Jay Cantrell: Blog


May 11, 2018
Posted at 2:08 pm

Time got away from this week. There will be no post until Monday.


My sincere thanks

April 27, 2018
Posted at 12:41 pm

I've always known that SOL is different from the other online story sites.

Lazeez has created a small village here at SOL.

We rally behind each other; we help out those that have fallen on hard times; we offer support and encouragement to people trying to do something different from their everyday lives.

In that, the SOL community greatly resembles the family I am fortunate enough to love.

As I have tried to do with those I am related to, I want to thank the people who populate this section of my life for their kindness and sympathy.

Just like the people I was lucky enough to grow up around, the sense of goodwill and camaraderie from the denizens of the SOL community never ceases to amaze me.

Thank you all.

Second Son

April 26, 2018
Posted at 12:28 pm

A few weeks ago I wrote a small note about Jackie Robinson, an American Civil Rights activist, community and business leader, and Major League Baseball pioneer.

I said that Mr. Robinson was a hero to me. Today I want to introduce you to another of my heroes - one far less known to the general public but one who had a bigger influence on my life.

This man was born at the tail end of World War II, the fourth child and second son of a lower-middle class family in Northeastern Ohio.

His father was an unpleasant man who worked at one of the many factories that dotted the region. The mother was a homemaker (at least through his childhood).

The mother bore seven children in 10 years and times were often lean for the family. The children never had much growing up but they had each other and that was enough.

The siblings looked after one another with a fierceness borne of hardship. The Second Son was the fiercest fighter of them all.

As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s the Second Son's older siblings were content to follow the paths their parents had put forth. The two older sisters married older men with good jobs and started to work as secretaries or bookkeepers. The oldest brother took a job at one of the dwindling factories. They all settled down less than five miles from where they were born - just as their mother and father had done.

The Second Son was different. He wasn't going to accept less than he could achieve - and he wasn't going to accept the sort of life that his hometown could offer.

Through his teens, he worked and saved. He found a scholarship to a small school a hundred or so miles away and he announced that he wasn't going to find a job after high school. He was going to college.

And he did.

The tyrannical father had told him that he would see no money from the family. College was for the wealthy. It wasn't for the son of a common laborer.

The Second Son was undeterred. He worked two and sometimes three jobs while going to class. He said in later years that not a week went by without him wanting to quit school. He didn't like it at all. But he stayed because there was no way he was going to let his father win. Stubbornness was one of the Second Son's most obvious characteristics.

His maternal grandmother sent him a check for $5 every month and his mother and siblings slipped him a couple of bucks whenever they could. The youngest members would gather soda bottles, turn them in for the deposit and pass it along (often in nickles and dimes) because they wanted to help in any way they could. The Second Son often said that the gifts were often the only thing that kept him from going hungry for the last week of every month. He said more often that knowing that most of his family was behind him was more important than having food in his belly.

Because, to him, family was everything.

The Vietnam War was in its infancy when the Second Son started to college. It was raging in full when he left.

The Second Son had seen his older brother lose his factory job and enlist in the United States Navy. The older brother returned with a Purple Heart - and without part of his right hand. The Second Son had watched as high school classmates enlisted and returned wounded (in body or spirit), in flag-draped coffins or not at all.

The Second Son had heard rumblings of an upcoming draft lottery. The ranks of the military units were dwindling as the war became more and more unpopular. Hoping to spare his younger male sibling from combat, the Second Son enlisted in the U.S. Army upon graduation.

He landed in Vietnam a day before his 22nd birthday.

The father had called his son "cowardly" for staying in college instead of joining the older brother in the military (conveniently forgetting that the father was only one of his three brothers who didn't enlist during World War II).

But the Second Son was no coward.

He had openly defied a man whose temper was legendary in his small hometown. He had gone with college classmates to Louisiana and Texas to help black voters get registered during a time when it wasn't guaranteed that he would return. In recent years, he joined with other veterans to push for equality opportunities for all service members - without regard to gender or sexual orientation.

And he had paved a new path for those he left behind at home.

The mother, who hadn't graduated high school, got her GED and then a job. She would eventually go to college in her 50s and become the general manager at a printing plant.

His two younger sisters also went to college. One became an accountant; the other a teacher, a principal and eventually superintendent of schools for her county.

His two older sisters began to work in jobs that suited them far better than life as a minimum-wage office worker. One opened a bakery; the other owned a convenience store-service station with her husband.

His older brother got hired by the United States Postal Service and spent more than 20 years as postmaster of a small community 300 miles from where he grew up.

His younger brother did avoid the draft. Instead, he was sentenced to the Marine Corps by a judge with an agenda after a few misdemeanor scrapes with the law. He served six years in the Corps and became a good father and husband later in life. He, too, became a business owner. But this isn't his story.

This story is about the Second Son.

His military career spanned Vietnam, through the end of the Cold War and into Operation Desert Shield. He served in six countries and eight states during his 25-year career, finally retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Along the way, he met and married a really nice woman and they raised three pretty terrific kids. Those kids gifted the Second Son and his wife with seven grandchildren.

The Second Son of the Second Son is now in his 19th year with the U.S. Army. The oldest granddaughter is in her second year with the United States Air Force. His legacy of selfless service lives on through them.

Midway through his second tour in Vietnam, the Second Son's father died unexpectedly. Few people mourned the passing (and some probably cheered).

Two months after that, the Second Son's mother surprised everybody (including herself) by giving birth to an eighth child - 30 years, 2 months and 22 days after the first.

I am that child.

I was frequently compared to my brother during most of my childhood. I never took an easy path if the harder one led me to where I wanted to go. I was sarcastic and confrontational. I could be aloof and condescending. Our mother told me often (and my siblings more frequently still) that I was just like the Second Son. I always viewed it as a compliment (even though I'm not sure they intended it to be).

The Second Son encouraged the youngest of his brothers to forge a path all of his own - to never accept failure and to stand up and fight against bullies and bigots.

My brother's visits were big events in my childhood. I got to spend part of my 13th summer with him in what was known as West Germany at the time. I got to spend part of my 15th summer with him in Japan. I got to see life through the eyes of a man who paved my way to break out of my hometown and go to places I never thought I'd see.

He made a special trip home for my high school and college graduations. He and his family drove 13 hours a couple of summers ago to watch my oldest little girl get married.

And last weekend my oldest little girl and I drove 13 hours with our family to say our final farewell to my mother's Second Son.

Over the years, I've thanked him often for standing up to a man I never knew and creating the options that I sometimes took for granted. I've thanked him for what he did to help our mother establish a life of her own after our father's death. I've thanked him for always making sure that I was included in all the phone calls he made to check in on Mom when I was at home - making time to quiz me on state capitals or to talk about my Little League or Pop Warner teams. He always pushed me to learn and strive and succeed.

The two youngest of my mother's boys are all that are left. The youngest of my brothers found himself late in life and became the sort of man everybody respects. The stories of his kindness and generosity will have to wait for a couple of more decades, I hope. It would probably take me that long to list them all and I doubt this space would hold them. He certainly lived up to the standard the first Second Son had set.

I am now the third and final Second Son. I'll do my best to continue the role my brothers before me established for our family - providng guidance, encouragement and acceptance when asked (and sometimes without being asked). They placed others ahead of themselves. They gave the most and took the least. They were the bedrock on which my family is built - and my immediate family (my brother and sisters, their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren) is more than 100 strong.

My oldest sister and oldest brother died within a year of each other in the early 2000s. Back then, I had a newspaper column to offer a public thanks for all they'd taught me - all the love and inspiration they'd given freely to me - through the years.

Now I'll use this space to give thanks to another of my heroes.

Godspeed, my brother.

Schedule Change

April 20, 2018
Posted at 12:01 pm

I was called out of town unexpectedly.

There will be no post today or Monday.

The story will resume Friday, April 27.

Jay C.

I Had a Reason

April 14, 2018
Posted at 10:31 am

This Sunday, April 15th, is Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball.

All players on every team will wear the number 42 in honor of the man who broke baseball's color barrier. Mr. Robinson's dignity, hard work, generosity and talent made him a Hall of Famer not just in baseball but in life itself.

His is the only number retired throughout Major League Baseball. No player on any team is permitted to wear the number.

As I was prepping the most recent post for upload, I noticed that I was leading off with Chapter 42.

I thought ... hmmm ... it might be fun to do something similar to show my respect for a man I revere. I doubted anyone would notice. If they noticed, I doubted they would care. My battles with numbers are well documented.

Yeah, not so much.

So I've reposted the chapters with the correct numbering.

I will pay tribute to Mr. Robinson in this space. If you haven't read a biography of Jackie Robinson, you owe it to yourself to at least Google his name.

The man was not just a baseball pioneer. He was an Army officer in World War II. He was an astute businessman. He was at the forefront of the American Civil Rights Movement.

In short, Mr. Robinson was a leader in multiple fields of endeavor -- during a time when African-Americans were considered second- or third-class citizens.

Schools, public venues, hotels, restrooms and even drinking fountains were segregated.

The military unit that Lt. Robinson helped to lead was separate from white units. He was court-martialed (but acquitted by an all-white panel) for standing up against racism. Like Rosa Parks two decades later, Lt. Robinson refused to move to the back of the bus.

He was a great man before he ever graced the uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The young man was the subject of physical and verbal abuse while playing baseball (from fans, from other players, from those working for the teams).

Yet he endured all the slights, the taunts, the threats and the attacks to help ensure that people of color had a chance at opportunities long denied them -- not only in the sporting world.

Jackie Robinson is a personal hero.

To quote Mr. Robinson's teammate, Pee Wee Reese: "You can hate a man for many reasons. Color isn't one of them."