Posts Tagged With: Dad

Homeward Bound

Having been in New England for ten of the past sixteen months, I’ve thought a lot about home.

With respect to Robert Frost, home is the place where they’re glad to take me in.

Sally, Jenna, and Julie are home to me, wherever they are.

Home is sleeping in my bed with my wife.

Home is our cat, Caesar, loving me as if I’d never been gone.

Home is grilling salmon on our patio. Home is our bright red Japanese Maple tree.

Home is a hug from the lady at the dry cleaners who missed me. Home is friends at Kathwood Baptist Church welcoming me back.

Home is my Grandson Lake showing up at our house at 6:45 a.m. wanting blueberry muffins on Thursday morning.

Home is my shower, my pillow, and my favorite coffee mug. Home is iced tea with mint freshly picked from our garden. Home is my bookshelves with my books with my favorite passages underlined. Home is being surrounded by memorabilia from Charleston, Cooperstown, Scotland, Italy, Turkey, Kenya, and Romania.

Home, for me, are tigers, tigers everywhere.

Home is driving on familiar roads and walking on familiar sidewalks.

Home is my Dad’s picture on the wall and my Mother’s baking sheets (which we still use to make chocolate chip cookies) in our kitchen cabinet.

Home is my back porch where I eat breakfast and drink coffee as many days of the year as possible, January through December. I love it, especially the sound of the birds singing, the toot of the railroad train not far away, and the kids waiting for their school bus. When Sally, Jenna, Julie, sons-in-law Thorne and Tom, or friends join me, there is no better place in the world.

Home.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Reading for Adults

“People who have read only one book can be quite dangerous.” Molly Ivins (who illustrated her point with mass murderer Timothy McVeigh—he apparently only read Ayn Rand)

Reading has always been an important part of my life. Dad was a reader. When we went to a used bookstore together, he would buy me something: Robin Hood or Treasure Island, something age appropriate.

Schoolteachers had us read Charles Dickens, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen. Trying to improve us, high school teachers also assigned The Odyssey and Julius Caesar.

I began college as a math major, but after a year I discovered I could get a degree for reading books I wanted to read, so I became an English Literature major. Some stretching continued as I read assigned books that didn’t interest me. But I also kept reading for fun. I discovered Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Willa Cather, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conon Doyle, and Dorothy Sayers.

Somewhere along the way, my love for Southern Literature led me to Eudora Welty, Robert Penn Warren, Walker Percy and Clyde Edgerton.

What I mean by “adult reading” has nothing to do with an X-rating. When I was 20, I didn’t have enough life experience or knowledge of world history to understand War and Peace. I do now. I read it a few years ago at the recommendation of Pat Conroy (My Reading Life), and I loved it. I now understand Flannery O’Connor in a way I didn’t as a young man. Moby Dick and Zorba the Greek are great literature because they speak to fundamental issues of life about which most of us are clueless until we reach age 30.

Of course, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm and Death Comes for the Archbishop are easy and good to read at any age. I’ve enjoyed some books when I was a teenager and again as a mature adult.

Happy reading!

Additions to the above:

Fiction

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry

Night, Elie Wiesel

Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw

The Good Earth, Pearl Buck

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Non-Fiction

Falling Upward, Richard Rohr

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (ghost written—since Malcolm X was dead—by Alex Haley)

The Habit of Being, Letters of Flannery O’Connor, edited by Sally Fitzgerald

The Prince, Machiavelli

The Seven-Story Mountain, Thomas Merton

Categories: Book Review, Family, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fatherhood

 

This thing about a Father “giving the daughter away” at a wedding is a lie. They were never ours to give.  Daughters are not the property of their Dads or Moms any more than a male child is the property of his parents.  My daughters, Jenna and Julie, independent from the beginning, were on loan to us temporarily for nurture and safekeeping.

 Sally and I both changed their diapers and gave them baths, but that was our duty.  They don’t owe their mother or me lifelong allegiance for taking care of them. I stood in an impossibly long line so Jenna could have a Cabbage Patch dolI one Christmas.  Julie’s Big Wish was a bit more complicated, but, when Christmas morning arrived, she had Rainbow Brite sheets.  Those were acts of love, not a deal I made to be paid back later. 

Dance recitals:  I never missed one.  They (and their costumes) were cute and I was proud.

 When one of my daughters was quiet too long, we would discover she had been unrolling the toilet paper or giving her dolls a bath in the toilet.  Sally and I laughed.  We didn’t think or say, “You owe us.”

 Over years, they dealt with bullies, as every kid does. I could not always protect them.  They had to figure some things out on their own.

 When they were teenagers, each asserted her independence and I hated it.  Let them go?  Willingly? Not while I was still breathing.  They were independent nonetheless. 

I took them on trips rather than always sending them off with someone else.  With Jenna, I’ve been to New York City at Christmas, and climbed the Mayan Pyramids in the Yucatan Peninsula.  With Julie, I’ve seen the monkeys on Gibraltar, and roamed the streets of Amsterdam. We toured England and Scotland as a family, Jenna a teenager and Julie a preteen.  They have memories of our time together that will outlast me.

At some point, B. O. Y. S. entered the picture, and that was a challenge.  But, all’s well that ends well.  I approve of Thorne and Tom and I thank God every day for my sons-in-law.

Fatherhood and parenting did not end when they got married.  Conversations about grace, fairness, patience, right and wrong never end.  At least, not yet.  They will always be my daughters and I will always be their daddy.  But make no mistake:  they were and are independent women.  I am proud of them.

 

Categories: Baseball, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

No Regrets

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            Trips to see my mother and my dad as they got older became part of my routine.  They were good parents, and we were never estranged from one another, so these short outings were never a chore.  Mother was a world-class cook, so some sort of pie, cake, fudge or other sweet was usually a part of the experience.  We visited one another regularly but randomly, some Christmases, some birthdays, as well as plenty of no-reason-needed visits.  My life, thank God, has lacked the drama of some families.  Boring can be good!

            During my seven years living in Batesburg, when we lived about an hour from each other, I met Daddy every Friday for lunch at the Holiday Inn in Aiken, South Carolina.  I ordered a patty melt every week.  They still lived in North Augusta so it was a quick commute for both of us.   The memory of those lunches is a treasure.  Mostly we just shot the bull, talking about football and family.  On some occasions, we delved deeper.

            Eventually, Mother and Dad moved into a retirement home in Darlington, an hour and a half drive in each direction from where we now live in Columbia.  They no longer had a car, and I could not make the trip weekly.  I went as often as I could, sometimes by myself, sometimes with my entire family, and sometimes with one of my daughters.

            Dad’s health got better when they moved into the Bethea Home, then it got worse, and then, without much warning, after a bout of pneumonia, his heart gave out and he died.  I was not with him when he died, but I was grateful for the times we had together.  No regrets.

            Mother lived several more years at the Bethea Home, and I continued to visit her regularly.  Jenna was grown and married, but Julie and I often went together to visit her Grandma.  Mother also died when I was not with her.  She had gone into the hospital in Florence, and my brother and I visited her, but since she was in ICU, they sent us home at night.  Middle of the night visits were not allowed.  Though we arrived at the appointed time the next morning, 7 a.m., Mother had died about 30 minutes before we drove in from Columbia.

It would have been nice to be with each of my parents at the time of their deaths, but it did not happen.  You can’t script death. 

            As a pastor, I have seen a lot of remorse when someone dies, especially when there are broken relationships, unhealed wounds and unresolved guilt.

I am grateful that my relationship with my parents was up-to-date and that there was no unfinished business left over to complicate the natural course of grief.   I love my parents, and miss them.

Their anniversary was November 7.  Daddy was a Veteran, so November 11 always stirs up some reminiscence.  Sadness and sorrow.  But no anguish or angst.  No regrets.

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Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sight-Skipping and Investing in Relationships: Days 13 and 14: Ottawa, Canada

            After Quebec City, I didn’t exactly begin to return home, but I no longer kept moving farther away.  I drove across 6 hours worth of Canada to see my friends Doug and Meredith Ward in Ottawa, Ontario.  Ottawa is the capital of Canada.  Last time I visited there, 18 years ago, Doug took me to see an hour of the Canadian Parliament in session.  They behaved as badly as our Senators and Representatives in Washington, DC.

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            The reason I drove six hours across a small portion of Canada—which is a very big country—was to see friends I don’t see very often.  Almost 40 years ago, in Louisville, Kentucky, at a very fine graduate school, Doug, Meredith, Sally and I became friends. Canada is a long way from South Carolina, so we don’t see each other very often.  Once upon a time, they came to Columbia, South Carolina, to visit us with their three daughters:  Lydia, Lauren and Meghan. 

 

Who can explain rapport, bonding and connection when it happens?

 

            What I have discovered over the years is that relationships of all kinds require work:  marriage, parenting, being a son or daughter, being a friend, networking wherever you are employed. 

 

Good vibes with another human may happen when you least expect it, but moving from acquaintance to friendship or meaningful interaction requires work.   Phone calls.  Lunch if possible.  Date night with your spouse.  Time together.  My Dad and I each used to drive 45 minutes to meet for lunch on Fridays.  When he died, I grieved for losing him, but I did not have to grieve for being a bad son.

 

            So, even if you can’t get together more than once a decade, make the effort and do it.  That is what I did.  I drove to Ottawa, Canada, to see Doug and Meredith.  This time, we skipped the sights of Ottawa.  We sat in their sunroom, relaxing together, and drank hot tea and ate cheese and cereal and barbeque and fruit for most of two days.  We talked.  We laughed.  We were like spigots that were open at full volume trying to force out all the verbiage that had been stored up for years.  I took a couple of walks just to wind down. We went to church together on Sunday.  Even their daughter Lydia, who still lives in Ottawa, came by with her husband Kevin and children to visit for a while.  I loved our time together.  Who knows when we will all see each other next, but I predict we will.  I am grateful for relationships.  They require time, energy and effort, but so does anything that has value.

 

            I can’t think of anything more valuable—in my life—than being surrounded by people whom I love and who love me.  Here is to skipping sights occasionally and spending time in conversation with friends!

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Categories: Family, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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