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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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

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

Sunday morning during communion while the church sang, “How deep the Father’s love for us,” I sat and listened unable to sing, because I had a softball stuck in my throat. I had just read a text from my brother Toby, “Played a little chess Drew is beating me without even looking. Washing his hair this morning. The truck on top of the car dripped oil all over him…he is still hurting. On IV pain meds.”

While the church sang…

“How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away, As wounds which mar the chosen One, Bring many sons to glory.”

…I thought about not being able to reach my own son, of Toby not being able to reach Drew, and of my own Father God, who could have reached his own Son, but used Divine restraint and only watched and saw the pain of searing loss.

I remember my brother lamenting the fact that he couldn’t hold Drew when he was born because Drew was born prematurely. “I couldn’t reach him, couldn’t touch him, couldn’t hold him.” I’m not sure if my brother said those literal words, but that sense is what I’ve always remembered about the first few weeks of Drew’s life. He was enclosed in glass for several weeks. Now he is a handsome young man, a chess player, a brilliant mathematician. Drew will be 22 on March 15th.

Last Friday night, he was in the back seat of a Subaru on I-71 near Louisville, and like his beginning in life, prone and asleep, enclosed in glass, but this time the glass and steel of a Subaru. His friend Nick drove and Nick’s girlfriend, Abby Owen’s occupied the front passenger seat. A semi-truck and trailer skidding on snow and ice couldn’t stop and plowed into the car, every parent’s worst nightmare. We lost Nick, Abby was able to walk away, and for two hours, Drew was trapped in a tangle of steel, unable to move, legs pinned, with the oily sludge of an 18 wheeler dripping on him. Drew tried to move the weight that held him in a tight space, found it impossible, and calmed himself by praying and talking to Nick. He couldn’t see Nick, but they talked, until Nick no longer was able to talk. Drew prayed. A paramedic came, and spoke with Drew. The paramedic prayed with Drew. And Drew waited in the freezing cold, covered in oil. Drew was at peace in God’s hands.

And so Sunday morning, my brother the doctor, washed the oil from the hair of his son, as a thousand friends prayed, as total strangers offered the families places to stay, keys to cars for transportation around town, expressions of encouragement, food and money, hugs…and tears. They were covered with love from a great cloud of witnesses who believe in what these kids were doing. They were on their way to Syracuse to work with a church during spring break. Not the beach for spring break, not the mountains, they were going to be the hands and feet of Christ.

It was good to talk with Drew by phone last night and I told him if I was there, I’d kiss him on the head, and he said, “No thanks.” And I knew he was going to be alright, because this world is not his home, he’s just here for a while…like all of us really.

Thanks be to God that most of the time, we can reach our kids, touch them, love them, hold them, protect them. But when we can’t, there are people out there behaving in ways that I can’t entirely comprehend. God bless Nick, love him and hold him, Nick is home. I can’t explain what happened at 1:15 AM March 7th on a cold interstate in Kentucky.

But I can explain what happened after, and it’s the only thing that makes any sense.

Sixty Years on a Chalkboard

We celebrated our parents sixtieth wedding anniversary the day after Thanksgiving and while taking family pictures in the church sanctuary at the Dewey Church, I saw light emanating from the holy of holies, the door leading to the inner room where some of my family changed into baptismal garments before being immersed in living water. As children, we were not allowed to venture into this mysterious hallway.

My brothers and I walked to the open door and peered inside, to see what mischief our college and high school age sons were finding in the mysterious hallway leading to the baptistery.

Stashed in this hallway near the podium on the north side is a large chalkboard on wheels. We watched as Brandon, Jacob and Drew expounded on the world they know wielding only a stick of chalk and their minds and a language that they understand, meteorology, math, and physics. The chalkboard was covered with equations that I didn’t understand, pulse compression, calculus, algebra, for all I know, they were working toward an understanding of silly string theory. I understood none of it and realized this generation is closing in fast and I lack their savvy and skills.

chalkboard deWe Taylor brothers are not mathematicians. I’m a homebuilder, Toby is a physician, and Greg is a Gospel minister. We all three married women of numbers, high school math teachers. Our sons received from their mothers the gift of numbers, data, quantity, structure, space, models, and change.

Many of our daughters and nieces embrace the gift of poetry. The rhythm and grace of a healthy considered meal deliciously cooked by my daughter Jenna, the dietetics major. The expressions and elegance and passion of Toby’s daughter Emma singing a lovely broadway song called “Pulled” from the Adams Family musical during our family talent show. Niece Hannah expresses her poetic gift as a wonderful writer, nurse and friend to seemingly everyone she touches.

We are poets and mathematicians. When children are born, we write poetry, and explore possibilities. When we celebrate sixty years of marriage, we marvel and do the math, comparing our own marriages by fractal comparison, our own married tenure compared to the celebrated one. Possibility and reality, beginning and end, poetry and mathematics, the story lived out in the days between those bookends.

I remember vacationing with my family as a sixteen year old kid. We were in Orlando. I flew back alone to Tulsa for a golf tournament. I remember that first jet trip as a coming of age moment, even as I felt alone leaving my family in Orlando. I felt a sense of independence, that my Dad and Mom had enough confidence in me to let me fly back alone. I flew Delta Airlines and listened to canned airline music on my headphones from the early Seventies and late Sixties, Eric Clapton’s Layla and Marry Me Bill by the Fifth Dimension. It wasn’t quite as manly a coming of age moment 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. I also listened on my headphones to Carly Simon sing, Well That’s the Way We’ve Always Heard it Should Be. She was singing about her parents and about how she thought marriage was supposed to be and how it really was.

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.

I remember the hauntingly beautiful voice of Carly Simon singing about parents who had failed to convey and live out the dream, marrying for no reason other than it’s the way I’ve always heard it should be.

Mom and Dad gave us no sense that love and marriage was easy. We saw the tears, the hurt, the trials, not just of marriage, but of life.

The poetry, the math, the story written with chalk on a sixty year old board, scrawled with equations spilling over the borders, overflowing with love and imperfection, grace and blessings, family and friends.

Taylor family 60thThanks for teaching us poetry Mom, and thanks Dad for doing the hard math, and for writing a story that never really ends. It lives on in holy places and back alleys, and in mysterious hallways on blackboards filled with equations, poetry, and stories that overflow the margins of our understanding.

Watching Our Autumn Sons

I once saw a list of things Dad’s should teach their sons. How to balance a checking account, how to ask a girl out, how to change a tire, and so on. But as I think about my failure to teach my son these skills, I realize how much nurturing help I’ve had.

Saturday I was playing golf with a group of Dads who have met annually since October 4, 1997, when we prayed prostrate under the shadow of the Washington Monument at a Promise Keepers rally along with half a million other men gathered near the Capitol of our country.
Stand in the Gap
We prayed for our children, those born and unborn, and prayed for fatherly perseverance. We’ve met every autumn since 1997, except the year of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. We eat, laugh, and play, like when we were boys. We pray for our families, reminding ourselves of the stone of remembrance we placed in our hearts near the Washington Monument that year. And just like many of our parents reminded us before we walked out the door on a Friday night, we remember who we are and whose we are, children of a just and loving Father God.

So on Saturday afternoon, I stood on the ridge of the little golf course at our home and looked east to the sun-splashed pond and watched the product of our 1997 prayers, the sons of our autumn promise. Brandon and four buddies from OU wake-boarded along the cat tails lining the banks and my nephew Jacob swam across the pond solo and nephews Easton and Tyler swam and kayaked, boys being boys, giddy and bullet proof, just like our generation played midnight frisbee in our underwear and ski jumped over firewood ramps packed with snow and clothed the Community Center statue with a toga.

It’s fun to see life come full circle and yet our sons are not the same. They are unique, they have an identity all their own. Their identity is more spiritual and less religious, more egalitarian and less biased, immersed with personal devices held in the palm of their hands accessing more information than all the libraries of the world contained when we were their age.

We sat in a circle around the campfire Saturday night looking at the stars through the canopy of the hackberry tree and we talked about how this group of Dads came to meet again and again each Autumn. And my brother Greg, challenged us with questions about belief and identity.

Who are you? Do you judge your worth by the grades you make and the degrees you have earned? Are you eternal…or just a mist? Are you a child of God, a citizen of Heaven?

I grew up in a church that sang about heaven, a cappella, and when we sang, Mansions Just Over the Hilltop, the words that resonated were not the words about streets of gold, but rather the line about the prophet whose pillow was a stone. I understood that prophet, the one with no permanent dwelling, tempted, tormented and tested, wandering about with a crick in his neck from sleeping with his head on a rock. And sometimes, being a dad is a pain in the neck. But I’m always looking for echoes of better days, glimpses, moments, when I peer into the future and see men who were once boys.

I’ve always thought of Heaven in bright colors. My theory about Heaven as a youngster included an inexhaustible bowl of peanut M&M’s flowing eternally like a rainbow dotted stream tumbling down a mountain. It wasn’t the stuff of Augustine, but it gave a creative flourish to my spare understanding of reward and punishment, and colored my black and white Bible in brilliant Technicolor.

Walking through the gates of Heaven would be like the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the film transitions to color, as a sepia-toned Dorothy opens the door of a Kansas farmhouse and the vibrant world of Oz explodes in lush and gorgeous Technicolor, revealing Dorothy wearing a bright blue gingham dress as she steps over the threshold in a moment of true awe, no longer constrained by black and white.
Dorothy Oz Technicolor
Once in a blue moon, we catch a glimpse of the Technicolor scene on the other side of the door. Saturday, with golf clubs held in our hands like the staffs of Moses and Aaron, we gazed down from our golf game on the hill and admired our sons playing in the cat tails, riding the waves on a brilliant Technicolor autumn day, and we remembered the smell of the earth and grass under the shadow of a towering obelisk seventeen years ago. Thank you Lord for answering our prayers.