January 10, 1988…

We left our little duplex a little late in the evening. I may have left work early that evening. It was a Saturday and I was working second shift, 3 pm to 1am, in a juvenile detention in Olathe, Kansas. The duplex we were renting was also in Olathe, and although it was just a five to ten minute drive from work, when you are a young couple expecting your first child close to the expected delivery date, you don’t want to take chances. The HMO we were on from my work, only would allow us to deliver in a hospital they prescribed, and that was Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, a 30 minute drive from Olathe. When she started to feel pretty uncomfortable, she called the HMO nurse-line, to see what we should do. They suggested we go ahead to the hospital.

I remember it being a clear, bitterly cold night, which isn’t surprising, because that is the rule in Kansas City in January. As we drove through the night, there was a calm coziness between the two of us. This should have been our first hint that the baby wasn’t ready to be born yet. Calm and labor do not generally hold hands as we were doing as we drove. Labor kicks calm aside and demands urgency. It shouts its intentions, and gives orders like a Marine drill sergeant, with pointed direction and not a little cursing. Upon arrival at the hospital, Greta’s pains were growing, and we approached the emergency room arrival desk not in a state of panic, but of annoyance about the usual bureaucracy. We should have known by our relative patience that we would eventually be sent back home to wait for sharper labor pains. Hospital staff must know the signs of real labor by how loudly the parents yell at them.

Even though we didn’t show the signs of real labor, she was admitted, and taken to an examining room. When the attending physician checked her cervix, he reported that although her body was getting ready, she still had a long way to go. The physician suggested that she start walking around the hospital corridors to try and encourage the process. So we began to walk…and walk…and walk… When they check her again, they suggested that she be released to go home and get some rest. “The pains will wake you up!” A nurse told us. Well…actually, the pain wouldn’t let her GO to sleep… although the fact that we had a water bed with the lack of support couldn’t have helped…let alone the effort it took a VERY pregnant woman AND her young husband to get her out of the bed exacerbated her discomfort, as well…we eventually found what should have been a comforting panic. We were persuading the nurse-line staff, too. Our repeated calls signified that our suburban politeness was cracking, and we were entering the primal evolutionary state of reproducing, social-skill Neanderthals, that all first-time parents devolve into with their first child. We were eventually “invited” back to the hospital.

The second trip was much less calm, and exponentially quicker. However, once she was examined, we learned that her cervix had only dilated to a 3. We needed to get to 10.

Crap….

It was as if her body didn’t want to expel this new person she’d been protecting for nine months into the world. Her body became schizophrenic, with one set of natural urges providing a courageous push, while another set providing a protective pull. So we waited for the push-urge to win out…and I did what any new husband and father does: whatever she says. I remember massaging her back as she turned on her side, with the regular amount of assorted cords attached to her body. My hands and arms began to ache from the kneading of her muscles. Wisely, I decided to keep this discomfort a secret… I think most fathers know to keep their mouths shut in such an occasion, while watching the physical travail of the mother of their child. The idiots who do not, deserve whatever they receive…

Several other pictures are captured within the recesses of my mind:

Her family standing in the hallway of the hospital…

The pushing…

The crowning of the baby’s head…

The late arrival of the HMO physician, who almost had to dive to catch the kid…

Her mother, who we agreed could watch the birth because she had never seen one, who had to quickly sit down because she got light-headed due to the excitement…

Holding the baby boy for the first time…

Excitedly calling my family with the news…

The sight in the hallway of Greta’s best friend and her husband with his stupid sunglasses perched on top of his head…

The naming: Baird Conrad Williams. The first name chosen in honor of my childhood friend, and best man in our wedding; and the second taken from my paternal grandfather: Eli Conrad Williams.

Eventually taking the baby home snuggled in his yellow, arctic onesie covered by layers of blankets in the HMO, borrowed car seat…

…and the melancholy reminder that my father would never know this child and this child would never know his wonderful grandfather. I would be his only tie to his heritage from my side of his family. Although I couldn’t have known it then, we would have only a hand-full of opportunities for him to be in contact with my side of the family over the next twenty-five years. At the time, I mourned a loss that he would never fully understand: the loss of his knowing the patient, gentle presence of my father. At the time, I was unsettled as to my own ability to model this important relationship to him.

As to the other concerns over raising a child, neither of us felt burdened with the expectation that we had to be perfect parents. We realized, probably for the first time, that all parents will screw up, and the next generation will have to find their way through the maze of these faults. What did concern me, was the capability to financially provide for this child. And to live out my values in such a way as to invite him into them.

While he might have missed the opportunity to experience my family, he was granted a wonderful opportunity to develop the traditions of his mother’s side of the family. Many of these traditions and values were shared by both sides:

Learning that continues throughout a lifetime…

Loving each other during hard times…

Caring about issues, and acting in ways to support the community…

Courage to take risks…

The love of music…

The adrenaline-rich joy of performance…

As I have watched him grow, I have seen these values play themselves out in his life. But I have also seen wisdom grow within him that is his own. He shares with me, and the men of my family, a propensity to be quiet about difficulty, and to just take on the responsibility himself to figure things out, then take action. As I think about it, I see the same quality in Loy, his maternal grandfather, and Scott, his step-father. Maybe this is a quality that is especially embraced by masculine culture:

The masculine demand to keep your mouth shut when it hurts, and don’t ask for help…

Oh…

wait…

that probably is the dysfunctional side of self-reliance, against which every man must guard, lest he become isolated in the toxic mix of shame and pride. The more positive side is: don’t shrink from, nor side-step necessary pain, but take responsibility for your actions, ask for help when needed, and give it to others when asked. Although these are not JUST masculine values, they are certainly ones that I have seen in the men surrounding Baird as he grew up, and notice a lack of in many men of younger generations.

My son has become a man…a good man.

A loving husband.

A gifted scholar and musician.

A trustworthy employee.

A wise steward of his finances.

An astute judge of priorities.

Not only am I proud of him, I am impressed by him.

Happy birthday, Baird Conrad Williams!

Fatherhood….2012…

Father’s Day is always a little poignant for me. This is especially true this year, since I am several states away from my children, and my own father has been dead for 27 years. My father’s absence is always weird. Dad was a good man. He was a wonderful blend of masculinity and tenderness, with a touch of shyness worked in. One of the pictures in my mind that I have of my dad is very masculine, and one could even say a little foolhardy.

Our family would spend fairly significant periods of time with my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Melvin. They lived in the country. Specifically in the high plains region of Southwest Kansas and Southeast Colorado. Aunt Phyllis was my dad’s sister. In my early childhood, they lived near Campo, Colorado; a tiny burg on the road between Springfield, CO and Boise City, OK. The major source of economic vitality was dry-land farming, and the creative adaptability of farmers in a land where rain was scarce. Going to Campo was always an adventure for me. For my parents, it was a time of reconnecting with family, but also of joining in the hard work of farm living. Uncle Melvin was a custom harvester. He would follow the ripening grain from the south to the north, and cut grain for farmers from Texas to the Dakotas. The whole family would join him as they became a caravan of trucks pulling: a travel trailer (their summer home), a trailer with the combine on it, a short school bus which was a combination crew’s bunkhouse for the summer as well as tool shed, and a pickup pulling a trailer designed by Uncle Melvin to carry fuel as well as the cylindrical “head” which would be attached to the front of the combine after it was unloaded and ready to harvest the grain.

Intermittently, my family would go with Phyllis and Melvin for at least part of the harvest trek. Dad and Melvin worked well together. Dad would drum up business when he wasn’t driving truck, and Melvin worked in the field. Melvin was always a hard charging spirit. His ethic in life was, “No matter how fast the sign says, you can ALWAYS take the curve at least 20 mph faster.” Melvin also was always up before 7 am, and wanted eggs and bacon for breakfast. That meant that Phyllis needed to be up at LEAST as early… a habit she wasn’t nearly as happy about. Mom would help Phyllis cook when we were in harvest. Life was hard work, during long days; sometimes stretching late into the darkness, when the forecast was for rain. The harvest HAD to be brought in.

However, life wasn’t always just hard work, though. Sometimes, play would spontaneously erupt at random times. And this is where the picture of my dad comes in. Melvin owned a 1969 “Avocado-puke” green Chevy Impala. He was notorious for driving fast down the dirt roads of the country with a rooster tail of dust flying behind; when suddenly, he would veer off the road, through the ditch, and into a winter wheat field in pursuit of a coyote. Melvin didn’t hate coyotes, it was just his sport… it was a game. There WERE times, however, when we would go jack rabbit hunting in the same car… in wheat fields…. at night… with no light other than the headlights of the car. One night in particular, I was along for the ride. The picture I remember of my dad is of him seated on the right, front fender of the car… just above the headlight, with a .22 caliber rifle in his lap, desperately trying to hang on while Melvin sped across an open field of short, winter wheat. Every so often, when the lights shine on a jack rabbit, they will stop running in their zig-zag pattern, stand straight, and still because they are blinded by the light. My dad would then lift the rifle to his shoulder, take aim, and fire. When he hit it, and if it was a kill shot, we would put the rabbit in a burlap sack, to take it home for dog food. Once, dad’s shot only wounded the rabbit. After considerable begging from me, I was allowed the final “kill” shot. I approached the screaming rabbit to within a couple feet, pulled the trigger, and heard the muffled “woompf” as the bullet went through the rabbit and entered the earth beneath. I’m not sure what I imagined I would feel after the killing, but I remember being surprised by how sickened and sorry I felt. I only killed one other animal for sport with a gun, and after the second, determined that I didn’t want to do it anymore. It just didn’t seem fair to me to callously take an animal’s life. I have no problems if others hunt, if they use it for food, but I have no desire to do it myself.

I remembered this picture of Dad a couple weeks ago, and saw it through adult, city eyes. “What were they thinking?” I remember saying. As I began to think further, though, it occurred to me that my father was exhibiting some very masculine qualities to me, his young son.

The Importance of Taking Risks:

Whether in play, business, or life; it is a thoroughly masculine quality to willingly take a risk. Risk doesn’t deny the possibility of failure, but the willingness to jump exhibits a confidence to come back from injury or failure, yet relish the rush of not fearing either. As a man, I have learned the value of saying, “What the heck…” At least sometimes…

I have a friend who lives by risk in approaching women. He told me once, “I always go to the prettiest girls in the place. Although many of them turn me down, some of them don’t”

That’s risk, and a certain level of confidence.

The Importance of Fun for No Apparent Reason…

Although this isn’t solely a masculine ethic, men often are made fun of due to their:

“Big boy toys…”

“Man caves…”

…as well as a tendency to watch and play sports enthusiastically.

I think the subtle mockery is misguided. Men need a time when they can lose themselves in wild, energetic fun. I think it helps to lighten us up, so we aren’t so serious. Physical play can also be a place where the tensions of the work week can be released.

I fondly remember my dad and Uncle Melvin acting like kids as we sped through the field at nearly 60 mph. Whatta rush!

The Importance of Valuing Life…

I learned the balance of the natural world in the country. There are predators, and there are prey… they are tied in balance to each other. In fact, all living things are connected in some way in a ecological dance. We forget that to our own detriment. I also learned that the thrill of the hunt can be experienced with a camera instead of a gun. I am not against hunting, I just choose not to do it. However, if I needed to do so for food, I would.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Several years ago, I attended a Promise Keeper’s convention and for the first time heard the term “Father Power.”  The speaker wasn’t introducing some new demand for rights of fathers or any demand at all for that matter. His point was an observation about how important men are in the lives of their kids. This is true whether the man did a good job of being a father or whether he was the most despicable father or whether he was absent completely. I don’t think we men really understand that. In fact, I think we either shrink back from the recognition of Father’s Day, or are hard on ourselves due to our self-perceived imperfections. I do know that fatherhood is far more than shared genetic material. Fatherhood is influencing the next generation in a thoroughly masculine way. Fatherhood is a celebration of the value of healthy masculinity.

My daughter posted on Facebook today that she was thankful for the four fathers in her life: me, her step-father, her grandfather, and her boyfriend’s father. I will admit that it stung at first that I was part of a list… However, after some consideration, I am glad that she has so many positive male figures in her life. That is a good thing. I just have to wrap my heart around it a little…

Fathers know the value of teamwork…

Indulgent Intercessions…Part 18

“Hank…now you KNOW watchin’ that phone isn’t gonna make it ring.” Molly Dresden said in a
tender voice.

“Ok…you caught me.” Hank said sheepishly. Turning to face her, Hank said, “Why doesn’t he call, Molly?”

Sighing heavily and putting aside the book she had been reading, Mary got up from the couch and walked across the living room to where Hank was sitting in his overstuffed chair. Turning, she sat gently into Hank’s lap and put her legs across the arm of the chair. Taking his head into her hands, she pulled it against her chest in a loving hug. “I know, Baby, I know…” She said, and then taking his face into her hands and tilting it up so she could stare into his eyes, she continued, “Do you know how much it makes me love you to see how you love your son?” Kissing him on the forehead, she finished, “You’re an incredible father, Hank Dresden!”

Grabbing Molly by the waist, Hank gave her a deep kiss and then replied, “Thank you, Darlin’…now
get back to your book.” Then placing one arm under her knees and the other around her waist, Hank scooted forward and stood up while holding Molly. Molly screamed playfully and said, “Careful old man…you’ll hurt your back!”

Hank walked over to the couch and dropped her onto it. “That’s for calling me OLD!” He
said, chuckling.

Molly laughed and watched as Hank turned, and pushed through the screen door, which closed with a “thwack”.

Hank stood on the front porch, leaned against one of the pillars of the porch, and looked down the dirt lane which allowed access to his farm. As he stood listening to the early evening sounds of the birds settling in to the trees while the rays of the setting sun left a colorful hue of red and orange in the eastern sky, Hank thought about how much he loved this part of the day. The evening chores were over, dinner was over, and the dishes were in the dish washer. Molly was curled up with her book, which was one of the personal luxuries she carved out time for in a typically full day of life on the farm. So Hank often came outside, in the summer months at least, to think and pray. Every evening since Chris and Mia left, Hank found his gaze constantly returning to that dirt lane. He began the habit of saying an inaudible, short prayer for both of them whenever he looked down the lane. Tonight was no different. Hank thought of when Mia had returned home. He first found out about it when he overheard a conversation in the café in town one afternoon, when he and Molly had stopped in for lunch while making a trip to the local hardware store. Two of the waitresses, who had attended high school with Mia, had been standing at the end of the counter gossiping and giving a biting commentary about why Mia had returned, but not Chris. Hank and Molly’s waitress had just filled Hank’s coffee cup for the second time when they all heard the comment, and their eyes briefly met. The girl’s eyes quickly broke from his and darted toward her co-workers, who were too engrossed to notice Hank and Molly’s presence.

After a particularly vicious comment by one of the girls, the waitress near Hank and Molly turned red and said, “I’m real sorry Mr. and Mrs. Dresden, we are all just really worried about Mia. Sometimes…”

Molly interrupted the girl in mid-sentence, “That’s ok…um…Michelle,” …reading the girl’s name tag…”I’m sure they are just trying to protect Mia by talking about her behind her back…”

Michelle got redder still. “Uh, yeah… I’m sure that’s it…” she had replied with embarrassment.

Hank had then jumped in, “Do you know when Mia got back in town, and where she is staying?” He asked, his face turning red at the need to ask the question.

“Well, she got back in town yesterday, and is with her parents.” Michelle had responded.

Hank and Molly then hurriedly paid the ticket and left.

As he stood on the porch, looking down the lane, he thought about the meeting with Mia and her parents right after the meal in the cafe in town. The conversation with Mia was very awkward. Hank and Molly had asked Mia to be honest with them, and she was. As Mia related the story, tears began to creep down Molly’s face and Hank felt a growing knot in his stomach. Finally, after Mia had finished, Hank said, “I’m sorry, Mia,” in a barely audible voice choked with the knot which had worked its way upwards from his stomach to his throat.

That had been several months ago, and Hank still choked up as he thought about it. In the following months, the new baby had been born: Hope Margaret (Maggie) Dresden. She was a joy to both sets of grandparents as well as her mother, and Mia had no problem finding a babysitter with such a collage of extended family vying for the privelege. Mia was still home with the baby, but planned on getting a job eventually so she could move out on her own. Several members of their little church had offered her a job, including Father Baaken, who said that his memory and his wife required that he hire a secretary. Mia was leaning toward the latter offer.

As the sun continued to sink lower in the East, Hank watched it and eventually noticed the unmistakable, distant sound of a large truck approaching on the main road. Lifting his coffee cup to his lips, he said aloud to himself, “That’s weird… it’s late for a delivery. He must have too heavy a load and is tryin’ to bypass the scales.” This was a fairly common practice when a trucker had just refueled, and knew that the weight of his fuel plus his load would cost him a fine at the weigh station on the main highway because he was over the legal weight. He watched for the tell-tale dust the truck would stir up when it passed where the blacktop ended and the road became a dirt road a mile-and-a-half to the south of his spread. Eventually, Hank heard the engine begin to slow as the truck approached and then crossed onto the dirt portion of the road, and he saw the dust immediately kick up.

“Man,” Hank said aloud as he saw the dust begin to billow, “we could sure use some rain, Lord.” The prayer came unbidden, as if a comment to a close friend standing near.

As he continued to watch the billowing dust and listen to the sound of the engine, he noticed that the engine continued to slow, rather than remain constant on the dirt road. In fact, it sounded as if the truck were slowing down even further. “Wonder if he got a flat…” Hank said with a slight frown on his face. Taking another drink of his coffee, the frown deepened into a scowl as he suddenly realised his coffee was cold. He spat out the mouthful, and then dumped his cup into the bushes next to the steps. As he did so, a young cotton-tail raced from under the bush, dodging this way and that, in an attempt to escape an imagined pursuer. Hank immediately laughed. “I don’t blame ya’. I hate cold coffee, too!” He said to the retreating rabbit.

Suddenly, a movement at the end of the lane captured Hank’s attention, and he turned to see a large truck stopped on the main road, just in front of the entrance to the lane. The passenger side door opened, and a duffle bag was dropped to the ground just before a familiar figure began to slowly emerge from the open door. Hank heard a voice say something into the cab, but he couldn’t hear the message due to the distance from where he stood. Hank straightened to a standing position at the top of the stairs. He watched the figure climb down from the cab of the truck, reach down and pick up the duffle bag, and then stop for a couple moments as the truck began to pick up speed and cover him with dust.

“Chris?” Hank said quietly at first. “Dear God, let it be…”

Hank absent-mindedly pushed his coffee cup in the direction of the porch railing, but let go of the handle while the cup was half-way on the top railing, and the cup immediately toppled onto the concrete steps and shattered at his feet. Ignoring the shards of pottery at his feet, Hank jumped off the porch in one bound, swinging his arms wildly… “YES!” He screamed while in mid-air. As soon as his feet touched the ground, Hank spun around in his best touchdown dance with knees pumping, and arms thrust straight up in the air, screaming, “YES! YES! MY SON!” Taking off at a dead sprint, Hank let out a long, loud, “Wah-hooooooo….” as he sprinted down the dusty lane.

At the other end of the lane, Chris stopped walking as he saw his father’s joyful dance and retreated a couple of steps when he saw him sprinting towards Chris’s position. The color drained from Chris’s face in direct proportion to the closing distance between his sprinting father and himself. He prepared himself for what he thought would be his father’s anger at his return, and the poverty of his situation. Rather than resume his walk towards home, Chris stood stone still, feeling smaller and smaller until he wished he could disappear into the ditch alongside the lane. He spoke in whispered tones to himself the words of regret and remorse he had rehearsed in his mind and heart throughout the long return home. Words which acknowledged how his actions had disrespected his father and mother, the family name, Mia and their child, and even himself. Words which spoke of his understanding that he had forfeited his place as son, but begged for a place as employee. He closed his eyes as he whispered to himself, over and over, and he could hear the heavy footsteps of his father getting louder and louder and louder….

Hank exploded into Chris in a perfect form tackle, lifting him up off the ground completely, lost his balance, and fell; twisting as they fell, so his own shoulder took the full force of the fall. When they both hit the ground, Hank continued to roll over and over again with his son grasped tightly in his arms; his breaths coming in deep, rasping sobs which emanated from a well-spring of joy in his heart.

The two of them ended up in the middle of the road with Hank laying on top of Chris. Looking down at the face of his son, Hank noticed Chris’s eyes closed tightly, and he began to laugh heartily at the sight. When he heard his father’s laughter, Chris opened his eyes to see his father’s eyes squinting with mirth, the corners of his mouth spread wide in an inviting smile, and tears flowing from his eyes, making trails in the dust of the road which covered his face.

“It is SO good to see you, Chris!” Hank said in a voice, choked with emotion.

Hank placed his hands on the ground, rolled off his son, and stood up; towering over his son. In response, Chris turned to the side, and worked his way onto his knees, with hands to his side, and facing his father. Looking down at the dusty road, Chris began to speak…”I am no longer worthy of being called your son. I…I… really need a job… could I work around the farm, for my room and board?”

Hank grabbed his son by the arms and raised him to a standing position. Looking directly into his eyes, Hank said, “Welcome home, Son…” He then put his hands on either side of his head, kissed him on the forehead, and then on each cheek. As he kissed his son, he could taste the grit of the dust from the road and at the taste, Hank immediatly turned his head upwards and began to laugh while pulling his son close in a strong, tight hug.

Releasing his hug, Hank turned to pick up the duffle bag which had been thrown by Hank’s tackle about ten yards away. As he threw the duffle bag over one shoulder, he put his free arm around the shoulders of Chris. “Let’s git some dinner! Are ya hungry?” Hank said as they turned towards the house and began the short walk to the house, and to Molly, who was standing on the porch with her own welcome to a lost son.

As they walked the lane, Chris was almost certain he heard the church bell sounding in the distance.

“It’s good to be home.” Chris said quietly.

“It’s great to have you home….. I didn’t hurt ya, did I?” Hank said, turning his head towards his son.

“I’m good…,” Chris responded. “Actually… I’m great!”

A Forgotten Man Remembers…

The following is a re-post of a story I wrote several years ago. The theme fits the upcoming Christmas season.

Glen numbly watched through the window as Delores carried her battered suitcases down the crumbling concrete stairs of the dilapidated apartment building which they called home. Well, they had called it home until just moments ago. Glen had arrived home early from work to find Delores on the phone with the cab company, her packed bags standing next to the door of the studio apartment. The sight particularly surprised Glen. He originally took half a day off from work and stopped by a florist to surprise his wife with flowers and an early dinner to celebrate the promotion he’d just received at the factory in which he worked. Instead, Delores finished her instructions to Yellow Cab… she was great at giving instructions… and calmly said; “I can’t take this anymore, Glen.” Picking up her bags, she brushed past him and in a weary monotone cast, “The rest of the story is on the table…” over her shoulder as if it were an afterthought. As she walked across the stained carpet of the hallway to the century-old elevator, Glen silently watched six years of marriage enter the elevator. After watching the doors close, he turned to the envelope on the table.

 Finally, breaking through his initial shock, Glen picked up the envelope and exited the apartment. Walking to the emergency stairwell, he mindlessly stumbled down each step to watch through the kaleidoscope of cracks in the front door window as Delores descended the stairs to the waiting cab. The driver met Delores at the bottom stairs, took her bags, and placed them in the trunk as she got in the back seat without a backward glance. Glen pushed through the door and slowly felt his way down the stairs to the sidewalk. As he watched her white, cold profile through the cab’s foggy window, the forgotten bouquet of flowers fell from Glen’s limp hand; the colorful petals a sharp contrast to the grayness of the wintry mix of melting slush on the concrete at his feet.

 As the cab disappeared into the mid-afternoon traffic, he turned and began to walk in the opposite direction Delores had chosen.  Although symbolic of the immediate future of their marriage, Glen had no conscious reason for the decision. He just walked. He walked as if blindly trying to escape the reality of the situation.

 A grieving mind, anxious to make sense of an incomprehensible loss, intermittently begins to rerun the mental tape, hoping to somehow dull the pain by gently interjecting piercing reality into a rapidly retreating consciousness. The resulting experience is an emotionally rock-hard shock that must be crushed by waves of anguish which slowly washes over the rocky surface until the retreating tide pulls away the numbness and leaves the person to either embrace and deal with the pain or run from it further.

 Glen’s mind began this process as his body walked the city streets, expending physical energy to relieve the adrenal rush caused by the event. He walked aimlessly, his body’s behavior a mirror of the confusing thoughts and emotions wandering his psyche. As if to torture him further, his memory began to replay conversations and events that would have given a listening mind a sense of foreboding to the relational starvation that led to this moment. At the time of those conversations, however, Glen had been so absorbed with the immediate struggle to make ends meet and the pressure to show himself a “team player” at work that he had reassured himself of how the success of tomorrow would overshadow their current difficulties. Obviously, Delores hadn’t shared his perspective, or even known about it.

 Although Glen’s mind was trapped in the emotional loop of shock, time was not. After three hours of walking, the warmth of the December sun absorbed by the concrete canyons of the city slowly ebbed into the growing darkness of night. The cold air and his cramping legs were what eventually broke through the crisis induced delirium in Glen’s heart and mind. The sight of an empty bench jerked his attention out of the fog in which it had been hiding. Gingerly sitting down on the bench, he reached to massage his aching shins only to become focused upon a forgotten item. Clutched within his left hand was the white envelope he had retrieved from the table in the apartment.

 Shaking his head, Glen opened the back of the envelope which was soaked from the moisture accumulated by his three hour stroll. Closing his eyes, taking a deep breath and holding it, Glen took the letter from the envelope and unfolded it. Counting to three, he exhaled, opened his eyes and began to read.

 “Dear Glen,

There is no easy way to write the words I must write. Although we have been married for six years, I feel as if you and I are strangers. We shared more of life during the year we dated than at any time since. I have tried to tell you how lonely and bored I am in the dog house we call an apartment. At first, I tried to tell myself that it would get better when you were promoted and we could move into a better neighborhood. We could then have time and money to enjoy each other. But that time never came and I grew tired of waiting. I got tired of dodging the landlord and bill collectors. You were always working when they called or came by, but I was home. I am tired of the game of ‘hide-and-seek’ I have had to play with them. I am alone in dealing with them even when you are here, because you never want to talk about money when you get home. You say you are ‘tired’ and ‘don’t want to be bothered with it…’ Well, I don’t either!

 You are also always tired. I used to want to go out together and do something. But always… you were too tired. Finally, I started to go out during the day while you were at work. I looked for and found a job. I kept the money to do what I wanted. And then, I met someone at work… We worked together. One thing led to another… isn’t that what they say? We began sleeping together on our days off. Eventually, his boss found out about it and threatened to tell his wife if he didn’t put an end to it. His boss then fired me.

 That was six weeks ago. Yesterday, I found out that I am pregnant. I will not put you or a child through living in this dump with three persons, related only by marriage and mistakes. I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I do know that I am going home. Mom and Dad will know what to do…

 I’m sorry…

 D.”

 Glen found himself mentally arguing each point in the letter until he read about the secret job. The shocked numbness then began to creep back over his consciousness. This time, however, anger stopped its spread. He closed his hand into a fist, crumpling the corner of the letter and envelope. He then began an audible and angry defense of himself to the woman who had betrayed his hard work and sacrifice.

 “How dare she complain about our life? She was the one that wanted to get married so soon. I wanted to wait until I could get a little money set aside. Besides, I work like a dog! Does she think I like working double shifts? Especially at this job! I hate it! But, I can’t find anything else that pays more. She has always wanted more, more, more…

 Well… now she’s done it. She got knocked-up by some management jerk looking for a skirt on the side. My boss is just like him! Serves her right! Just let ‘Daddy’ pay her medical bills. She always said I didn’t do things like ‘Daddy’ did anyway. Go live with ‘Daddy,’ Delores!”

 Just then, a sound stopped his bitter tirade. At first, he thought it was a passing stranger. Looking around, he instead noticed that the bench upon which he’d been sitting was resting beside the front lawn of an old cathedral. Set up in the middle of the snow-covered lawn was a life sized, well lit nativity scene. The characters of the scene were cut from plywood and elaborately painted in appropriate adornment. A rustic stable had been painstakingly nailed together, stuffed with hay, and lit by a fluorescent light wedged in the ceiling. The entire scene was lit by large floodlights set at angles on either side of the crèche.  On the top of the massive bell tower, a brilliantly lit star cast a striking pose against the cityscape. As Glen took in the picture in front of him, he once again heard the sound which originally had distracted his angry tirade. Listening intently, he sorted through the common sounds of the early evening metropolis surrounding the church grounds.

 “Was it… no, that’s a cab.”

 “How about… nah, two guys arguing over a parking space.”

 “Well… what about… Yeah, that’s it… but, it can’t be! Is that… a baby?”

 Suddenly, Glen noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye. Shifting his gaze towards the movement, he noticed that both the movement and the noise seemed to be coming from the stone manger, overflowing with hay, in the center of the nativity stable.

 “Could that be…? NO! That’s impossible. No one would put a live baby in a nativity scene in twenty degree weather!”

 Standing up, Glen began to venture into the snow in order to get a better view of the child in the manger. As he closed in on the scene, his progress slowed to a hesitant, step by step, investigation.

 “He doesn’t seem to be crying… In fact… Yes, yes… He’s cooing and laughing and seems to be playing with his feet. Where IS his mother? The night is so cold and he seems to be dressed only in some… dirty cloths.”

As Glen’s mind began to wind through the numerous possibilities of the child’s origin, his anger began to rise.

 “What kind of a person leaves a baby out in this weather to freeze and die?”

 The closer Glen came to the makeshift cradle, the more intent his focus was on the child. As he got close enough to touch the child, a rational, compassionate thought crossed his mind. Kneeling in the snow, Glen removed his light jacket and covered the baby with it, tucking the sides into the hay of the manger.

 “It’s not much, little fella’. But it’s the best I can do right now.”

 To his amazement, as he removed his hands from the manger, he noticed that the child and even the surrounding stable were unusually warm. But before he could investigate the source of this unnatural warmth, a strong male voice broke through Glen’s focus on the child.

 “Isn’t he a beautiful child?”

 Due to the close proximity and strength of the voice, Glen unconsciously flinched to the right, raising his left arm as a defense against an imagined blow and then leaning on the right hand which he plunged into the snow for balance. Instead of an attack, Glen turned to see a kind, bearded face leaning down to see the baby and speak to him as well. The man’s eyes were kind and noticing Glen’s reaction bore a humorous twinkle. The face was amazingly young.  Before Glen could respond or even fully react, the man spoke again.
 

 

“I’m always surprised at the warmth and joy in his tiny laugh.”

 As Glen’s perplexed gaze rested on the man, he noticed how the man was looking adoringly into the laughing face of the child. Unable to resist, Glen turned to see the child’s bright eyes and toothless smile searching the faces of both men staring down into the manger. In spite of himself, Glen began to chuckle.

 “Yes sir, he certainly is one-of-a-kind.”  The stranger continued.

 As Glen once again looked at the man, to his astonishment, he realized that the kind man was dressed in some sort of long, flowing garment. The type and style of garment was what got Glen’s attention, for it seemed old and possibly mad by hand. The man wore an outer robe which may have been made of wool, at least the color and texture looked like it. As the man leaned down to speak to Glen, he could see that the man wore a thinner garment underneath, possibly made of cotton. The outer robe also had a hood which was presently lying back on his shoulders. As Glen knelt in the snow and before he could bring himself to question the bearded young man about himself or the child, the man kindly asked:

 “What brings you to the manger, friend?”

 Glen was fully prepared to answer the man’s question with a question of his own about where the mother of the baby was and why the man and child were in the freezing cold when there was shelter and warmth all around them. Instead, as he withdrew his now frozen hand from the snow and unsteadily stood to his feet, Glen felt the letter Delores had written him fluttering in his hand. Looking down at the smeared ink, reminded him again of the anguish of his disintegrating life once again. The pain fell over his heart, mind, and countenance. Rather than question the kind stranger, Glen began to pour out his own desperate tale, once again feeling an inner hollowness now filling with bitterness and grief from unfulfilled expectations. The deeper he got into his story, however, he felt a growing reassurance that he couldn’t explain. After the final details of his story had spilled from his lips into the unblemished show, Glen felt the hand of the young man upon his shoulder, guiding him to a hay bale near the baby in the manger. After retrieving another bale for himself from deep inside the stable, the fellow sat at the opposite end of the manger from Glen, near the baby’s head. Looking lovingly at the innocent child and stroking his dark curly hair, the man began to speak in tones so low that Glen had to lean forward to catch each word.

 “Before this child came into my life, I was a young man in love in much the same way you must have been at one time. A woman slipped into my dreams nightly and stole my heart one piece at a time. It may sound strange to you but she was a woman of great nobility. A woman described by Solomon at the end of his Proverbs. While I was not a man of great means, I was a talented and ambitious carpenter. Every project I took on was built with a commitment to excellence. I labored so the work of my hands, carved with my name, would last long after I had died and even after my children had died. I worked so generations would know my name and my work. I was proud! And yet I was alone, until this wonderful, beautiful woman walked shyly by my shop.

 Her dark eyes flashed above the veil which hid the curve of her mouth, the rise of her cheeks, and the softness of her neck. One look at her and the next blow of my hammer took a course of its own. As I jerked the smitten finger into my mouth with a piercing yell, I am sure I saw the veil about her face tremble, concealing the smile and laughter behind it. When I was finally able to stop my apprentice from his own laughter at my expense, I sent him to follow her and find who her father was.

 As with, I am sure, your own courtship, a simple interest led to further meetings until we were pledged to marry. In my land, to be pledged to another was a very serious event. It meant that you held yourself from all other romantic associations with any other except the one to which you were betrothed. I had no trouble obeying this tradition for not only was my Beloved beautiful, she was everything I had ever wanted in a wife and mother for our children. Her character was strong due to her deep faith in Jehovah and His provision for His people. Looking toward the future gave me confidence and hope for our lives together. I began to dream of the sons I would have to work in the shop with me, making yolks for farmers throughout the land that would be used by generations of oxen and planters.

 Suddenly, these plans and dreams came crashing down. I remember it vividly. Mary came to me one morning as I worked in the shop. Calmly and confidently, she told me that an angel had visited her in the night to say that she was going to have a baby. She said that she’d asked the very question that first burst into my mind, ‘How can she have a baby when she is still a virgin?’

 Actually, if I were honest, my first thoughts were not to be directed to an angel. In fact, my questions had nothing to do with whether she was a virgin or not. I had already jumped to, ‘How could you do this?’ and ‘Who is the father?’ My feelings were a self-righteous uprising against her unquestionable guilt and my unquestioned innocence. The noise of my rage drowned out her telling of the angel’s final prophecy that the child would ‘save His people from their sins.’ How ironic that I, the man that would be called the child’s father by generations of doubters, would be the first to doubt.

 Looking back, I must say that the second miracle Jehovah ordained was to stop my anger from becoming action. Our law would have justified my harsh response towards Mary, but Jehovah cushioned me as I fell from the height of the pedestal upon which my dreams had placed me. For some reason, my feelings of the need for self-vindication were increasingly mixed with feelings of love for Mary. I began to think of how people would treat her in our town. I understood how she would be shunned by the other women of our village when she approached the well for water. I also imagined some of the vicious women would physically harm her if I looked the other way. And the men… the men would think that if she were pregnant without a husband, then she could be any man’s passing pleasure.

 Because of these thoughts, I at first decided that she would be treated better if she were to go out of our region. She had some family living in Jerusalem, some distance south of our home town. It was a large town and Mary could blend in with the many women there. ‘There were probably other women in just the same condition she was in,’ I reasoned. Besides, one of her relatives was a priest, and she was in dire need of the help only Jehovah could give. So, we send Mary, pregnant with this child, to Jerusalem to stay with Elisabeth and Zechariah, the priest.

 While she was there, Jehovah not only reaffirmed His word to her, He also spoke further to me. During the day, I could kind of block out the thoughts of Mary and the child by working in my shop. At night, however, my sleep was consistently disrupted by dreams which shook me to my core. My work and appetite dropped off as I could think of nothing else except how this innocent baby would make it in the world without a father. If adulterous women were treated badly by people in our town, bastards were not treated much better.

 I started to ask myself what kind of a future this child would have without a heritage to give his some standing in the village. How would Mary and he make a living? How fair was it to this little child that the sins of others should be taken out upon him?

 Somewhere within these questions, a spark of love started to smolder within the lonely tender of my heart. At first my love for Mary began to turn my mind’s direction, and then my love for the child began to turn it further until…

One night, I fell into a particularly deep sleep. As my mind drifted into an unconscious abyss, it was savagely jerked into bright focus by an angel. Amazingly, the angel called my by name and family line, and then said something even more surprising. He said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ With this phrase still echoing in my head, I awakened and began to make plans to bring Mary home. I believed her story, but most importantly, I believed in the child. You see, this child changed my life. He completely rearranged my plans for the future. But, thankfully, as he grew, he traveled alongside me in my life. We built things together when he was old enough. It’s funny, those days seem to be forgotten by everyone, except me… and, of course, him. He is a wonderful carpenter. What he builds lasts forever.

 So, Glen, maybe you have come to the manger to find that the love of this child can change the way you see your circumstances. I understand how you feel, friend.

Here… why don’t you come closer to the child? Pick him up! There, doesn’t his warmth go to your very depths?”

 As Glen gathered the baby into his arms, a sense of peace began to settle over his wounded soul as he looked deep into the smiling, innocent eyes.

 A sharp voice brought Glen’s attention to a man dressed in overalls, standing a few yards away.

 “Hey mister, I said… are you ok? Ya don’t need a truck with rubber walls do ya?”

 Glen responded, “Uh, no. I was just talking to…”

 As Glen looked down into the smiling eyes of the child, he found, instead the unseeing, glass eyes of a plastic doll wrapped in his light jacket. Glancing sharply towards his new friend, he instead found the elaborately painted plywood cutout of a forgotten man. Glen gently placed the doll in the manger and once again turned his attention to the bystander who had taken a few strides through the snow towards the crèche and Glen. As Glen approached, the man stuck out his hand in greeting. Glen instinctively reached his own hand towards the man’s, clasped it, and looked into his smiling face.

 “Isn’t he a beautiful child?” The overall clad man asked.

 After stepping away from the manger, Glen noticed how icy the wind felt. As he put the light jacket back on, Glen began to mumble a reply, but the man’s next question stopped him as cold as the December wind.

 “What brings you to the manger, friend?”

 “I’m nnnnot sssure, bbbut I think I’m about to fffind out…”

 The words were punctuated by the chattering of Glen’s teeth. As he stood shivering in the snow, the man in the overalls placed an arm around his shoulders and began to gently guide him towards a side door of the cathedral.

 “Well son, why don’t we talk about the child and why you’re here, over a cup of coffee, OK? By the way, I’m Joe and I work on the custodial crew here…”

 

As Glen and Joe, the custodian, entered the door of the church; a very observant onlooker might have seen a slight, but very distinct smile part the painted beard of the plywood cutout of the forgotten man beside the manger… and a twinkle in the eyes of the child.

A Son’s Memories and A Father’s Reflections…

I have become a fan of  “Deadliest Catch,” a reality TV look at one of the toughest professions in the world, crab fishing off the coast of Alaska, near the Aleutian Islands. The show has become quite popular, as have the captains and crews of the four or five ships whose wintry adventures are chronicled every week. One such boat is the Cornelia Marie, piloted by Captain Phil Harris, with two of his sons, Josh-the elder and Jake-the younger, as part of his crew. Captain Phil appears to be the quintessential captain: tough, a talented skipper, hard-charging, hard-smoking, formerly hard-drinking, divorced. He certainly looks the part, too, complete with tattoos, mullet, and fierce eyes. But inside the man lives a tender heart expressed only intermittently. Captain Phil’s body shows the effects of the stress of battling Nature’s extremes on the Bering Sea, as well as the ongoing need to make their share of the fleet’s quota of a variety of species of crab taken from the Sea. Running a business from the seat of his pants while riding a watery rollercoaster that can take your life, your crew’s lives, and/or your livelihood will make a man old very quickly. Captain Harris battles the elements, business pressures, family issues, crew politics, and a myriad of other concerns with a body that is showing the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle…. and he knows the eventual end scenario if not the practical events which will lead to the end of his life. He feels it coming, nonetheless.

The final episode of Season 6 brings about a perfect storm of events which tips Phil over the edge and into the downward spiral headed to tragedy. Phil’s youngest son, Jake, has been a crewmember on the Cornelia Marie longer than his older brother, Josh. The show has told the story of Josh’s arrival onboard as new crewmember, and Jake’s badgering of his older brother who has now entered into Jake’s domain. Their relationship titters back and forth in sniping comments, several times nearly coming to blows. Although Josh is larger, similar to his father, Jake is made of the thinnest steel, seemingly unbreakable. Jake is ruthless, at times, in his critical assessment of his brother’s ability as a fisherman. And honestly, fishing doesn’t come as naturally to Josh as it seems to for Jake. However, Josh has grown through each season. He’s gotten better at his job and shown leadership. Jake, however, has been slipping of late. He seems preoccupied. The end of Season 6 shows the reason for his preoccupation: Jake is an addict. Phil finds out when several pain pills disappear from a prescription he needs for his deteriating physical condition. He confronts Jake in a fiery wrath worthy of  an old school skipper of ships powered by wind,  mast and sail. Phil told him that upon return to port, Jake would be put off the ship and he never wanted to see him again. Rather than return his father’s fire, Jake breaks. He confesses, maybe for the first time, that he is sick. “Whaddya mean SICK?” his father screams. Jake turns away from the camera, leans into his father’s ear, and softly confesses…”I am an addict…”

Phil’s demeanor changes. He understands this. Phil is a recovering alcoholic. He shares his son’s sickness. So Phil decides to cut the season short, and return to port early. Once they return to port, Phil tells Jake, “You need to go to rehab.” He says it not only as a dad to a son, but also as one addict to another. Through the rest of the cruise, father and son keep to themselves. Captain Phil quickly begins to physically unravel. His leg bounces uncontrollably as he sits at the helm, guiding the ship, chain-smoking cigarettes. His hands shake too. We, the watchers, can see what will come next.

When the Cornelia Marie reaches port, they unload their load of crab, and a crewmember searches the ship for Captain Phil, so he can sign off on the final count. Unable to find him, he heads for the captain’s quarters, where he finds the door closed and no response. The crewman opens the door and finds Phil lying on the floor, unable to move. Captain Phil has had a massive stroke.

If you are interested in more of the story, I am including a link:

 http://popwatch.ew.com/2010/06/30/deadliest-catch-recap-phil-stroke/

Father and son relationships are so subjective. I have no other perspective than my own as both son and father. My relationship with my father was a positive. Although it was tragically cut short when Dad was killed in a truck accident while I was a college student, the power of his influence runs deep in my recollection. So deep, in fact, that I’m only aware of it when I recognise him in some of my own mannerisms. Dad had a sweet, quiet soul. Although many people would not have seen his quietness, he was by nature, a shy person who overcame his shyness to preach to thousands of people across North America as an evangelist or pastor. People generally liked my dad. In fact, he was a very likable person not prone to promote nor maintain controversy, generally. He definitely had his own opinions, but saw no reason to debate without reason. Dad allowed people to be who they were, and left them in the hands of God to shape their belief system. I respect that and have tried to emulate it.

As a child, I certainly saw Dad as the voice of God. What he preached, I took as gospel. He lived his life in accordance with the scriptures, too. He loved God and loved others. Dad knew how to work hard. Growing up in the Dirty Thirties of Depression-era Southeastern Colorado and Southwestern Kansas, Dad’s family knew poverty and deprivation. However, they never allowed difficulties to bring a spirit of complaint to their relationship with God. Dad accepted life and adapted to it. That’s not to say he didn’t have times of questioning. He did. But I never felt that his questions pulled him away from faith in the goodness of God nor the value of people.

When I was in junior high, I began to rebel against some of the lifestyle issues our tradition of faith taught. I experimented with alcohol and tobacco. My language changed, too. However, I tried to hide my experimentation from my parents, not in fear of my father, but out of respect. Looking back, I suspect the most respectful thing for me to have done was to be honest about it. By so doing, I would have been showing respect to him as well as to myself. Maybe we could have discussed what I was doing, and more importantly, why I was doing it. While the alcohol experimentation hasn’t really affected my life, and I have no qualms with having a beer now and then, tobacco has been a major problem in recent years. Tobacco addiction is hard. Easy to start, hard to quit. We could have discussed that.

While I wouldn’t say my relationship with Dad was never close, it certainly was very good. I never expected Dad to be anything than who he was. He quietly went about living his life. It seemed the closer you would get to something he felt intimately about, the quieter he would get. He didn’t say “I love you,” often, but I knew he did. He didn’t say, “I’m proud of you,” although I knew he was. That was Ok… it was Dad! I suppose I could spend my life bitching and moaning because my father wasn’t more vocal about his feelings for me, but why expect him to step out of character? That was his personality. It’s good enough for me.

I remember when I felt like my father first treated me like a man. We were discussing a book we had both read, and he brought up a point which was somewhat controversial in our faith tradition. He then turned to me and asked, “What do you think?” I gave my opinion, which was different than how our faith tradition had tought, and Dad agreed with me. Somewhere deep within my consciousness, I felt validated as a thinking adult. A pretty cool day. Our family has always discussed ideas. In fact, I admire both my parents because they never quit growing and learning. I want to emulate that as well.

I lost my dad at a very fundamental time in life. I was beginning to make decisions that would affect the rest of my life. It was just the time where the parent/child relationship changes to adult to adult. As a man grows older, having your father around so you can ask questions is important. Experiencing life helps you gain perspective as to how your parents lived as adults. The old adage, “The older I get, the smarter my father gets,” is appropriate. I missed the opportunity to get to know Dad, man-to-man. I still miss that. Don’t even ask how much I hate it that my children don’t know my father, now they are becoming adults. I guess I am the mirror through which they see him. I’m sorry, but it seems a poor reflection.

I miss my dad.

I miss his quiet strength.

I miss the unconditional affirmation he added to my life without saying a word.

A Father’s Advice…

At Greta’s suggestion, a friend sent me the following email:

I am interviewing fathers of daughters of varying ages for this article which is about strengthening relationships between fathers and daughters. I will be interviewing your daughter as well Larry. Greta and Jennifer both insisted that you would be excellent sources . . . Answer as many of these as candidly and openly as possible. If you want to remain anonymous please tell me and I will choose an alternate name for you and there will be no last names used . . .

If you do not want others to view your answers please just copy and paste in another message and send to me under separate cover . . . my email is also fearlessphoenix_kc@yahoo.com

1) Are you or were you close to your daughter? Please explain

2) What do you wish you could change about your relationship with your daughter or wished you could’ve changed if you she’s longer at home?

3) If you could tell your daughter anything in the world what would you tell her?

4) Is there an area of your life where you felt misunderstood by your daughter?

5) What activities do/did make you feel close to your daughter?

6) What is the most vivid memory of your daughter (good or bad?)

7) What is the most valuable life lesson you learned from your daughter (good or bad?)

8) How do you perceive your daughter’s faith or non-faith?

9) What is one question you always wanted to ask your daughter but never felt able to?

10) IS there anything you regret about your relationship with your daughter?

Thank you for your time and consideration . . .

 
My response…
1. Hannah and I are very close now. About 2 years ago, we shared a 30 minute ride every morning when I took her to school. On our daily commute, we listened to her favorite radio station and their morning show. We would kibbitz about the gags, conversation, and music. We laughed and shared unrushed time together. Eventually, we began to talk about… oh, man….. her life, my life, life in general, our family… whatever. We began to cultivate a friendship of sorts. As we have lived together, with just the two of us, our schedules many times miss each other completely, but we still catch up through long conversations or just watch movies together. Our conversations span the gamut from theology to theater. We both have ADHD and understand the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the condition. We are more alike than Baird or Greta, and daily life is just a little easier because of that.

2. I wish our financial condition was better, but we both make the best of what we have. I also wish our family life had been easier. She understands the reasons for Greta’s and my divorce, and why it is best for her mom and dad, but I suppose every divorced parent regrets we couldn’t have given our children the fairy tale ending. However, the four of us have found health through the divorce and are learning ways of relating to each other that are much healthier for all of us.

3. I would tell her how much God loves her just as she is. I would tell her to take her time in relationships with men that will happen later in life. I would remind her to treat herself with respect and learn what type of person she seems to get along best with. I would tell her to learn as much about herself, her strengths, and passions while she is young… that is how God has made her… and then to stay connected as much as possible to her strengths and to partner with people who are strong where she is weak….
But…. I do tell her those things…..

4. I’m not sure where I might feel misunderstood by her. If I did, I’d probably bore her with my explanation.

5. The car rides made me feel close to her. Talks about music and theater and movies, also.

6. When the two of us moved out for the first time, she wrote me a letter telling me how valuable she thought I was. I will NEVER forget that letter. It is in my bible.

7. Hannah does an incredible job of not allowing people’s perceptions get in the way of her trying something she wants to try. She also has done an incredible job of loving both her mother and me when the two of us were seperating.

8. She has a growing faith. As with most people… teens especially… it ebbs and flows. When you grow up in the church, you reach an age where you question why there seems to be a disparity between what is taught and how people live their lives. It usually takes time to realize that you have the same tendencies you scoriated adults about while you were growing up. Eventually, you embrace God as your God, not the church’s God, not your parent’s God, but yours. She is doing that.

9. Why don’t you pick up your clothes when you take them off? Really! AND… What was the best memory you have of our home?

10. EVERY parent has regrets. No parent is perfect. We ALL grow up saying, “I will never….” and end up either doing that thing or something else that drives our kids crazy. I wish I’d been a better provider, but… it is what it is.

There you go Kristi. Before Hannah was born, we were told she would be a 10lb boy. As soon as I saw the baby born, I turned to Greta’s face and said, “There he is!” A kindly nurse corrected, “There SHE is, Dad…” In my head I said, “She?” My hands went cold. “Boys, I know! Girls? I don’t have a clue!” I really had a hard time relating to a daughter while she was younger. I wasn’t afraid to parent, I was just… maybe clueless would be the word. How do girls think? How should girls act? Do you push dolls or are trucks ok? Greta helped…… some…… we’re divorcing, you know, so maybe I didn’t pick up the lessons very well.

If I could tell father’s anything, it would be to listen. I used to say that just about the time you develop the skill to ignore your children’s endless talking is the time you really need to listen. And ask questions. Letting a daughter know you care demands that you ask questions about them and then listen when they answer. Ok, so that’s probably true with sons as well. But with daughters it is imperative. Hug them. Joke with their friends. Be willing to look like an idiot…. they think we are many times anyway, and we ARE many times. Lighten up! Fewer battles, but make the battles you fight the important ones. Help them figure things out themselves. Don’t do everything for them, but protect them ruthlessly. Treat them with respect so they will demand the boys they bring home to treat them the same. Then you won’t NEED the gun.

Thanks for the opportunity, Kristi.

lw