This I Believe
As I catch glimpses of my forty-seven-year-old body at the gym, I believe that my father’s arms and legs, long since cremated and buried in Winston-Salem, N.C., are now coming out of my gym shorts and t-shirt.
I believe that my father, Bob Paxton, understood seasons of life. As an All American basketball player for the University of North Carolina following World War II, he understood that he was the subject of newspaper clippings and the office chatter of his day. But he did not bask in it or hide from it. I do not recall him ever initiating conversation about himself and basketball, though he would smile thoughtfully when asked about it. When he died in 2001, we found multiple dusty old scrapbooks in the attic of his playing days, remembered, but not on display. He would have preferred that. Basketball and glory are for a season.
I believe Bob Paxton understood that moving from media fodder to quiet, under-the-radar father and husband was the correct move. Perhaps long, lonely hours in the gym taught him, and me, that eighty five per cent of ability is just showing up, and character is measured by what you do when no one is looking.
I believe Bob Paxton did not aspire to worldly ambition or high profile leadership. He valued time more than money. I submit as evidence his consistent presence at home, and his kind affection shown to my mother. I remember powerful, Frisbee sized hands, rarely used in discipline, but always respected. Take Bob Paxton. Multiply him a few million times, and you have a great and powerful nation.
I believe the makers and distributors of butter pecan ice cream felt a significant slump in sales after April 7, 2001, when he died at Forsyth Memorial Hospital. To this day, my own children and I can not prepare a bowl of this simple pleasure without first touching spoons and yelling, “Granddad!” in his honor.
I believe the baton has been passed. Like it or not, the reflection in the gym mirror is proof of this. It is now my turn to build a legacy for my own kids and grandchildren, under-the-radar, without plaques or press clippings, but always, whenever possible, served with a delicious bowl of butter pecan ice cream.
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