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When opportunity knocks, open the door

There’s now such an empty feeling to walk out the backdoor of my home and stare at an empty driveway next door.

I already miss seeing what type of outdoor adventure my 9-year-old great niece Laura Grace would embark upon. She has such a creative mind….always searching and discovering ways to entertain herself.

I miss hearing shrills of laughter as my 11-year-old great niece Mckenzie splashed water in the pool on my almost 2-year-old great nephew Logan….or taking his little hand and leading him to the trampoline. Watching children having fun takes me on a pleasant trip as I recall the days of my childhood on the exact same piece of earth where Laura Grace, Kenzie, and Logan enjoyed the great outdoors.

My back-up alarm clock is now missing. Just in case the morning alarm failed on my smartphone, I could always depend on the sound of the mufflers on my nephew’s (Patrick) truck to alert me that it was time to rise and shine.

And I already miss another favorite sound….that of my niece Jennafer ringing the bell at our backdoor….bringing a tasty treat to share that she had created in her kitchen.

After spending the last seven-plus years sharing the same driveway, my next-door neighbors are gone. But, as you’ve already figured out, they were way more than just neighbors….they were Bryants…they were blood kin.

The home in which Deborah and myself now reside is where I grew up along the eastern edge of Northampton County. After about a year of working nights and weekends in a remodeling effort, we moved there in June of 2013, some 14 months following the death of my sister, Cindy. She lived her last few years there before losing her courageous battle against cancer.

Next door was the home of Patrick and Jennafer Bryant. Patrick is the oldest child of my “baby” brother, Tommy. It was built in 1997, and served as the home of my sister and her husband, Robert “Rock” Vinson. He was forced to retire early due to being diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Rock died in 1999 and with their children as young adults, my sister was left in that big house all by herself.

Not too long after my parents died in 2004, Patrick and Jennafer married and moved in the old homeplace. A few years later, at a time where their family was growing, they purchased Cindy’s home next door and she moved into the homeplace.

That brings us to 2020.

A few months ago, Patrick – who works IT at Nucor-Hertford County – interviewed for the position of IT Director at Nucor-Plymouth. That’s not Plymouth, NC but rather Plymouth, Utah.

After several rounds of interviews and a lot of soul searching, he decided it was a wise career move, not only for him, but for the bigger picture of what might lie ahead down the road.

We sat on the back porch of my home talking about the job offer. While I didn’t want to lose my great neighbors….and family members….I saw it as a great opportunity for him at the young age of 35.

I shared with Patrick an opportunity I had in my early 20’s. My situation was different….I was single at the time with nothing to hold me back. I was offered a job with Visual Graphics, a Coral Gables, Florida company that had invented the Pos One Camera…a stat camera used in the printing industry (the News-Herald purchased one in 1974). They would pay me to train at their Florida facility and then put me on the road installing and performing maintenance on those cameras. I turned down the offer.

After relocating to Raleigh where I worked for a commercial photographer and attended one semester at NC State, I returned to the News-Herald in 1977. The Pos One Camera was still there, but in bad shape and in need of major repairs. I called the guy that installed it (the same man who attempted to steer me towards that company two years earlier). I was told that he was no longer a service technician, but rather the Director of Sales for the Southeastern U.S. and living and working from their new office in Atlanta.

It was at that point where I realized I missed a fairly significant opportunity in my life. I encouraged Patrick not to let his opportunity pass him by.

Yes…it was emotional to see that U-Haul pull out of the driveway on Saturday morning as Patrick, Jennafer and the kids embarked on starting their new life in Utah.

But as I also shared with Patrick, the road always leads back home. It did for me.

Cal Bryant is the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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