Fatherly advice

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Life is full of choices.

On an everyday basis, our minds race with the thoughts of what we are able to do and exactly where and how we can satisfy our thought process to make those choices.

Simple things such as what to wear and what to eat are among the choices we make daily. We are also free to choose on where and how we choose to spend our &uot;R&R&uot; time. Likewise, choices are freely made on with whom we choose as our friends; the mate we pick to spend a lifetime; which church to attend; and whether or not we want to hop out of bed early on a weekend or decide to sleep in for a while.

But of all the choices we have in life, there’s one we have no control over at all. We are not able to choose our parents.

Some of us are extremely fortunate when it comes to that matter. By the time we are able to think consciously, we realize we’re surrounded by the love of our parents. It’s an unconditional love. They will wrap their arms around us, keeping us safe and warm.

Others aren’t as lucky. They face an upbringing in a home marred with domestic violence or one where illegal drugs are sold and used. In some cases, children in these homes are raised by relatives, thus denying these young minds and spirits from feeling the joys associated with being raised by the ones responsible for giving life.

Lucky for me, the choice I had no control over whatsoever turned out to be the best in the world.

A shade over 51 years ago, Blanche Joyner Bryant gave birth to her first son. She was hastily driven to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital by her husband and the father of their son – Hinton Rayford Bryant.

For over a half-century, this man and this woman provided the wisdom and the guidance for their son to grow and mature into leading his own family. No dollar amount can be tied to the advice they shared. What they taught their son is worth its weight in gold.

At 7:27 p.m. on Monday, June 21, 2004, God made a choice to send one of those loving parents to their heavenly home. It was at that time where Ray Bryant took his final breath.

I could have chosen to be anywhere I wanted to be at around 7:30 p.m. on June 21. Being a Monday, I’m normally behind my desk, placing the finishing touches on the News-Herald followed by working on the Gates County Index and the R-C Shopper. Rather, I was at my father’s bedside, the place where we – my mom, sister and brother along with the grandchildren and a special group of other family members – had spent the better part of eight months watching Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s disease literally rape and pillage the mind and body of Ray Bryant.

Despite knowing that death would prove as relief in this particular case, it’s tough to let go of a loved one. I know my &uot;Pop&uot; is in a better place, but he will be so sorely missed by so many people.

My pop taught me how to throw a curveball. At the same time, he made me understand that life’s road is not always straight and wide. He taught me how to handle the curves thrown my way.

Almost on every Saturday, in warm weather, during my childhood, pop would take me fishing, normally on &uot;Big Run&uot; on the Potecasi Creek. There he taught me how to bait a hook and catch fish. But the lesson ran much deeper. I’ve learned so many times since then that no matter how well the &uot;hook&uot; is baited, a &uot;fish&uot; can easily slip away. In other words, don’t come to expect positive results at life’s every turn.

More importantly, my pop taught me how to be a man – one responsible for your actions and to stand up and be held accountable. He did that the simple way, teaching me to hold strong to my beliefs and to always be truthful. He also taught a simple religious message – to put my faith in God and let him lead me through the many trials and tribulations that would lie along life’s pathway.

If the truth is known, Ray Bryant was a simple man. He learned the value of hard work at a very early age through what he called, &uot;facing the south end of a northbound mule.&uot; He finished high school, fought the Germans in World War II as a buck private in the Army, came home, married my mom nearly 57 years ago, landed a job as a Soil Conservation Technician and helped to rear three children.

Never along his life’s path did he stand in the spotlight. He was never a boastful person, although his list of work-related accomplishments stretched nearly as long as did his 40 years of service to the farmers and landowners of Northampton County. I can remember one of the biggest icebreakers I had with those farmers and landowners during my brief time with the N.C. Forest Service in Northampton was to tell them my dad was Ray Bryant. From Rich Square to Vultare, everyone knew and respected his work.

If somehow I did have a say in who my father would be, Ray Bryant would have been at the top of my list. He was a great husband and provider, a great father and a great man. To those of you who still are fortunate enough to have one or more parents still living, hold ’em and love ’em for as long as you have ’em.

And to everyone who stopped by to say a thoughtful word last week, or mailed a card, or sent flowers, or those of you who kept our family in your prayers, thank-you from the bottom of my heart. Your acts of kindness in a time of grief and sorrow will never be forgotten – and neither will Ray Bryant.

Pop, I love you. I’ll simply say good-bye for now. If I’m lucky enough to pattern my life by the examples you set, I know in my heart I’ll see you again.