My life has been an absolutely wonderful journey. I think much of the success that I have seen has to do with the great start that I got in life. While I didn't grow up in a traditional family, I was surrounded by an extended family which provided as much love as anyone could possibly need.
Also I have an amazing life-partner in my wife Glenda. We met in Mount Airy, NC in the garden's of my mother's house. My mother was responsible for the two of us going on our first date. It was just one of the many amazing things that my mother somehow arranged.
She hoped that a beautiful young lady would keep me in Mount Airy a few more days and maybe even bring me back home. Little did she dream that I would convince Glenda to go live in Canada.
Since the first trip that Glenda took to Canada in the summer of 1973, we have been constant companions even while I spent many years on the road. Along the way, we have managed to conquer a lot of challenges together and to learn a lot about life. My life has been immensely richer because Glenda has been part of it.
Several years ago I wrote down "Some Advice to My Children." It still stands on its own, but recently I have been thinking about what I learned from my father and my mother. I know that what I picked up had a lot to do with who I am today and what we have accomplished including raising three very competent adults.
Much of my childhood, I was apart from my father so I only had a few years with him, and much of his mind had been lost to a stroke.
I was fortunate that I was able to get to know him by his deeds and his reputation. I know that he was a self-made man. He had to earn his citizenship and much of his education came from going to night school while working. He began his career by working with his hands and making furniture. We still have the first piece that he made. He went on to be an executive with National Furniture in Mount Airy. He believed in treating people fairly. I remember many former workers stopping by the house to tell us what a great boss he was.
I also know that during the Depression he put many of the men from the factory to work rebuilding the family home which had burned. Our family home, now the Sobotta Manor Bed & Breakfast, has some wonderful walnut woodwork done by those men whom I am sure were thrilled to have a job during the depression.
One of the things that my mother told about by father was that he was a director of one of the banks which was going to close its doors during the run on banks at the start of the Depression. He didn't tell my mother who had money in the bank about the closing. He didn't think it was fair that she find out about it before others. She lost her money, but not her respect for my dad. My dad was also generous with his money. He helped many people get a college education and had a lot to do with helping get Camp Raven Knob, the Old Hickory Council Boy Scout Camp in place.
My mother was cut from similar cloth. She didn't finish high school because of a stepmother right out of Cinderella. Mother learned how to drive, left home, and went off to the big city of Mount Airy. She ended up going to school to be a beautician and for years she ran her own beauty shop on Main St. in Mount Airy.
When I was born we went back to live with her sister Molly in Yadkin County. Mother and my dad helped them get the loan to build their house. When I was three, mother and I moved to Lewisville, NC just across the Yadkin River. We went there because Uncle Joe Styers had land there, and Lewisville needed a beauty shop. Mother worked very hard there, but she was very successful at providing for us.
One of the first things I remember learning from my mother was that the pride in doing really good work is the best reward that there is. We had neighbors who paid their sons for each "A" that they earned. That didn't happen in our house. Mother was fond of telling me that I wasn't earning good grades for money, I was earning them for myself and what they would help me do.
Money and material things were never important to my mother. She would and did give anyone who needed something whatever she could afford to give them. She was always willing to lend a helping hand though I can remember her eventually cutting off a black sheep in the family after he borrowed her hard earned money one too many times and never paid any of it back.
I also learned one of life's most valuable lessons from my mother. The money a person has or the title after their name do not determine a person's worth. What really matters in life is how you treat others especially those who have less than you. Mother believed that there was no shame in getting dirt or calluses on your hands. Of course that might have something to do with the wonderful tomatoes she taught me how to grow.
Mother also taught me to never start a fight, but if I found myself in one to fight like there was no tomorrow.
When I look back on it all, other than Boy Scouts, swimming lessons, and church, there were no organized activities after school or in the summer when I was growing up. We learned to take care of ourselves which included entertaining ourselves. There were no corners of the woods that we didn't explore in Lewisville, and I know one small creek that was damned many times. There were no television shows powerful enough to draw us from our adventures.
It is perhaps sad that today's children lead such organized and protected lives that they never have an opportunity to build a fort in vacant field or wander until dusk in a seemingly endless forest. I know times have changed, but I suspect we might regret one day that today's parents are raising a generation of children who never defended a fort in the woods. I'm glad my children got that opportunity.
Sometimes the best learning comes from the lessons that you don't know you are being taught. Finally one last thing I learned from my parents is to be proud of your roots. In fact it is hard to get anywhere in life until you can take pride in your past and your family.