The Things My Dad Said

Here is a little ditty I wrote for my “Go Ask Your Mother…a Father’s Story” show. Thought it would be appropriate to share this for Father’s Day. (Sung to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.)


“Were you born in a barn?” and “For crying out loud”
“Because I said so” and “Don’t make a sound”
“You’ve got a roof over your head”
These are few of the things my dad said

“I’ll give you something to cry about”
“Let mom kiss it better” “You’ll live, don’t you pout”
“There are no monsters under your bed”
These are some more of the things my dad said

“Oh for Pete’s sake”
“Clean up your plate”
“Don’t wear stripes with plaid”
I find I’m repeating the things my dad said
And sometimes I think that’s sad

“Don’t make me come in there” “I’ve had it, bend over”
“I won’t say it again, I’ll pull this car over”
“Stop picking your nose, your brains will fall out”
These are the things I am talking about

“They jump off a cliff, would you do it too?”
“Say please, excuse me and don’t forget thank you”
“Go comb your hair” “don’t make a fuss”
“Close the barn door and remember to flush”

“Ask your mother”
“Pull my finger”
“You’re gonna make me mad”
I find I’m repeating the things my dad said
But I ask you is that so bad?

The Pursuit of Happiness

Ah, the pursuit of happiness…what does that mean to you? I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately.  It’s one of those things I think all of us are prone to ponder, especially as we get older.

The recent historic events of this November have brought this question again to the forefront of my thinking. I mean, the Cubs win the World Series and then this election…what an emotional rollercoaster! Some people are happy on rollercoasters…me, not so much.

I tend to be one of those people who works with a mindset of, “when this job/event/goal is accomplished then I’ll truly be happy.” And to some degree that is certainly true. But often the feeling I am pursuing seems to elude me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an unhappy person, but I have been trying to honestly answer the question of what makes me happy.

I spend a lot of time isolated… something common for a lot of artists. I perform alone, work out of an office in my home alone, and travel most of the time alone. Ah, travel, something many people hold claim to as something that makes them happy, and I do like travel, but traveling alone is not as much fun as traveling with a companion.

I know the “spiritually correct” answer to this question is to “delight ourselves in the Lord.” And I do; like I said, I am not an unhappy person. But while I “delight” in the Lord and all He as done for me, there is still this desire, that need to pursue happiness. Happiness is not, at least for me, a 24/7 thing.

In September my wife, Lorie celebrated one of her “milestone” birthdays (one of those that ends in a “0”). I wanted it to be extra special and I went out of my way to plan a surprise birthday weekend that she would never forget. It came off extremely well. The whole family, including our new granddaughter was with us. Lorie’s sister and brother-in-law traveled from Canada, which added to her happiness. We all shared a great weekend at the Oregon coast. She was very surprised and that made me happy.

And that made me happy.

There is the key, at least for me. I’m at my happiest when I am with other people, people I love. I am at my happiest when I can bring joy to the people that I love. I am happiest in my work—and make no mistake, setting up this surprise weekend was a lot of work—when I know that work will make others happy. I’m rediscovering, what I should have known all along—my personal happiness is found in getting the focus off myself and onto others.

Something to remember as we approach Thanksgiving.

I have included a little video that I made to reveal this birthday surprise weekend. Watching Lorie watch the video, and seeing her surprised reaction, made me very happy. I share it in hopes that it will bring a smile to your face and maybe make you happy for a moment or two.

(Disclaimer: the tune is one I borrowed from a little boy who has made a lot of people happy with his video that has gone viral. So a tip of the hat to Obadiah Gamble. Check out his original video here: Hey Teddy

New Show Premier, Friday, October 25th

Go Ask Your Mother…A Father’s Story is the second presentation of my “life stories.” In this presentation I tackle fatherhood, sharing lessons I learned from my father and some of the joys, humor, and trials of raising three sons of my own. You’ll hear stories of kids embarrassing their parents, stories of rebellion and reconciliation, and unfinished stories of hope rooted in a father’s love for his kids. Much is written today about kids raised in the church, only to abandon the faith when they leave home. I share my own experience with this troublesome issue. Raising kids is not for the faint of heart and you will identify with this father’s confessions of struggles, uncertainty and hope for the future.GoAskMother_txt


If you are reading this you are invited to the premier performance of this presentation.

Date: Friday, October 25th

Time: 7:00 PM

Place: Liberty Christian Church, 4764 Skyline Rd S. Salem, OR 97306

Tickets: FREE

There will be a “talk-back” session after the performance where you can ask questions and give feedback about the performance.

We are also accepting bookings for this production beginning in 2014. Contact us at for details and availability!

The Eyes Have It

Eva Martine Neighbors — Oct. 12, 1930 – Mar. 14, 2012

I don’t like “favorite” questions. Don’t ask me my favorite color, or favorite book or movie. I freeze up… suddenly I can’t think of a single book or movie title and the only color that will come to mind is probably the color of the shirt you are wearing.

I have a similar reaction to “best” and “most” questions. What’s the best “this” or the most “that?” I don’t like ‘em. Don’t usually answer them. Just ask Lorie if you don’t believe me.

But this past week I have allowed myself to ask the question, “what will you miss most about Mom?” And after much reflecting, I would have to say the answer is, “her eyes.”

She had the most amazing eyes.

As an actor, you learn a lot about eyes and the role they play in communication. Eyes can say so much, sometimes more than words can ever express. Our words can hide things and be deceitful… not so easy to do that with the eyes. I learned a lot about acting through my mother’s eyes.

Some people have squinty eyes. Like my dad. It’s hard to read a squinty-eyed person. You never really know what they’re thinking. If they are happy or if they are sad, the eyes don’t change. You have to look for other clues, like their mouth–up, happy–down, sad. If my mom squinted it meant the sun was in her eyes or the milk was bad.

My mom had what I will call saucer eyes. And sometimes they got so big maybe “plate eyes” would be appropriate. They could totally take over her face. And they could speak volumes.

Sometimes she would give me the “stink eye.” This was the look that told me I was in deep doo-doo. It was often accompanied by “Charles Gordon.” The times she spoke my first and middle name together were almost always accompanied by the stink eye. It was a look that said, “I know what you did.” Where my dad might raise his voice to reprimand me, all my mom had to do was give me “the look” and I was busted. And it had power from a great distance. Mom insisted that I sing in choir at church. It was not something I always wanted to do. Clayton and Jim were the singers, I was the actor… but if I tried to play hookey and hide out in the back pew on a Sunday morning, I could feel the presence of “the eye.” I would look up and see that eye and like a magnet it would pull me all the way up to the choir loft. No words were needed. Amazing, powerful eyes.

It was her eyes that encouraged me. I think every child wants the approval of their parents and there are many ways to express that approval–with words and gifts of course–but it was the look in her eyes that I wanted. The look that said, “I love you and I am proud of you.” I never stopped wanting that and needing that. Those eyes communicated love, deep love for her husband, her children, grandchildren and the family and friends she cared for so deeply through the years.

Those eyes were closed daily in prayer. Mom believed in prayer and was a fervent prayer warrior. I will miss her prayers.

There was a transparency in her eyes that filled in the blanks. I don’t like telephone conversations too much in general, and with Mom, I never felt I got all the nuances over the phone that came with a face-to-face conversation. She said as much–maybe more–with her eyes than she said with her words. In the long battles with her health these last few years it was often the words “I’m okay” combined with the eyes that said “I’m not doing so well.”

Living on the other side of the country and coming for visits I loved the “welcome home” look in her eyes and so dreaded the saying of goodbye as those eyes were always, always filled with tears.

If the saying “the eyes are the window to the soul” is true, then when you looked into my mother’s eyes, I believe you could see her soul. The soul of a mother who lived a life of love for family and an unshakeable faith in her Lord and Savior.

My theology is uncertain on whether or not our loved ones in heaven can see us while we are here on this earth. It is a nice thought… although I am not sure I want to feel her “stink eye” when I do something of which she would not approve. But I do believe her eyes are full of joy at being together with my dad, and my sister Loretta, and all the others who have gone before her. And I am confident her eyes are full of wonder and awe as she is able to gaze into the face of Jesus. The eyes, ah yes, the eyes have it! I will miss her eyes.

That Face in the Mirror

Thoughts on My Father

James Lafe Neighbors

1924 – 2007

On the surface of things I would say that my dad and I weren’t very much alike. Like night and day rather than two peas in a pod….on the surface of things.

He was mostly quiet—didn’t usually have much to say.  I make my living with words…mostly spoken. My dad was shy… I am not… at least on the surface.

My dad knew the meaning of hard work—the hard, back-breaking, sweaty (often smelly) kind. The kind I try very hard to avoid.

My dad was a stay at home kinda guy. Me?  Let’s just say that “Ramblin’ Man” could be my theme song.

While we are both men of faith… his was a quiet faith while mine was, at least on the surface because of my profession, a public faith.

We are very different—no question—even in appearance. He was short and I am tall.  In facial features and mannerisms I tend to favor my mother more than my father.

Yet… and yet… if we look behind the curtain (in my theater vernacular) or dig a little deeper (in his working man vernacular)…we are very much alike.

There have been those moments through the years when I look in the mirror and see my dad looking back.  Sometimes the face I see causes a negative reaction.  I don’t want to see him when I look at myself. It is a flashback to that phase in life I think all kids, especially boys, go through in finding themselves. That streak of independence that says “I am not like my father.” That striving to be your own man.

My dad…while mostly quiet, mild mannered, and easy going, also had a temper that was on a hair-trigger. The trigger was sometimes things that really didn’t matter much in the whole scope of life…. refusing to eat a certain vegetable or sleeping in too late could pull the trigger.  I think it was a control issue. It didn’t happen often but when it did—watch out! I too have that tendency.  I didn’t like that trait in my father…don’t like it in myself.  Those face in the mirror moments are unpleasant… but thankfully they were few for him and are few for me.

But as I am reflecting on my dad, now that he has left this life…I am realizing just how much we are alike and that I may have more in common with him than I ever realized before.

I think it was Dad who first taught me how to “get attention,” a trait that I would eventually turn into a career. Dad loved a good practical joke.  One of my earliest memories of this fine art was through the simple yet time tested device known as a handshake buzzer. My dad’s use of the device was a little unorthodox.  Rather than a handshake he would wind up the little buzzer and carefully sneak up behind my mother. He would then put his hand part way up her skirt and release the buzzer, startling my mother.  She would shriek and call out a firm reprimanding “Lafe Neighbors!”  My dad would give a hoot of laughter and several seconds of delighted giggles.  My reaction to this playfulness was to emulate it (although I resisted the hand up the skirt approach). I loved the surprise, the laughter, the attention! Could it be that this tiny seed of mischief and entertainment was the seed that launched my career on the stage?  I think so.  Thank you Dad for showing me the power of laughter and surprise…all because of a handshake buzzer.

And there is more….

As an adult…while I am outgoing in a “professional sense,” I find that for the most part I am really very much like my dad…quiet and even shy.  That may surprise many but is actually very common in the temperament of many artistic types. The “actor” Chuck is a persona…in many ways a prerequisite to my on-stage life.  But when not “on view for others” I am a man of few words, like my father. There are those moments when my father and I would be in the same room and have nothing to say to each other and yet we would be comfortable with the silence.  We were alike in that way.

And more…

While we don’t have a lot going in the way of physical resemblance in our features I fear the genes have made their mark internally.  We share a common disease—diverticululosis (thanks a lot Dad!).  If the phrase “pull my finger” actually resulted in longer fingers rather than socially unacceptable sounds and smells… well then my dad and I would probably make it into The Guiness Book of World Records for some of the longest fingers in the world.  And call it childish if you want, but that little trait…just like the handshake buzzer, never ceased to cause my dad to shake with laughter even in his final days.  One of my sons has inherited this “curse,” which he attributes directly to his Grandpa Neighbors.

And more…

I admired my Dad’s work ethic. While I do hate the physical labor, I don’t hate work…partially because I found a profession I truly enjoy. But I do think I learned the value of hard work from my dad.  I also admire him greatly knowing that he was able to provide well for his family having only a grade school education.  Donald Trump may have coined the phrase “the art of the deal” but my dad understood it well.  Being a child of the depression, he was a very thrifty person.  He taught me to save and to shop for bargains.  His love for farming and animals paid off for him.  “Why buy vegetables when you can grow them?” was part of his philosophy.  He loved horses.  I didn’t—horses represented physical labor to me—I hated cleaning stalls, hauling hay, and barn chores.  But to my dad horses were a joy, a luxury he could afford.  And he loved to trade and dicker.  He loved to go to horse auctions.  While not educated in the “art of the deal”… he had the instincts.  I remember one time I went with him to purchase some piglets (we raised horses, cattle, pigs and rabbits on our little farm).  The farmer selling the pigs had his price, but dad wasn’t willing to pay that amount.  He offered the farmer much less than his asking price and got the deal.  I remember asking my dad why he wasn’t willing to pay what the farmer was asking… and learned the difference between an asking price and a selling price.  My dad loved deal making and knew how to play both sides of it.  Some of that has rubbed of on me and I have made more than a few “good deals” through the years.  Thanks Dad!

Not done yet… there is more…

My dad was a “rock” for my mom and for his kids…and beyond.  He was there for his extended family, both his blood and his in-laws over the years—caring for parents on both sides of his family in his home for many years. While I don’t have a lot of specific memories of his response to his daughter, and my sister, Loretta’s death, struck down by a car at the age of 5—I do know he pulled his family through that crisis.  He lived a sacrificial life for the sake of his family to which I can only aspire.

While I have made a point of him being a man of few words, he did choose some of them very well.  Every son pines for the approval of his parents…whether they want to admit it or not.  My mother never hesitated to let us know her sentiments.  I never questioned her approval and got much encouragement from her over the years.  But Dad…well that is a different story.  I think he had a hard time understanding me and my world.  I think there was a part of him that always thought that one day I would give up this acting thing and get “a real job.”  Even though I was in ministry he would have felt better if I would do the more traditional model as a “pastor” and I heard him express that in one way or another over the years.  And yet… I will never forget a special moment we shared shortly after I started the touring performer life.  I had just performed with my acting company at Eastgate Baptist Church (our family church). He cornered me on the basements steps, a rather odd place to have such a significant moment, and said: “Son, your mom and I were a bit leery when you dropped out of college to go off to California and become an actor, traveling around the country in a van…I thought it was a mistake.  But after seeing what you did tonight… well, I am proud of you!”

I don’t think he ever said he was proud of me before or since.  But I have never forgotten those words.  Being a man of few words it must have been difficult for him to say it then.  We didn’t often say gushy things to each other… being men and all.  Even later I would often tell him I loved him.  He would say those words back… but only after I said them first.  I have strived to be more expressive to my own kids in my love and appreciation of them because of that moment.  Thanks Dad.

While I still hold to the fact that I am not my father… and we are so very different in so many ways… I am at peace with that part him that is in me…when I look in the mirror, get a laugh from an audience, admire the length of my fingers…when I find my self saying a blessing before a meal and realize I am using the exact phrases my father taught me to pray… I am proud to say I am my father’s son.  I could do worse… a whole lot worse.

I have this vision of my father arriving in heaven.  He arrives at the Pearly Gates and is greeted by Saint Peter.  He holds out his hand to Peter and says: “Pull my finger.”  Peter obliges and pulls on Dad’s finger. What follows is one large “explosion” at which all of heaven knows that “Mr. Neighbors is in the house.” The explosion is so powerful that it rockets my dad several hundred feet into the air.  When he finally lands it is on the back of a beautiful white steed.  He promptly takes off on a gallop and pulls to a stop beside a little girl named Loretta.  He reaches down and pulls her up on the horse placing her gently in front of him and they go off on the ride of their life….

Enjoy your ride Dad.  I will miss you…

Chuck Neighbors


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