A Power of Pause post from my dad on he and my mom’s 36th anniversary.
I am so thankful for my parents.
As you’ll read, my dad’s upbringing was full of challenges.
He never took it out on us. He and my mom provided a wonderful home for us kids to grow and feel safe.
Here’s his post, “Waiting for My Chance”
In church circles there is always a lot of talk of ‘daring to dream’ or ‘dreaming God’s dreams for you’ and ‘Fulfilling your God Given Destiny’ etc.
Dave Ramsey says the key to happiness is ‘letting your avocation be your vocation.’ I’m not one to argue (I mean, not like all the time) but I’m not entirely sure about that.
As a 16 year old, staring out the window during 7th period Geometry I certainly didn’t daydream about sitting at my desk updating status reports and creating metrics charts. (That this is what I do for a living serves as proof that God does indeed have a sense of humor)
But, no, I don’t ever recall thinking, “You know what I’d like to do for the rest of my life? I’d like to keep track of Velcro strips, zip ties and duct tape for a major manufacturing company. That ought to be fulfilling.”
There were things I loved and was even “passionate” about. Baseball comes to mind. (Almost always) Unfortunately, I was born with a realistic streak (and a Dustin Ackley arm).
For instance, despite my brother, Gary’s (the one the dog is named after) encouragement, I knew it was unlikely that a kid who was too unsure of himself to try out for the high school baseball team would ever land a contract with the New York Yankees. (If they ever need a slap hitting 2nd baseman with a decent glove, good range but a Dustin Ackley arm they know where to find me.) No, as much as I loved playing baseball, that wouldn’t be a dream I’d chase.
The same was true with my other “passions” like writing, history, geography and well …talking; maybe I could be a teacher? Well, no. The realistic streak reminded me my voice stayed up two octaves when the other boys became baritones so no, no thank you. I’ll pass. There was also the fear (and some constant reminders) that I wasn’t good enough at these things to actually make a living doing them. Plus, being a teacher would require college.
The example in my house and neighborhood was that as an adult you got a job and you worked. College wasn’t expected and even slightly discouraged … There was a danger in trying to rise above your class. We didn’t even use “big” words. A dinner guest once answered a question about liking the mashed potatoes by saying she was “enjoying them immensely.” To this day I can get my sister to laugh by just saying those three words.
But, I did have a dream. One that, in my mind, was more important than any other ambition or goal.
Most of my time in high school was spent with the youth group at Martha Lake Community Covenant Church. I’m forever grateful that God drew me to that place of love and acceptance. Within that youth group was a closer group of four friends; myself, my best friend Jay along with two sisters, Lynn and Johnna Burger. We were all baptized during the same Sunday evening service and for the next few years were almost inseparable.
It’s probably not possible, but it seemed as if every night, no matter what we had going on individually, we would all end up together seated around the Burger’s kitchen table. We had far-ranging conversations; from critiquing Johnna’s latest boyfriend and how long before she dumped him to which was better; Herfy’s or McDonalds?
Or we might go theological; “Does Jesus really expect me to gouge my eye out?”
Mostly, we laughed. Every so often the talk would turn to life after high school or what do you want to be when you “grow up.” Jay wanted to be a cop. He’s now a captain in the Seattle PD. I don’t recall Lynn or Johnna’s answer, but I’m sure it wasn’t to be a travel agent or a receptionist in a dental office. Maybe their dream was more like mine?
My dream, and all I really had my heart set on, was a family.
I wanted to marry a beautiful woman (before I had to gouge my eye out!) and raise a family with her in a peaceful, loving and happy home (If you’ve seen a picture of me in high school you know the beautiful woman part of the equation was going to take some doing)
Okay, so it wasn’t a grandiose unattainable (there’s a couple of big words, right there) dream, but it was my dream.
And it seemed far off. Peaceful and loving wouldn’t describe the home I grew up in. There was little danger of it being used as an example of a happy home. I knew from the time I was a young boy that our home was not “normal” or even typical, especially for it’s’ era.
We were the odd family on the block. It wasn’t just because we were dirt poor, there was more to it. I will spare you the details except to say this:
Children should not know how to mix drinks (unless it’s Kool-Aid or Nestlé’s Quik.) Children should not have to promise to do better so Mom will stay.
They should never have to wonder what kind of mood she’s in or what mood she’ll be in when she gets home.
They shouldn’t have to explain that the guy dropping you off at school is your Mom’s “friend.” (Did I mention I grew up in the 60’s?)
They shouldn’t be coming home after school worrying about what they may have done wrong -real or imagined -over the past week.
They shouldn’t live their lives with a constant sense of fear and dread hanging over them.
They shouldn’t hate the sight of their step dad’s car in the driveway or the sound of it coming up the street and they should never have to think their Dad has probably forgotten all about them by now.
Kids should know that Mom and Dad are their biggest fans.
They should know their home is a safe place, a sanctuary to run to, not from. They won’t be hurt there.
They should be free from ridicule, teasing and name calling, but free to make mistakes, and when they do mess up, still be encouraged.
They should be laughed with, not at.
They should never doubt they’re wanted, liked and loved.
Kids should know their Mom and Dad will always be there.
That was the dream I had for my family.
Sometimes, lying in my bed, listening to the shouting followed by that damned silent tension or watching what started as an innocent game of Canasta turn into an angry plate slamming rage I would feel like it was never going to happen.
I would wonder if I would ever not be afraid.
Would I ever not have the knot in my stomach whenever my name was called from the living room? But, perhaps God knew what he was doing.
36 years ago today, my dream began to come true. I know God loves all of us, but sometimes I think he loves me the most because He gave me Katie. When I said that I wanted to marry a beautiful woman so I wouldn’t have to gouge my eye out, I had no idea the jewel that God had in store for me. I had no idea what true beauty was or how much beauty there could be in one person until I met her.
Without her the dream I had for a family would have never come true. I don’t mean that in the “she’s the mother of my children” sense. I mean it in the way she is intensely devoted to our family. (Real estate is a distant second) She’s the one who couldn’t sleep until all the kids were safely home and in bed. She’s the one who budgeted and planned every family vacation. She was the maker of delicious pancakes, the listener to the problems of the day and the instigator of rolled up sock fights.
Katie’s also the one who insisted I was never going to be truly happy until I forgave those in my past. She was right. Did I mention she’s a knockout?
As for me, being Husband and Dad didn’t come naturally. I had lots of things to unlearn and behaviors to be corrected. Oh, I loved being the all time wiffle ball pitcher or the all time QB in knee football, the reader of books and the bringer home of classic comedy videos, but if things weren’t as I expected them to be in our ‘perfect’ home it didn’t take much to set me off.
I was going to make them perfect even if it meant angry tirades complete with shouting, name calling and threats. I would have kicked me to the curb
Thankfully, Katie didn’t. What she did do was directly, honestly, but kindly tell me that I was treating the kids exactly the way my step-dad had treated me. No verse of scripture, no book I’ve read, no sermon I’ve heard, no seminar I’ve attended has caused me to change my behavior quicker than that one sentence. Katie is a daily reminder to me of God’s grace, kindness, patience and unlimited forgiveness. I suspect, I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Thomas Wolfe in Look Homeward, Angel wrote, “We are the sum of all the moments of our lives…” I believe that. I also believe Romans 8:28; that God works all things for good for those that love Him. So if living through the childhood I did (even if it was only useful as a bad example) helped me to become the Dad I wanted to be, then I am grateful for it. If changing my past means changing my life now, I’m not interested.
Would I wish it on anybody else? Nope.
Would I do go through it again to be the always lovely Katie’s husband and Dad to Andy, Shaun, Jeff and Erica (Not to mention, but I will, Stacey, Alison, Kristen and the Grandest Kids)?
Yes, in a heartbeat. They were – are – my dream and, I believe, God’s dream for me.
Was I – or am I – a perfect Dad?
Oh no, no, no…
I am a work in progress.
Please be patient.
Thank you dad. Thank you mom.