NORMAN — The framed photo sits alongside those of kids and grandkids at Charles and Cheryl Hollingsworth's house.
On the left is Charles. On the right is Cheryl. Flashing that broad, familiar grin in the middle is Wayman Tisdale.
The Oklahoma legend is family in the Hollingsworth house.
The couple “adopted” Tisdale 30 seasons ago as part of a booster club program. He was a freshman, on the cusp of a rookie season for the ages and a season in which he would lead the Sooners back to the NCAA Tournament, but the relationship that grew out of that arrangement created memories that still make the Hollingsworths smile.
“It was such a special time in our lives,” Charles said. “It was maybe special to Wayman because of the connection (that we had), but it was definitely special to us.”
Cheryl said, “It was just a joy.”
Before he made March Madness an annual staple at OU, set the standard by which all other Sooners are measured and became the name on the national freshman of the year award for the way he played and lived and died, he was simply a teenager coming over for Sunday dinner.
The Hollingsworths' relationship with Wayman started because the cafeteria at the dorm didn't serve dinner on Sunday. Someone with OU's Tip In Club suggested a player adoption program where families would fill the void and provide a home-cooked meal on Sundays. Interested boosters would throw their names in a hat and be randomly assigned a player.
A neighbor who was involved with the Tip In Club asked the Hollingsworths if they were interested. They were longtime season-ticket holders, and with two young sons, they knew it would be fun for their family to adopt any of the players.
They just happened to get Wayman.
“How 'bout that?” Charles said.
He smiled and laughed, still a little giddy after all these years at their luck at drawing Wayman.
Truth is, they got a two-for-one. That's because Wayman's brother William was also a member of the basketball team, and he always tagged along.
Since William also had an adoptive family, Wayman asked if they could alternate weeks when they came to dinner.
“Could we come to your house one Sunday and his the next and yours the next and switch off?” Wayman asked.
“Certainly,” Cheryl said.
Her eyes widened as she recalled the story.
Cheryl: “And after I paid the food bill, I said, ‘Cer-tain-ly.'”
Charles: “Bottomless pit.”
Cheryl: “Their favorite was chicken. I couldn't fry enough.”
Even the Colonel struggled to keep up with the Tisdale brothers. The Hollingsworths would buy three buckets from Kentucky Fried Chicken, and there would be no leftovers.
Desserts were a whole other matter.
Wayman came over to the Hollingsworths' for one of the boys' birthday parties, and since it was around Halloween, Cheryl had baked a small cake shaped like a coffin.
“Is that the biggest cake you've got?” Wayman asked Cheryl.
“Yes,” she said.
She had extra cupcakes in the back, but she decided not to tell that to Wayman right away.
“Oh, Mama,” he said, seriously as he looked at the coffin cake, “that won't feed us.”
The Tisdale brothers didn't eat and run, by the way. They would stay and watch TV or play Nintendo with the boys or just talk. They shared about their family, their love of music, their spirituality.
That created a bond that lasted long beyond the adoption program, which stopped after only one season. There were worries that it might be seen as an illegal benefit under NCAA rules, so it was discontinued.
But for the remainder of his time at OU, Wayman would regularly call the Hollingsworths out of the blue.
“What's going on over there?” he'd ask.
Lots of times, Wayman and William would just want to come over and hang out.
“When they went anywhere else, there were just all these people,” Cheryl said of the buzz that blew up around Wayman. “They'd try to go get a hamburger, and there were all these people. They liked it, but it got old.”
At the Hollingsworths' house, there were no fans seeking autographs or wanting pictures. Wayman could just relax and be himself.
Even after he left OU after his junior season, he never forgot the Hollingsworths' hospitality. He called them once or twice a year just to check in — and they checked on him after he was diagnosed with cancer that first took his leg, then ultimately took his life — and whenever they happened to bump into each other at OU games, he was always quick with smiles and hugs.
“Are you Wayman Tisdale?” Charles jokingly asked when he ran into Wayman once at a football game.
“Dad!” Wayman proclaimed as he enveloped him in a hug.
The Hollingsworths laughed as they recalled the story.
“He never forgot who we were,” Cheryl said.
And they never forgot him.
Never will either.
“Wayman never asked for anything from us other than love and affection and a relationship,” Charles said.
“And food,” she said.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.