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!

 

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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!

Breaking Bread with my Daughter

I am eating a King Kong Maple Bacon Cronut in my daughters honor as she is graduating next week with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Different Stuff. Jenna is a constant source of wisdom about food and life and has taught me some amazing things, not the least of which is how to smile with my eyes while eating with my mouth without slobbering…well, I’m getting better anyway.

Germany Rhine Castle Breakfast

One of my most memorable breakfasts enjoyed from the top ramparts of a castle looking over the Rhine River valley in Germany

In his book, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

Dickens captures how I feel when I eat kale for lunch and New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream for dinner…one is everything before us and one is nothing before us, one is heaven and the other is not.

I’m not saying which is which, but for now, I’m headed directly to…well, Nashville, to see my daughter Jenna who is graduating from David Lipscomb University with a Master’s Degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science which is just an expensive piece of paper that allows her to condemn my indulgent visit to the 12 South neighborhood in Nashville where this can be found: a King Kong Maple Bacon Cronut at Five Daughters Bakery followed by a sweet walk around the corner to get a dip of Jeni’s Brown Butter Almond Brittle ice cream.

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Cafe 324 near Bricktown in Oklahoma City…another great place to get a cronut (vanilla infused with a tiny little flower to provide some penance and loveliness amongst the carnage of sugar)

Jenna Brent Birthday Food Jenna

One of Jenna’s birthday celebrations that included large volumes of fruits and roots

I’m a recovering food junkie who grew up watching Captain Kangaroo when the Captain was only 25 but looked 65, as I munched Lucky Charms & Captain Crunch cereal and drank the milk tossing aside the spoon after the cereal was gone. I tossed back the sweet colored milk with the gusto of a nomad drinking oasis water.

Now I’m grown up…sort of. My Captain Crunch residual milk is fancier now and I fool myself into believing it’s good for me. How do I rationalize my indulgent food excursions for cronuts and ice cream? As my wife is fond of saying, “It must be worth it.” And I would add to that, “It must be memorable.”

What makes food worth it and memorable?

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Buckwheat cakes and pure Wisconsin Maple syrup with farm fresh sausage enhanced with a bouquet of edible florals and greens prepared by our hostess at an AirBnB in Pepin, Wisconsin recently

Jenna, you may already know this but your Mom grew up poor. By that I mean, she never saw the inside of a restaurant until she went on a date in high school. I’m exaggerating a bit, but the Mason’s were hard-working blue-collar in a good way, the way that makes you a better person, a more grateful person, one who knows what the initials T.G.I.F. stand for. They stand for payday. Thank the Lord, it’s payday. The thrill of payday was the smell of groceries and fresh deli cold cuts and pickles and cheese on italian rolls. 

There is a great tradition of simple food and simple hardship in your family. Your Great grandfather Taylor once was tossed into jail near Wichita, Kansas while working on a wheat harvesting crew in a pre-Miranda round-up of nomadic workers. Your Pop-pop made concrete blocks, Mom-mom worked an assembly line for Johnson & Johnson, but they all in their own time and place lived with vigor and passion preferring a brown bag of plums and a lunch pail with a ham sandwich to French pastries and Filet Mignon.

Simple food sometimes brings the most joy. Pop-pop and Mom-mom kept a clandestine prune juice jar filled with cold ice tea in the fridge to keep away the thirsty children. It was their secret drink kept safe by a prune label. And on Sunday nights at the drive-in movies, it was buck night for a car load, and your Mom would walk past the concession stand and smell popcorn and hot pretzels knowing it was unattainably expensive and return to the car and a brown paper bag filled with plums and carrot sticks. You probably remember the Red Top and Green Top roadside vegetable stands, but the Garden State was not all garden. We ate hoagies from the Wawa and the Ocean City boardwalk featured Kohr’s ice cream, Johnson’s caramel popcorn, and Shriver’s salt water taffy and fudge.

When we travelled, we often indulged in gas station carnival food, which originated from my youth, in a nutritional wasteland of highways and interstates as five road weary kids walked into a gas station and my Dad paid a whopping dime a bottle for the sweet elixir which we drew from, if we were lucky, the cold dark metal case with the lettering RC Cola. RC cola owned Nehi which meant grape Nehi and a purple tongue for me.  

Nehi Leg Logo

We drank not only from the well of soda pop, but also from the well of pop art, as the name Nehi, pronounced knee-high, was embellished in the world of advertising by a picture of a woman in a skirt high enough to show the leg up to the knee, to illustrate the correct pronunciation of the company name, Nehi.

A more provocative, version of the logo—one showing a single, thigh-high disembodied leg without a skirt—was referenced in Jean Shepherd’s story “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art”, as well as in the film A Christmas Story. Shepherd’s now-famous Leg Lamp was derived from this Nehi logo.

Jenna Kitchen Sink

Jenna can make a huge mess in a kitchen…but it’s always worthwhile

 Sometimes, we play with our food, or we throw it, like the time at Osage Christian Camp when someone yelled, “Food fight,” and peas, carrots, bread, and meatloaf rained down like manna from the rafters onto the unwashed who became even more unwashed. Or, in your case Jenna, we sleep on our food, like the time you fell asleep at Nammy’s table and head-bobbed down into a peaceful slumbering pillow of roast beef, potatoes and gravy.

Memorable food doesn’t always mean good tasting food. For instance, I’ve never been any good at eating organs, hearts, brains, gizzards…but liver is the worst…which is why the Germans call it liverwurst. Only the Germans could engineer a sausage made from an organ that removes toxins like alcohol, to cleverly cloak intoxication. This is why Germans give their dessert names like Streuselkuchen so you’ll never know if they are inebriated or if that is just how they talk…mmmm Streuselkuchen.

Which brings me to a battle over liver, between me and your Nammy when I was six years old. I was not allowed to leave the dinner table until I finished eating my liver and onions. I refused. I sat there for an hour rallying for the liberty of all those refusing to partake in flesh once used to filter toxins.

Americans, as it turns out, haven’t always had King Kong Maple Bacon Cronuts and Brown Butter Almond Brittle in our wheelhouse. We arrived from bitter culinary places of striving. During the Great Depression, most people were economic losers, but from a gastronomic perspective, dietitians were big winners, and with the country in desperate need of nutrition, dietitians had an opportunity to change America’s food. My parents and grandparents experienced the worst hard times but they were nevertheless memorable times and worthwhile times. But, my childhood food was perhaps more sugar-coated because of their struggles, and the Depression was a time in American history when dietitians had an excuse to innovate in the name of nutritional efficiency. This is when they invented chicken nuggets and white bread and cream gravy, one of your first food loves, as American homogenization trumped immigrant cuisine which meant a great deal of milk and white sauce and Wonder bread.

Your great-grandmother Mildred Davis grew up in the panhandle of Oklahoma in the midst of the Dust bowl when nutrition was more about being thankful for whatever you could find to eat. She often belittled my chicken leg-eating inefficiencies at Sunday dinner by grabbing the mostly denuded chicken leg from my plate and gnawing off what I had missed. No gristle, skin, or flesh was safe. She ate it all because she remembered how it was in her moments of want, wondering if the sun would shine again, if her children would eat, and if the wheat would ever take root again in the blowing dust.

Food is the best of times, it is the worst of times…and like the old church hymn, I’ve been redeemed. Redeemed by people like you and your Mother who’ve taught me to enjoy food, but to not abuse food, to embrace the feeling of hands in a garden of dirt on a spring day and the thrill of autumn harvest, bringing that harvest onto our plates where it sustains us and gives us life and health. Soak it up, drink it in, smell the aromas, make memories, and like that old Nehi ad, take a good look at life lived simply and gratefully, and say with Tevye from The Fiddler on the Roof, “L’chaim.”

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Jenna and Andrew  June 24, 2017 Wedding!

Bon appetit to you and Andrew, and L’Chaim! To memories yet to be made, of  roasted corn and sautéed garlic Brussel sprouts with bacon and fresh blackberries with cream, and the dirty dishes of a well-cooked in kitchen, rounded out with the soft conversation of loved ones around a table of food…eat well and live well, it’s the stuff dreams are made of, memories that live forever.

Congratulations Jenna! And Andrew! Go preach the word of nourishment and life.

Stolen Babies and Shallow Advice

I was holding Jude when I realized why I steal babies. We were at Jace and Carly Davis’ wedding and Jude looked like he wanted me to hold him so I held out my arms and he held out his and we sashayed about the dance floor doing the Baby locomotion. More about baby stealing in a moment…

It was during the trip to the Davis wedding in Little Rock with two of our adult children and their dates this past weekend, that I told my wife something I had shared with no one else. It was about a waning feeling as a young man while losing the Samson-like invincibility grown from long hair and vanity. It was the feeling of power Springsteen sang about in Born to Run, “…girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors and the boys try to look so hard,” which is really difficult to pull off when my barber is cutting my hair and referring to the recession again and again before I realize he isn’t speaking of the economy.

It sounds comical to me in my mellow years since I rarely try to look hard anymore, as I once did in my raging Springs-teens. I’m more into comfortable quirky, like Andy Griffith wearing Sanuks and strumming Suwanee river on the front porch swing. And my ego is unaffected by insult because there is none left to shatter when my wife says to me, “You are the hippest man I know, from the ankle down.” “Thank you,” I reply, before the subtlety of the insult becomes clear. (This means I have great taste in shoes and socks…and nothing else)

I am no longer invincible and it’s a relief to be unburdened. Once nothing remained to be admired in the window of shallow self-reflection, there still remained my teen Geist masquerading as a father, doling out wisdom like Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation. (Good talk Russ) Some of the most useless advice I’ve given to my children over the years, although stolen and shallow, is nevertheless memorable, which often returns to me in remarkable ways wearing the garments of profundity.

When my son left for college, I told him what Steve Martin’s father told him. “Always carry a trash bag in your car, it doesn’t take up much room and if it ever gets full, you can just throw it out.” And I’ve also passed along to my son a love for colorful socks and advice on wearing them. One Sunday morning we were loitering in the garage waiting for the girls as they put the finishing touches on their Sunday go-to-meeting outfits. Four year old Brandon was wearing a Lord Fauntleroy outfit with shorts and dress shoes and I envied his dapper look, the socks-on-full-display style I couldn’t pull off due to my age and social convention. He sported a black sock and a blue sock, which I advised would be frowned upon by those who devise the color matching rules. He said that mattered little to him. He told me, “You can’t really tell in the garage, it’s too shadowy. Besides, I don’t go by color, I go by thickness.”

Youth is indeed wasted on the young.

And when Jenna was seven-years old, I took her aside before a soccer match and said to her, “I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”

Of course, that’s Ty Webb telling Danny Noonan how to excel at golf in Caddyshack, but Jenna didn’t know that. A ball is a ball is a ball and there does seem to be a cosmic force connecting the ball with the feet of the greatest players. As Jenna grew older, I shortened the pregame admonition to, “Be the ball.”

So, back to baby stealing. As I was holding baby Jude at the wedding, my cousin told me that just for a moment, he caught a glimpse of me holding my own son, 22 years earlier. And I realized that I was still holding my son, because these moments with our children are not restrained by time. They move freely in and out of our consciousness like the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision crying “Holy, Holy, Holy,” to one another. And so I remember those moments when Karen and I left the kids with Nammy on date night and returned to find them snuggled up in pajamas and we raced to get to them first, literally knocking each other down to be the first one in the room upon our return. So I guess stealing babies is about returning to those moments on some level.

We watched Carly and Jace kiss after saying “I do for as long as we both shall live.” And I thought about how happy Jace and Carly looked as they danced among family and loved ones. I remember Jace Davis and Drew Taylor and Brandon Taylor just a few months old, rolling on their backs on the carpet together like upside down turtles trying to get upright, to get on with it, this business of life.

And when I see my grown children, and understand that they have survived my dim and strange advice, it’s like looking beyond time and seeing the glory of God flowing like wine, as they discover for themselves the force in the universe that moves mountains. It’s amazing how the Good Lord can make something good out of advice like Be the ball.

I sometimes struggle to describe what it means to be a Dad, because I feel like I’m cheating, like somehow I get more than I give. My kids are all grown now, and I find myself at a wedding holding baby Jude and I remember my own children, like it was yesterday. There goes my daughter walking onto the pitch. “Be the ball,” but how can she possibly know what that means?

Yesterday I opened a mysterious package thinking it could be a bomb, so I opened it slowly so the bomb would detonate slowly…but no, I realize my birthday is only a few days away. Maybe it’s a gift.

It’s a gift from my 24-year-old daughter who is now a soccer coach in Nashville.

And I find my stolen words have returned to me written on a shirt.

 Be the ball Jenna

A Thousand Pines

He can tell a story better than Mark Twain on a riverboat drinking whiskey in the moonlight, although the surreal and the absurd are difficult to distinguish from reality. I hang near him at family gatherings, because I’m a writer and he gives me stuff you can’t make up. And like Seinfeld’s blonde girlfriend who can get away with anything because she is beautiful, Tom gets away with things because he is funny.

Although sometimes the story takes the storyteller to the woodshed and what emerges can’t be fabricated, but only told, and it happens in the warp time of a single sentence. Tom’s extemporaneous fabrication that accelerated him into warp story mode, was molded by a moment of need and suddenly, he is in a Learjet with Jamie Moyer and the Vice-President of Fox News. The twisted moment vaulted Tom from airport mundane to jet set surreal as he uttered these words to the airline reservations attendant, “You don’t understand…”

Tom Achey Pumpkin Patch Grandson

It began with a white lie meant to get him to San Diego for his grandson’s 1st birthday and to remain in the good graces of his wife. The lady at the counter said, “Your plane is delayed for at least three hours and there are no alternative flights,” which meant most likely the next day. He was only planning to be there two days. “You don’t understand,” he exclaimed with the passion of a Phillies fan booing Santa Claus. “I’ve got to get to San Diego…my, umm, daughter is getting married at Moonlight Beach tonight at 9:00 o’clock.”

He had dropped his wife at the airport early Friday morning and she was flying alone. She was not happy because he told her he had to work and couldn’t make it for the birthday party. “This is a big event, a big deal, our grandchild’s first birthday, and you should be there.” she reprimanded. He didn’t tell her that he was booked on a flight leaving at 5:00 pm EST that same Friday and arriving in San Diego at 8:00 PST.

“Do you have any proof that your daughter is getting married?” the airline clerk asked. Tom said, “Yea, I brought my wife in here this morning. She’s flying out for the wedding.” She typed her name into her terminal and confirmed the flight that morning. “Let me check something,” and she began typing again. “Look, don’t tell anyone I did this, but take this boarding pass to gate 14 and they’ll take it from there.”

Tom took the boarding pass to gate 14 and was quickly boarded onto a Learjet. He sat down, glanced across the aisle and saw Jamie Moyer. Tom said, “Aren’t you Jamie Moyer?” Moyer replied, “Yes, I’ve been in Philadelphia an entire week and you are the first one to recognize me or at least say something.” Tom has been a Phillies fan since childhood so they chatted and talked baseball…and weddings at Moonlight Beach and Moyer bought Tom a drink. Then everyone on the jet knew the mission…get Tom to Moonlight Beach by 9:00 pm. In the meantime, they talked and drinks were hoisted for Tom in honor of his father-of-the-bride moment.

In the meantime, the Vice-President of Fox News chatted with Tom. He told him that he had received a $2 bill as change at the grocery and on it was the name of his wife and her phone number and address from forty years ago, which he had scribbled on the $2 bill as a memo to ask her on a date. Which is exactly what the VP of Fox News was looking for, human interest stories, since most news today is filled with tragedy. They exchanged information.

They were on the ground at 8:30 and exited the plane. The VP stood chatting with Tom and said, “I’ll take you to Moonlight Beach.” Tom replied, “That’s ok, my son is coming for me.” The VP said, “OK, I’ll wait here with you to make sure and if he doesn’t come, then I’ll take you. Don’t you have a tuxedo?” “Ummm, yea, my son is bringing it, he’s in the wedding also.” They waited awkwardly, but then Jimmy arrived.

Tom’s son drove up in a jeep, wearing shorts, flip flops, and no shirt. “Hey Pop!, he said. The Fox guy says, “No tux?” Tom replied, “He’s a surfer!” The TV exec waved as they drove away. No word yet on the Fox News special about the New Jersey couple and the $2 bill.

Tom did walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding a few weeks later, in the pines of New Jersey far far away from Moonlight Beach. He danced that evening with his daughter while wearing sunglasses and his wife snuck up behind him and removed the sunglasses to reveal the Moonlight Beach Dad was emotional?
Tom Achey Wedding Dance Megan
One can never tell where a story will lead and what will be revealed in a moment of twisted story logic shaped by a Dad’s love. Sometimes, “You don’t understand…”, is the best we can come up with. Sometimes, “You don’t understand,” is surreal with twists and turns of Learjets and moonlit beaches, while other times it’s as clear and refreshing as friends and family and pine trees. Sometimes the pines look like a thousand people through the lense of Ray Bans and moist eyes which seems funny yet real, like Tom’s stories, a thousand pine trees waving and clapping for the funny guy dancing with his lovely daughter in the evening shadows wearing Ray Bans, and he isn’t telling a story, he’s living it.

Dancing with Lauren Martin

I told everyone that I would not cry and I did not. But that was my brave face in front of friends and family. It was a long walk down the aisle, about 100 yards from the garden to the wedding tree. Lauren and I chatted as we strolled toward our family and friends, but then emotion slammed into me like a freight train as I came near many beloved faces. What a beautiful place, the wildflowers Beck helped me sow and water, FullSizeRender-4the wedding tree, my wife looking gorgeous, my son and daughter standing in places of honor, and my brother Greg the preacher waiting at the end of the aisle along with a young man waiting to take the hand and heart of my daughter.

I never once stressed or worried about this moment, the moment as a Dad when my legs might turn to jelly as I walked my daughter and gave her away. I did worry about the Father/Daughter dance afterward, because I don’t dance well. So Lauren and I stood in the garden alone after the bridesmaids had started their walk and I said, “Let’s dance”. And so we did, for thirty seconds, we danced in the garden alone. I knew Lauren was going to be ok, she was in good hands, not just with a young man who loved her, but in God’s hands. And so I danced with the ease of a Father who can do nothing more, except pray and love Beck and Lauren, and get out of the way.
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God said to Abraham, go to a land that I will show you and your children will be too many to count, like stars or sand. I looked at the flowers we planted and watered and realized that one day the seeds of our families will be more numerous than a thousand flowers.IMG_0285

That’s why I was alright walking Lauren. We sat on the front row and watched Beck gaze at Lauren, perhaps because the angle was better, but maybe because he never seemed to look away from her, like he had seen the face of pure beauty. And I knew it was over for me, I was no longer Dad in the way I was before, the one she always counted on. It was him now. And it was ok.
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So four parents surrounded them and I said to Lauren and Beck, “May your marriage be filled with joy and passion, may your best dances be on kitchen floors with pasta boiling over, may righteousness blow like fresh wind stirring the flowing locks of many children, may your romantic gazes be steady and everlasting, your longing for each other a taste of your eternal relationship with God, and may your happiness flow like a river until you sit on the porch getting old realizing that you would do it all over again.”

Lauren Wedding Dance in Garden with Dad

I’ll always remember the dance in the garden alone with my daughter. We danced later in front of everyone near the pool and we didn’t fall in, and it was good. Later we sang and danced on the deck to the song, “You make me want to shout!” The words and weight of all our lovely friends brought down the house…and the deck…the ledger board of the wood deck snapped and the dance floor sagged under the weight of celebration. That dance was good also. It’s the one everybody will talk about, “Remember when Beck and Lauren got married and we brought down the deck?” FullSizeRender-6

But like Mary treasuring moments in her heart, I’ll always hold close the memory of a short impromptu dance in the garden with a beautiful young lady, who has a new name and husband, but will always be my lovely daughter. Thanks for dancing with me Lauren Nuk Nuk Peanut Noodles Martin, I love you! IMG_0286

The Wedding Tree

If the opposite of love is apathy, then the least one can do in a marriage is care enough to occasionally say, “I hate you.” I never really learned how to constructively argue until the 10th year of our marriage, (I actually yelled at Karen) which was a revelation to me, not that confrontation is fun, but in the sharing of conflicting ideas, I am bigger and better and smarter, even when I’m wrong…which is most of the time.

My daughter, Lauren, is getting married in 19 days, in our backyard under the spreading limbs of the Hackberry tree which we now refer to as the wedding tree. Our soon to be son-in-law, Beck, helped us plant wildflowers under the wedding tree. I bought a new pair of shoes and Beck bought a cool suit from J. Crew, but nobody will remember my shoes, nor Beck’s suit. Everyone will be staring at my lovely daughter and listening to the preacher, which, by the way Beck, will be a lot like arguing, as loveliness and righteousness always rises above any notion of male relevance.

My younger brother Greg, who tends to bring a note of practical wisdom to his sermons and writings, will officiate. Our nephew recently married in New York, and here is what Greg wrote about faithfulness and staying on the dance floor no matter what. Great writing Greg!

http://char.is/2015/07/15/sometimes-i-hate-you-but-im-glad-were-still-happily-married/

Greg Taylor is co-author with Randy Harris of “Living Jesus” and author of “Lay Down Your Guns,” a true story about a doctor facing drug cartel mercenaries in the mountains of Honduras.
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http://char.is/2015/07/15/sometimes-i-hate-you-but-im-glad-were-still-happily-married/