Norman was a man who for some time lived with my parents. He was a good football player and a great student. Norman was driven to not simply do well, but wanted to be the best at whatever he did. Only missing one question on a test would bring fulfillment and happiness to most, but not Norman. If he got one answer wrong on an exam he felt he had not done his very best. Thus, he excelled in college and post graduate work and became an important part of the defense of our country.
I remember the times he came to our house and helped my father with things like finishing our basement, putting down flooring and hanging up our basketball goal. The latter brings back such found memories. He was a geometric specialist, whatever in the world that is, but what I recall was the tenacity he poured out to complete the task of putting the backboard and goal on our house with great precision. He scratched on paper for what seemed like hours, developing a plan to make sure the structure was secure and exactly at 10’. My brothers and I asked that he put it a little lower so that we could dunk on the rim, but he said, “I will put it at the precise height, and you can practice shooting, maybe one day you boys will be great shooters.” Looking back, I was a good shooter, Mike and Steve were better than me at shooting the ball from the outside, but we honed our skills on the bucket built by Norman.
Most did not know him by his given name, Norman. The guys who went to school with him called him “Tennessee” the origin of which I still don’t know to this day. However, I called him, Uncle John. He was my dad’s youngest brother and looked, walked and talked just like “Hoots”. In fact, over the past few years he was asked repeatedly if he knew Hoots Griffith? He would smile and say, “Yes, that was my oldest brother.”
On Mother’s Day this year, my Uncle John passed away. My heart goes out to Aunt Billie, Rene and Beth. He was a great man who spent many a holiday with my family, where we would sit and talk and laugh a lot. Much of my sense of humor came from him. He could tell a joke and even if you had heard it before, his delivery and timing brought laughter from all around.
I miss him and I know many others do as well. Heaven is a little sweeter today because he is there. I imagine he was greeted by Dad, Mom, Steve and a host of others.
I am sure the Apostle Paul was referring to someone like Uncle John. In 2 Timothy 4:7 it says “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”
I thank God today for Uncle John. I may have to go find a basketball court and shoot a few!