those chiffon drapes...let's name her Chiffon but spell it Siobhan and bug the hell out of all her teachers.


Lacey Brown--looks like a cute little bird with that dark red dyed hair spiked in all directions.  Simon said the song she sang was in danger of being forgotten.  I don't remember what she sang.  We were right again.

Katelyn Epperly--sang Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move".  Dressed like Carole King:  hair, clothes, Wurlitzer keyboard.  Simon said it was like request night at a restaurant.  I requested she stop singing.

Didi Benami--WHERE ARE THESE NAMES COMING FROM?  Yawn.  Simon too.

Paige Miles--"Smile" by Nat King Cole.  Sounds like something you'd hear at a funeral.  Simon said it was like what you'd hear at a Holiday Inn in 1974.  I take offense, since I was playing in Holiday Inn bars around 1974.  We never played that song...I don't think.  I don't remember.

Crystal Bowersox--looks rough as a cob, sings like Aretha.  Simon said the competition was hers to lose.  I hope she wins it all because she doesn't fit the mold.  Ever the underdog supporter, me.  I realize how nasty that last sentence sounds.  I like it.

Lily Scott--Patsy Cline's "I Fall To Pieces".  Simon wondered why she chose that song.  I wondered how she made it this far.  Sounds like somebody choking a cat.  Simon said she was brave.  I agree.  You'd better be brave if you're going to be stupid.

So, Simon and I are on the same page right now.  I'm beginning to really like that guy.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Snowmageddon III

I hope--hope--this is the last time this year I'll have to say something about this.

We got around nine inches of snow yesterday between 5am and 1pm.  This translates to A) an inordinate number of idiot drivers 3) an unbearable number of "Special Weather Statements!" and D) more stupid questions than you can imagine.  Well, maybe not.

Anytime I hear someone say something stupid, I'm reminded of Keith Olbermann, when he co-anchored SportsCenter on ESPN, before he ran out to left field and stayed there.  He once said, "Remember, there are no stupid questions--only stupid people who ask questions." 

They all live in North Georgia.

Sometimes it's not questions, but observations, that make my head hurt.  One guy here at work, in the midst of the blizzard, observed that "if it keeps on like this them cars will be covered up before long." 

You think?

Another Florida transplant observed that "the wind makes it really cold out here."


Here are the facts: 

It's early March, time for the last cold spell before Spring is sprung and things turn green again. 

When it snows long enough and hard enough, cars, trucks, and everything else will eventually be covered up.

Wind makes cold weather colder.  Always.

Ken Cook did NOT take his coat off, roll his sleeves up, or loosen his tie at any point during the snowstorm, therefore there was never really anything to worry about.

I still miss Guy Sharpe, now more than ever.