On Community

On a recent vacation, I was driving in Denver and saw out of the corner of my eye the passenger window coming down at a busy intersection. My friend Bob rolls down the window and has a bill crumpled in his hand. He yells out at a gritty, ragged homeless man who is seated but now trying to get on his feet, “How ya doin’? Don’t get up…here, I’ll throw it too you.” And he tosses a crumpled bill at the man’s feet. Bob rolls up the window and I said, “What did you throw?” Bob replies, “A $100 bill.” I told Bob, “You went to heaven and hell in one sentence.”

Bob meets homeless folks on vacation while I take a more vocational tack. My laptop is nearby, the cell phone rings continuously, and texts chime like streaming points in a Bally pinball game. Even within the slower cadence of vacation, the fourth commandment of the Decalogue is being trampled beneath the virtuous feet of vocation.

According to David Brooks writing for the New York Times in an article titled, The Great Affluence Fallacy, “Antisthenes, a Greek cynic philosopher, is cited as one of the first to equate effort with goodness and virtue. He coined the original workaholic paradigm. Antisthenes,

  • Had no feeling for celebration.
  • Was a-musical.
  • Felt no responsiveness to Eros (he said he “would like to kill Aphrodite”)

Mr. Brooks goes on to say, “Leisure does not mean what it once meant. The word leisure came from a Greek word translated into Latin as the word we now use for school. We have lost the meaning of leisure in our rush to perfect our work.”

What’s replaced our traditional idea of leisure is vocation. Our vacations are mild repetitions of our vocations.

Flying back from Denver to Tulsa I glanced over and noticed that Karen was reading a historical book of Summit county Colorado which includes Breckenridge, Silverthorne, and Frisco. Karen is practicing the way of classical leisure, slowing down long enough to learn about the places that we visit.

My daughter and her husband live in the Lohi section of Denver. They are house sitting for a young lady who is spending several months in India training in yoga. They maintain the row style shotgun duplex with a backyard a bit larger than a ping-pong table, in return for lodging and they are also surrogate parents to a couple of rescue dogs, Sunny, a small wispy female, and Trout, a spunky young male. Twice a day, the dogs are walked, and when the leash is in hand and the door knob turns, they growl and turn on each other in a flurry of fur as they engage in a little WWF dog fighting.

Lohi (lower highlands) is an eclectic neighborhood with top shelf restaurants like Root Down, Spuntino, Linger, and the Gallop Cafe. Around the corner is the American Cultures Kombucha Taproom where we enjoyed a sampler of teas with names like Happy Leaf and Rowdy Mermaid. There is a sense here of what John Denver sang about nearly 50 years ago, the Rocky Mountain high of friends sitting around a campfire looking at the Perseid meteor showers on a moonless, cloudless night.

There are churches next to funky bistros and many used bookstores in this lovely old neighborhood with a history going back to the Arapahoe, Shoshones, and Utes, living along the banks of the Platte River hundreds of years ago. Living in the Highlands today is like living atop an archaeological tel, the geography is littered with events and names and people and places.

After the Arapahoe and Shoshone and Utes, the Italians and German and Latinos came. The old churches, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Patrick’s, are beautiful and have absolutely no parking. You park on the street, as best you can. I became adept at parallel parking a Chevy Suburban in this neighborhood which should qualify me for a CDL. There are layers upon layers of history here, new layers added each generation. Now, this neighborhood is experiencing gentrification and is a mixture of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life  and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with a splash of Sixties tie dye and Nineties grunge.

David Brooks writes about the challenges facing young adults like my daughter and son-in-law. He says, “A few years ago, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis came out with a song called “Can’t Hold Us,” which contained the couplet: “We came here to live life like nobody was watching/I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me.” In the first line they want complete autonomy; in the second, complete community. But, of course, you can’t really have both in pure form. This is transformational, but not new. I am unique and yet like everyone else. I am free and yet I still belong. Young folks today are heading, it seems, in the direction of community and neighborhood hospitality, rather than national identity or the borderless digital world.”

Mr. Brooks quotes Sebastian Junger’s book, “Tribe”, which raises the possibility that our culture is built on a fundamental error about what makes people happy and fulfilled. Junger writes about the American Indian and about how they were more communal. “They would have practiced extremely close and involved child care. And they would have done almost everything in the company of others. They would have almost never been alone.” Mr. Brooks goes on to say, “Our institutions can offer only service — not care — for care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another…Maybe we’re on the cusp of some great cracking. Instead of just paying lip service to community while living for autonomy, perhaps people are actually about to change and immerse themselves in local communities.”

 

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Memories from the Class of 1977

I always loved talking to Harry Whittaker. He made you feel better than you had the right to feel about yourself. We played the same position on the football team, wide receiver and cornerback, and during scrimmages, we blocked and pass covered one another. On one particular play from scrimmage, Harry was getting pretty vocal which he was good at, getting in my grill. On the next play I busted him pretty good and split his lip. I felt bad about busting him in the chops. But in typical Whittaker fashion, through the blood streaming from his mouth, he slapped me on the butt, a peculiar habit we boys had which thankfully didn’t carry over to the office, and he said, “Way to hit tata bud…that’s the way we play!”

I remember the last time I saw Harry. We were standing in a pasture in the gathering dusk of a late May evening in 1977, just hours removed from walking across a stage at the Adams Gymnasium in a flat hat while shaking the hand of Dennis Pannel. We talked that night and reminisced and in parting, he wished me well in life and we shook hands. Harry slipped a five-dollar bill into my hand during the handshake, the settling of a bet we had made about some game I can’t even remember now. It was a friendly, spurious bet we had made, maybe the Super Bowl, and I remember refusing payment, saying it was all in good fun. Harry never forgot and his parting handshake was his way of saying you are a good friend and I didn’t forget you.

I also remember the last time I saw Carol Lynn. I don’t remember ever speaking to Carol Lynn Creel before I became her “little brother” in Mrs. Smith’s class. She was beautiful and a pom girl and I was the golfer with unkempt hair and Sansa-belt slacks. But somehow we became friends inside the refuge of Sue Smith’s class. And during the summer of 1977, we were both together somehow on a paddle boat in the middle of Sunset lake paddling around aimlessly and talking about things that people talk about when their entire life lies before them. During our golf game this past weekend, someone said Sunset lake is dried up, but that summer, on that paddle boat with Carol Lynn, it seemed like an endless ocean.

Each of us can write a similar story about these classmates from the College High School Class of 1977 who have left us.

  • Carolyn Adams
  • Kathy Axsom
  • Lonnie Barnhart
  • George Beazer
  • Vicky Bernard
  • Melissa Carver
  • James Cottle
  • Carol Lynn Creel
  • Veronica Cueller
  • Marla Cunningham Wood
  • Lee Hardt
  • Monty Hays
  • John Hernandez
  • Rhonda Ishem
  • Becky Jones
  • Carolyn Landrum
  • Geneva Marshal
  • Cindy Ramsey
  • David Shaw
  • Lynn Sutherland
  • Egynn Thomas
  • Ethie Weaver Radanovich
  • Harry Whittaker
  • Mark Williams

Class of 1977 40th reunion

This past weekend our stories were unpacked from dusty attic boxes in our memory and yet, surprisingly, once the dust is blown away, they are fresh again, renewed by the remarkable magic of human interaction, as conversation and hugs sprout scenes from our salad days like suddenly appearing mushrooms on a misty lawn.

Seven of us played golf Friday and as I watched left-handed Tom Vogt swing, one memory jumped out at me like a grinning leprechaun. One day Tom and I played nine holes and we swapped golf clubs. I played lefty and he played righty, and I felt like a beginner once again. That memory would have stayed locked away without seeing Tom this weekend. That and the memory of three good friends from Limestone Grade School, who all lived on Whipporwill ct, David Staats, Tom, and Tony Hayes.

Memory becomes who we are. We are College High Wildcats, but that is pretty meaningless if it sits in a box in an attic gathering dust. We affirm who we have become by looking back at the experiences that have framed our identity, and the people who have busted our lips and loved us with passion and sometimes with a glorious awkwardness.

We are after all, collectors, dealers in memory. Keepers of time and space. It’s really all we have. Our money doesn’t travel well, our houses need painting, our cars break down, our clothes wind up at Goodwill. But moments in time, that’s the stuff we keep.

Here are the stories and quotes I’m stuffing into my memory box from our 40th reunion.

  • I remember Thomas Benson well, the hard-tackling linebacker for the Oklahoma Sooners in the early 1980’s who later played in the National Football League for nine seasons. He was not at my high school reunion, but I did sit next to his brother at dinner, Allen Benson, (Regina’s husband) a genuinely nice guy, who did play college football for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Allen introduced himself to my wife Karen, and Steve Osborn’s wife, Susan. “Hi, my name is Walter.” Apparently someone had approached Allen and said, “Walter, glad to see you here. Thought you couldn’t make it.” This joke was lost on the two ladies as they didn’t know Walter Reece who once busted my front tooth in 9th grade as we shadow boxed and he forgot his power and cracked my tooth. (Allen looks nothing like Walter by the way) Steve chimed in, “You all look the same anyway.” Can he say that?

 

  • “You OK?” Allen Benson to his wife, Regina Benson, who had a heart attack unbeknownst to them both, and as a result, Regina got no sleep, while Allen would occasionally roll over and ask, “You ok?”, then go back to sleep. The next morning…Allen says, “We had a tough night last night didn’t we?” After the heart attack diagnosis, “I’m gonna take out three of them and then the other two will back down!” Regina Benson to the five health care attendants in the emergency room after they prepped her for a treatment.

 

  • “Please, get up, coach Switzer will kill us.” Tom Vogt telling about the terror of taking out a Heisman running back playing pick-up basketball at OU as Steve Osborn undercuts a 5’11’ guy with cornrows who had taken off from the free throw line to slam dunk. They didn’t recognize Billy Sims who usually had a huge afro, as he sprang back to his feet without using his hands like a Ninja warrior. (Steve seems to struggle with facial recognition)

 

  • “That’s what he just said to me as we were walking into the reception.” Shawna Thill, after they had walked into the Friday reception and I told her what Howard said to me during commencement at the Adams Gym May 1977 while Lt. Governor George Nigh spoke about Pink Floyd and something or other about education and youth of today… “Hey, tata bud, I gotta pee like a racehorse.”

 

  • “He was a good man.” Mike Seals after I told him how much my Dad used to love watching Mike play basketball.

 

  • The Hillcrest Men’s Grill after the golf game Friday, “………………………..” I’ve taken a vow of secrecy, but it reminded me of driving home on the bus after a basketball or football game.

 

  • “I watched 40 years flash before my eyes!” what many people thought when seeing someone they hadn’t seen since May 1977. Actually, several people said this to me.

 

  • “You look exactly the same.” all the people who were lying or talking to Regina or Kathy or Adele

 

  • “Steve, where did you go to college?” Kathy Garrison Hadden to her life-long designated chauffeur, friend, and confidant. Steve’s answer… “OU, just like you…I was in the dorm right next to you.”

The Unfolding Highway…part 2

They don’t make cars like they used to. Once we broke down in the Texas panhandle and instead of getting out of the vehicle, our family road the lift pole all the way up to the ceiling while the mechanic worked on our car as we made sure Greg didn’t open the door and plunge down to the shop floor below. Our throttle chain broke on the New Jersey turnpike in 1975 and Dad rigged the chain to work at low-speed and we limped to a hotel at 10 mph all while throwing toll booth change from the back window when the power window on the front driver side wouldn’t go down. And in Western Colorado we discovered our brakes were gone shortly before we hit a “T” in the road, otherwise, our family of seven would have turned that “T” into a plus sign.

We had some really big cars that allowed sleeping in strange places, the back window for instance and when front wheel drive came along and the drive shaft hump disappeared magically in our Blue Cadillac Eldorado, we slept on the floor in the back without the hump interrupting our spine. And when we did fall asleep, there was the wake up call, the ding-ding when our car ran over the gas station driveway cable triggering the service station attendant to come check our oil and clean our windshields and fill er up with Ethyl or Fred or Lucy. That ding-ding awakened a yearning, a Pavlovian salivation for a Grape Nehi or an Orange Crush in an ice-cold redeemable bottle.

And the food along the byways was memorable. I loved IHOP pancakes and the carousel of syrup spun like the wheel of fortune which always landed on blackberry somehow and there was The Dutch Pantry incident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the worst meal any of us ever ate. I thought they named Stuckey’s because of the pecan pralines behind the checkout display would always get stuck in my teeth. And once we drove off and left Greg at Kip’s Big Boy, he was maybe four at the time, although nobody remembers why. But we did go back and get him. I think we may have been too intent on snagging handfuls of Pearson’s Mint Patties at the register.

But no matter how sweet the vacation, I always enjoyed coming home, crossing the Osage prairie and descending Circle Mountain on highway 60 and seeing the Bartlesville skyline, wishing the view of my hometown lasted a bit longer as we drove into the valley near the airport. I was always proud to come home.

bartlesville skyline.jpgThe one time I came home by myself, in 1976, on my flight back from Orlando to Tulsa, I listened on my headphones to Carly Simon sing, Well That’s the Way We’ve Always Heard it Should Be.

My father sits at night with no lights on, His cigarette glows in the dark.
The living room is still; I walk by, no remark.
I tiptoe past the master bedroom where, My mother reads her magazines.
I hear her call sweet dreams, But I forgot how to dream.
But you say it’s time we moved in together
And raised a family of our own, you and me –
Well, that’s the way I’ve always heard it should be:
You want to marry me, we’ll marry.

Carly Simon sang in a hauntingly beautiful way about parents who had failed to live out the dream. Mom and Dad gave us no sense that marriage was easy. We saw the trials, not just of marriage, but of life. But they taught all five of us to dream. To dream of a time when there will be no tears and relationships will be mended and whole, and it helped to see glimpses of that happiness in our own family, in the spiritual way we were gently nudged to unfold maps with anticipation that the squiggly lines were filled with wonder and adventure. 

Thanks for driving us Mom and Dad! In an age before GPS, when folding a map was still an art form and highways were pathways to magical places, our memories are creased with many amazing and remarkable scenes.

 

The Unfolding Highway…part 1

I remember watching my Dad fold a road map on vacation while driving the highway. It is a lost art and the original texting while driving. Those maps had memory, and if you ignored the memory creases, there could be a thousand ways to fold the map, but only if you got in a hurry. So you looked or felt the memory at the fold line, the crease.

My family has always loved maps and the great American car vacation. Sometimes we unfold that highway map and see Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone, the Gateway Arch, a Disney cup in a small world after all and a runaway mine train in Silver Dollar City. I saw the folded paper and squiggly lines as a treasure map and the longing for the highway was passed down from the ghosts of Okies travelling route 66 to California. Dad and Mom have always enjoyed driving vacations and seeing the country and the sights.  

This love came mostly from Dad because he was afraid to fly. That was my theory anyway, but he would insist that driving the highways of these United States is a love affair, topographical intimacy at 70 MPH that goes deeper than asphalt, into the soil of our nation and those who have built cities and bridges and monuments and National Parks. I inherited this love like a dog in a Norman Rockwell station wagon, head out the window and tongue flapping in the breeze.

Although, I must confess my sins of omission, that I skipped a family frontier photo shoot at Worlds of Fun and I also skipped a Washington state vacation to play in the Little League state championship. Once, while vacationing in Orlando my junior year of high school, I flew back alone to Tulsa for a golf tournament. That first airline trip was a rite of passage, a happy moment. And even as I felt a bit alone leaving my family in Orlando, I felt a sense of independence, that my Dad and Mom had confidence in me to let me fly back on my own. I flew Delta Airlines and listened to canned airline music on my headphones, Eric Clapton’s Layla and Marry Me Bill by the Fifth Dimension. It wasn’t as manly as the Inuit Indians sending off a sixteen year old brave into the Arctic Sea in a sealskin canoe to hunt for caribou on a distant island, but it made me feel grown up.

My penance though, for missing those vacations is to write about the moments I remember.

I remember vacationing with the Davis cousins in Washington state and playing whiffle ball with Mark, Brooks, Greg and Toby, and riding a pony. Listening to Mom read doses of literature, her medicine from Reader’s Digest or the Bible was enabled by captive attention, our ears within the sound of her voice for extended hours as we drove. This was her highway pulpit encased in steel and glass, and as we listened, we were oblivious to the fact that the fuel needle was below “E” and Dad had speeded up to accelerate the resolution of out-of-gas suspense. Mom used teachable moments before anyone thought to call them teachable moments.

Sister Terri two-stepped and fell down the steps in front of 35,000 fans at Busch Stadium, the same place a $5 bill was pilfered from my 9-year old fingers at the hot dog stand. I was fascinated by a thousand cars leaving a stadium parking garage descending a corkscrew driveway, and addicted to chocolate malted ice cream frozen like arctic ice, and the ubiquitous lyrical serenade of wandering vendors, “Hey, ice cream…hey, hot dogs, hey cold beer.” At the Houston Astrodome I snagged a foul ball hit by Jesus Alou on a pitch by the Cardinals Nelson Briles.

Before Ralph Nader and the NHTSA, all 7 of us could fit in a red 1967 Ford Mustang driving to church and we piled 8 into a Chrysler Imperial for a vacation to California. We drove west a lot in those early years, to California, Colorado, Texas, and we once calmly watched a twister travel across a plowed field in west Texas like it was an antelope running across the prairie.

Once in Texas, after staying overnight at the Cochran’s in Spearman, Texas, Mom left a 10 dollar bill stuck in the door as some kind of tip or bed and breakfast fee and Aunt Nordeen took offense and they passed back that 10 dollar bill back and forth, screen door to wiper blade, through the mail slot and back to the car visor…I thought we’d never leave because these two children of the Depression were fighting over $10.

To be continued (part 1 of 2)

The Bones of 12 Acres

Before we built our home in 2005, the 12 acre site was grass and trees and water along with the bleached skeletons of cattle piled in a place our kids called the boneyard. I have lived in 22 homes, if you count college dorms and my in-laws basement. This sounds nomadic, and yet, 22 may be the one that I can never leave. Will we ever be able to sell the acreage that holds the memory of three weddings?

Near the north boundary is a wedding tree where my brother the preacher said, “Lauren, you may kiss your groom.”

And on the hill in front of the one-hundred year old oak trees, Elizabeth and Brandon said, “I do.”

Jenna Andrew facing pond

 

Jenna and Andrew were married just across the cedar bridge, next to the pond and the ancient oak trees which shade the resting place of Murray, a stray Manx cat we found on the seat of the Murray mower at our previous home.

Fourteen years ago, I stood with a shovel in my hands  leaning against my truck. Under the shade of that tree next to the swing where Jenna and Andrew were married fourteen years later, I laid my head on the hood of my truck and wept.

Charles Dickens wrote in Great Expectations, “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”

I had no idea what lay ahead of us in this place that now held the remains of a tailless feline that I had never asked for yet had come to love. And when he grew old and sick, quivering in pain, suffering, it was time to go home. So I brought Murray here to rest at this spot under an oak at the southwest corner of Philson Hollow pond, waiting for a moment that I never asked for but came to love, a  wedding and a strolling dance with my daughter.  

I found a receipt in my wallet recently from White Pie Pizzeria in Denver, which reminded me of another moment of recognition, that time had changed me, and my daughter, Jenna. On this receipt was listed the best pizza I have ever enjoyed:

PORKORINO: a wood-fired slightly charred pizza with House Red, Mozzarella, Sopressata, Pickled Chiles, Hot Honey – $14

As great as the pizza was, it wasn’t the most memorable thing from that meal. I was eating pizza facing the setting sun, wearing shades, hands sticky from the hot honey, and Jenna texted me this question: “What song do you want to dance to at the wedding?” I joked, O Canada, since it was her ringtone for a time.

We left White Pie and walked to our vehicle and I received another text from Jenna. It was a link to a song so I touched play while strolling a few paces behind Karen, and Bob and Sheila Martin, listening to Jessica Allossery sing, I’ll Let You Go. I had never heard the song, yet as I listened to the first acoustic strums, I realized my daughter wasn’t my baby anymore…and a lump formed in my throat and I felt an overwhelming river of emotion…my daughter is grown up, smart, tough, beautiful, spiritual, a lover of life and people, and then I heard these words:

The day has come, to let you go

Only happiness, I will show

I’ll always be here for you, you know

Nothing takes away my love and it shows

I lost it…and I opened the door to the Suburban while Bob, sitting on the passenger side, told me I wasn’t driving. It’s the only time in my life I had to have a designated driver.

So I stood on the hill overlooking the cedar bridge at 150 dear people waiting below but knowing for just a moment, she was still my girl. And I wasn’t going to weep in the sight of God and friends and the resting spot of Murray where I had wept 14 years before.

As we stood waiting on the hilltop, alone, I said, “Let’s have fun! We are going to have fun on this walk.” To which Jenna said, “Let’s dance…we’ll dance down to the bridge and then we’ll walk from there.”

So we did…and I have no idea what moves I made but it felt like floating down together doing our own thing on wings and feet of blue.

You’ve grown up now, things have changed

Grew some wings now, you’re flying away

I’ll always be here for you, you know

Nothing takes away my love and it shows

Yeah nothing takes away my love, When I let you go

Later we danced the father and daughter dance and we invited other fathers and daughters onto the dance floor. And I watched those dads get all misty eyed. I’m glad they had the chance to join us.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=yset_chr_syc_oracle&p=i%27ll+let+you+go+jessica+allossery#id=1&vid=0511a91699ea04748e81e50adcaeb64d&action=view

Then, I heard these words from the song:

You’re my baby

Always will be

I hope you know

My love stays when you go

And you hugged me and said, “I love you Daddy.”

Well, so much for not crying.

 

Jenna Andrew I present to you

Now, this land that was once the home of cattle and old bones is a place of priceless memories. Maybe one day, if the good Lord blesses our children with children, they will come roam this 12 acres and our children will show them the spots where we danced on wings and shoes of blue, show them the old boneyard and the garden, and maybe they will see the place where your journeys began, a wedding tree, a hilltop, the corner of a pond, where you said, “I do,” in front of God and loved ones and trees and blowing wildflowers, and a cat resting peacefully under an oak tree near the waters edge. 

Jenna, what a lovely young lady you are! You have married well. Now, go and love well!

God bless you, Jenna and Andrew! I hope you always know, my love stays when you go!

 

Father of the Bride

It’s 5:20 a.m. and the house is quiet. Jenna is getting married June 24th. The young adults bunking here for the wedding, are fast asleep. I have a faint recollection of sleeping until noon, but it is a distant memory.

The dawn floats a mist over the pond like steam from my coffee cup while the finches taunt Boo as she politely requests her morning milk from outside the window with a long meeeow. I’m thinking of Anne Lamott and a podcast called, Twelve Things I Know Are True.

#2: Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes-including you.

This is good advice when you are planning a wedding.

Today is our wedding anniversary, 32 years. It feels like we have always been married…and yet it seems like yesterday. We rarely feel the age we are.

Anne Lamott is 61, although she says,“I am no longer 47, although this is the age I feel, and the age I like to think of myself as being. My friend Paul used to say in his late 70s that he felt like a young man with something really wrong with him.”

Here is #6 on writing…every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it…write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart: your stories, memories, visions and songs — your truth, your version of things — in your own voice. That’s really all you have to offer us, and that’s also why you were born.

So I power on my laptop preparing to write and notice a copy of a book that Jenna is reading, The Meaning of Marriage, by Timothy Keller. There is a sheet of paper marking a place in the book and I pull it out. It’s a paint-by-numbers rose on the front page colored with various crayons and a note, “To Jenna, from the coolest person you know…AKA Mary!!” (I don’t know Mary, but judging from the double exclamation and crayon art, I’m assuming it’s a student of Jenna’s…or perhaps it’s her maid of honor)

On the back of this page in Jenna’s handwriting is this: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. “ The Meaning of Marriage, Page 101

A few days earlier, Jenna asked for my advice on marriage. I jokingly said something inane because I had nothing, and I remembered:

Lamotte’s #4. “You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey. You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to. Our help is usually not very helpful. And help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody.”

I remember the Keller quote Jenna wrote in longhand, because I read the exact same quote to my Bible class a few weeks before while teaching about the wedding in Cana from John chapter 2. Last night at dinner, I shared the quote, and Andrew, Jenna’s finance said, “You know what they say, Like Father, like Daughter. This is true, except she is prettier and nicer and a better athlete and a better person…

Perhaps no advice is good advice. But here is a tiny thought for what it is worth.

You are experiencing an extraordinary moment in your life. Live it fully, bask in the glow of this season in the sun, laugh and dance and soak it up. One day, in a common moment of profound insight you will awake at 5:20 in the morning because you have lost the ability to sleep until noon and you will hold the weathered hand of the one you love and realize that you know Andrew and he knows you and it is lovely within. And the thing that lasts forever and that has always been, love, is yours, and it is good.  

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me. So these three things continue forever: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.

Country Driving

My mom, Charlotte Taylor, recently attended a York University retreat and was challenged to write and she did, writing a story called, Country Driving.

Mom instilled in her children a love of story. She read to us, her captive but nevertheless attentive audience, as we drove to California or Florida or Mt. Rushmore. She read from Reader’s Digest, Life in these United States or Drama in Real Life or just as likely, a chapter from the Bible.

 

Becky with grandpa 2

Grandpa Jess with Becky Davis

My wife was getting a massage recently by a friend who knows me and she said, “Brent is the woman, you are the man.” As my wife repeated this story to me, I took absolutely no offense. I’m in touch with my softer, feminine side, yet I still like the idea of driving a bulldozer. Both of these sides came from Mom which you’ll realize after reading her story called Country Driving.

 

I embrace my softer side (I use that term to describe beauty, not a lack of toughness) because I’ve learned at the feet of many beautiful but tough women who could drive a harvester by day and cook a meal for 8 by evening. My great-grandmother was the first one that I remember talking when I prayed aloud at the dinner table…”yes, Lord”…Grandma Beck would say, right out loud in the fat middle, not the end, of my prayer. Grandma Mildred spoke to me whenever she was awake, about vitamins and good food and gardening and hard work and modest shorts. And my mom has always been the fiber in my moral compass along with my wife who grows lovelier and more Godly every day, and my two daughters who teach me about beauty and creativity and joy and tenacity.

 

Becky w sisters

Charlotte is 2nd from right

I am part of the harvest of prayer and diligent work that my mom provided. I realize I’m changing, like a seed coming out of the earth, little by little…becoming what God intended for me to be from the very beginning, and all the things I once longed for as a 21-year-old who had no idea what he didn’t know, those things seem trivial now. I’m getting closer to the wonder of seeing the One who dreamed me up in a funky quirky ironic moment, if moments indeed happen in the place beyond time.

George Steiner writes about how depriving our children of words can kill them: “To starve a child of the spell of the story, of the canter of the poem, oral or written, is a kind of living burial—a comic book is better than nothing so long as there is in it the multiplying life of language–if the child is left empty of texts, in the fullest sense of that term, she will suffer an early death of the heart and of the imagination.”

Mom is 81. And she is still a creative force. She is the primary reason I love to read and write and create. And when I see her reach back and plow up the field of her childhood into words and emotions, I can’t help but see what is still growing 70 years later. Families, rose bushes, lovers, gardens, creators, artists, the analytical, and the poetic.

Thanks for sharing this story from your youth. I love you Mom!

 

COUNTRY DRIVING

Living in the Panhandle of Oklahoma, I was aware of the wide open spaces that surrounded me.  Our farm was two miles from the closest neighbors.  So there were no obstructions to get in the way when I learned to drive – maybe an occasional cow.  But I didn’t drive in their pasture very often.  

Dad had five daughters before he got a son, so as his second daughter I was chosen to be his right hand girl. I was taller and “sturdier” than the other girls so I’m sure that was part of the selection process.  And I’m sure he knew I would always know just what to do.  “Charlotte, get me the lug wrench from the garage”.  And when you bring back the wrong one, you learn to be more discerning the next time.

I don’t have distinct memories of learning to drive or how old I was, but there were plenty of vehicles to learn on.  The pickup truck, the old Chevy truck with granny gear, the Case tractor and the International tractor were all mastered by the time I was 12 or 13.  I was a little older when I drove the back roads to the elevator in Boise City with a load of wheat.  Of course, Dad was ahead of me with a load in the old truck.

There were lessons learned as I drove the tractor pulling the combine as we harvested the wheat crop. Dad gave me hand signals because there was no way of hearing his voice above the roar of the tractor.  When the wheat was thick, Dad’s signal was “Slow down, Charlotte!”.  So I learned from Dad’s signals.  

There are times in life when things feel “thick” and I need to slow down.  And other times when it’s easier going and I can speed up.  The memories of Dad and his quiet, gentle ways linger with me today.  Because of his gentleness with me as I learned to drive and help around the farm, I can in turn show that patience with my family and others in my life.

Another lesson learned was the endurance of my parents.  As I drove the Case tractor around and around the field plowing up last season’s wheat stubble, it was hard not to be bored by the monotony.  But now I feel amazed at their ability to start over again after being hailed out or no rain or winds blowing it all away.  

To remember their courage and willingness to start anew each day is a blessing I will always remember.  And Dad would say, “Charlotte, get up and be thankful for each new day that the Lord gives you”.  Thanks, Dad!