Standing beside my Cousin John was what seemed to be a beautiful blonde haired girl holding a football and wearing a football uniform. The child seemed to be 11 or 12 years old.
I looked at the picture closer and didn’t make reference to my thinking the football player was a girl.
I love looking at pictures of Cousin John because his facial features look so much like my Daddy. You can tell by looking at him, he’s kind, but not the type of fellow you would want to cross.
Cousin John had on overalls, an Alabama hat and sunglasses and was holding his mouth in such a way that reminded me so much of my Daddy.
I said to myself, “These are my people; this is where I come from.”
Asking Cousin John’s daughter tactfully, “Who is that with Cousin John?”
She replied, “That’s Billy Bob! My son’s best friend.”
Feeling relieved that I had not stuck my foot in my mouth, which I am very capable of doing; I continued to keep my mouth shut. Cousin John’s daughter went on to say, “Billy Bob has recently been diagnosed with…”
She didn’t finish her sentence.
Billy Bob’s mother finished it for her, “Epilepsy.”
It kind of set me back.
Then I learned a little more about epilepsy and a lot more about Billy Bob.
In the United States, more than 300,000 children under the age of 15 have been diagnosed with epilepsy. More than 90,000 of those children have seizures that cannot be adequately treated.
Billy Bob has had a number of health issues that have been challenges to him and his family. Throughout his life, he and his parents have been back and forth to the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.
This past October, the doctors diagnosed Billy Bob with benign rolandic epilepsy, a form of Pediatric Epilepsy Syndrome.
Benign rolandic epilepsy is a common childhood seizure syndrome, with seizures beginning between 2 and 13 years of age. The seizures most commonly observed with Billy Bob’s type of epilepsy are partial motor seizures (twitching) or a sensory seizure (numbness or tingling sensation) involving the face or tongue and which may cause garbled speech. In addition, tonic-clonic (formally called grand mal) seizures may occur, especially during sleep.
Children are amazing… Billy Bob is extraordinary.
First, is “Billy Bob” his real name?
His name is “William Robert,” taking names from each of his granddaddies.
His Uncle Jonathan tagged him “Billy Bob” and that is the name he prefers. It is also the name that friends, teachers, doctors, teammates and the opposition call him.
He is famous.
He should be.
As noted, Billy Bob calls my cousin, “Pawpaw John,” even though they are not related by blood. Down home, folks look out for each other and having “extra grandparents” that aren’t related to you is a welcome thing.
Cousin John describes Billy Bob’s football skills as follows, “In the open field, Billy Bob will knock the fire out of you.” Cousin John used a little more of my Daddy’s sailor language, which is very acceptable when describing football skills in Alabama. In particular, tackles in the open field.
I have always preferred, “He will field-dress you in the open field.”
Cousin John knows what it means to have the fire knocked out of you – he was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries in Vietnam. Therefore, if he says Billy Bob is capable of doing that – I believe him.
His parents did go through much consideration, consultation and prayer in deciding to let him play football. They also considered how much Billy Bob loved playing football.
With that golden blonde hair hanging out of his helmet, Billy Bob plays middle linebacker on defense and wingback on offense. You have to just love it. A fellow named Billy Bob who plays linebacker in the woods of one of Alabama’s most beautiful counties – Nick Saban, the coach at the University of Alabama needs to get in his vehicle and head due east before Auburn finds out who is in their backyard.
As you would imagine, Billy Bob takes a lot of flak for his hair being so long and blonde on top of that. He hears the “Is that a girl?” or “Are you a girl?” At 11 years-old and in a football helmet and uniform, you can understand how folks might make that mistake.
If this doesn’t get you, nothing will.
Billy Bob was visiting his doctor in Anniston, Alabama a few years back and he had grown his hair a little long. The doctor who has developed a special relationship with Billy Bob told him, “I know there are a lot of sick kids who would like to have that hair.”
After leaving the doctor’s office, Billy Bob asked his mother what the doctor meant about sick kids needing hair. His mother showed him on the computer where the Locks of Love program uses donated hair to create hair prosthetics for children.
Having seen many children in the hospital with no hair, Billy Bob didn’t realize it was because they were sick. He decided that he wanted to grow his hair out to give away to kids who needed it.
Billy Bob is working on growing his third hair donation for Locks of Love.
Billy Bob is 11 years-old.
Billy Bob has epilepsy.
Billy Bob will knock the hell out of you in an open-field tackle.
That is not all.
Billy Bob’s name has 3 B’s when you include his last name, but he has never had a “B” on his report card. He is proud of his Junior Beta Club membership!
Someday, Billy Bob hopes to be a game warden because he loves being outside and in the woods so much. He is hooked on the fact that game wardens get paid to be in the woods.
When I was a little boy, my Mama used to read me a story about a little boy named Harold and his purple crayon by Crockett Johnson. In “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” the little boy has the power to create a world of his own simply by drawing it with his purple crayon.
Billy Bob has taken his purple crayon and drawn a world filled with adventures that are not only fun for him, but amazing for us to stand back and watch.
November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, wear a purple ribbon or draw with a purple crayon and know that there are lots of tough little girls and boys living with a cruel and puzzling disease.
I bet you have friends or relatives who may suffer from the various forms of this disease - help them if you can. Sometimes the best way to help is by learning more about the disease.
Billy Bob’s success is attributable to not only his determination, but to wonderful parents, brothers, other family members and a supportive community. A community who knows “Billy Bob” is a name to be proud of on the football field, in the classroom, in the woods and in life helping others.
On a sidebar, Billy Bob’s mama drives a pink jeep which is absolutely wonderful. She had it painted pink to honor her grandmother, her husband’s grandmother and breast cancer survivors everywhere.
At this point you say – This IS the good stuff.
I say, “These are my people; this is where I come from.”
And also, “Watch out for Billy Bob in the open field, I’ve heard he is a beast.”
For pictures of Billy Bob’s golden locks, my Cousin John and his mama’s pink jeep, visit www.CranksMyTractor.com.