The Most Important Story

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We just got back from celebrating my dad’s birthday over spring break with my parents and my grandma in California. They always feed and entertain us like royalty. And for some unknowable reason, they love me for who I am.

Which is pretty surprising considering who I am.

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Few people can claim parents like mine, the kind who accept them for their true selves, imperfect in so many ways. Yet I’ve been taught this truth about life that makes it so rewarding, that being imperfect is a gift because it means you get to be human and learn and grow and fail and keep being brave and diligent and persistent. If only we all had parents who know that life is about being open to learning, not being complete and done. Somewhere along the way they learned that and now I get to live it too: the secret is just being engaged in the process.

As a parent myself now, I think of the gift to my girls’ self-esteem to see me accepting who they are and allowing them to fail and encouraging them to push on. I consider how open and honest I’m being about everything I’ve learned and haven’t learned yet. I want to be fallible and trusting in a higher authority because I think that’s the definition of a hero.

At least, that’s what my dad taught me.

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In so many ways, he made things a learning opportunity. He helped me and my brother make things using his tools, tools every boy should know how to use. And when my brother and I were fighting, he secretly got us to make each other trophies as presents one Christmas. As a ski-instructor, he made sure we knew how to carve up a mountain like champions. And he made us breakfast every Saturday and took us to the hobby store and the bike park and then helped build the models we picked out and design the bike jumps on the front sidewalk. He took us fishing and when I showed no interest, he bribed me with candy bars. He taught me how to carry a gun, to read the Bible and study it, and how to pray for others even when you could use a little help yourself.

One of my favorite memories was driving in his VW Bug. I’d push the battery tester light on the dash (which only VW Bugs have) and in his car it was the “turbo button.” Off we’d go lurching down the road to my huge delight. When we went swimming, he was the dad to let us climb on his shoulders to launch us off.

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But maybe the most telling picture I could give of my dad is that he loved to wrestle even though he never won, and it always seemed we’d only just barely overpowered him.

He was a pastor all my growing up years and my mom stayed home and we never went hungry. He performed our ceremony and the ceremonies of both my brothers when they’d found the love of their lives.

He taught me to believe in myself and to be myself even when I didn’t much want to. He’s always accepted just who I am and was always proud of me and prayerful for who I was becoming. It’s almost too much to go on, but you can’t leave off that he’s giving to a fault and supportive of all my ideas, and I know I’ve found my place in this world because he believed in me.

The books will get written and finished. It’s only a matter of time. I want to be there for my family and let reality dictate the time I have. I can’t always make time in the midst of life, and that’s okay. Daylight is limited and sometimes there’s no time to do what we’d like.

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Discipline can absolutely help, I know, and I can always write at least a bit. But I won’t sacrifice what time I have to be fully available to my family. And if I can still make progress on all my work and believe there’s a book waiting me at the end of it, I’m okay with that because it will have been time well-spent.

I don’t have to write every day to collect the right words and pictures and experiences for the future. Because my dad taught me that even when you’re not doing what you’d choose, if you’re getting to spend time with the ones you love, then you’re writing the most important story you could ever capture.

 

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12 thoughts on “The Most Important Story”

  1. Love the look of your new site. Thanks for sharing these great thoughts about growing up with a dad who invested so much in you. And all of us get to reap the rewards of what he sowed.

    1. Thanks, Cathee! I mentioned to someone today how finally realizing all this just makes me want to invest wisely in others. I know Texas feels the same…

  2. I’d put heavy odds that his “pulpit” ministry went deeper and farther, well beyond where it would have otherwise gone in the hearts and lives of his parishioners and their children and children’s children because his “private” life included the attitude and events you shared.
    Thanks for the affirmation and statement of faith. Kudos to the son who does likewise, using his camera and blog to show the way.

    1. Very good, Kathleen. I appreciate your eyes and all you see. It’s a gift you share well.

      “The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away….If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

  3. I always need to remember this “I don’t have to write every day to collect the right words and pictures and experiences for the future.”

    Today we did our once a month BIG shop and since I’ve been sick I ended up having to sit on the old folks bench. You know the one. Next to the electric carts and the bathroom.

    At first I was extremely annoyed because I wasn’t “being productive” but eventually I started trying to describe people in one or two good words. That entertained me for a while and was exactly what you are talking about but as He often does, the Lord took it further when a grandpa with a bad back sat down.

    I ended up in a conversation with Tim who had just learned his twenty year old grandson had taken his life over the weekend. With tears in both of our eyes we visited for a good long minute and I’m convinced my weakness had a lot to do with comforting a grieving old man.

    Why do I always fight it first?

    1. That’s exactly what I’m talking about, Jessie. That’s a story right there–write that blog post, then maybe short story for a mag. It’s exactly right.

  4. There are those who might argue, but I believe being a father is the most important job in the world. A mother’s role is also important, and nurturing and necessary, but I really think a father shapes who we are. Eventually our mothers might become our friends. Our fathers? If they do it right, they will always be kings.
    A father who loves unconditionally, provides wisdom, leads, protects and stands in the gap, whether we want him to or not … if you know that kind of father, if you’ve experienced that here on earth … then you have but a glimpse of God’s incomprehensible love for us.
    My earliest memory is of my dad coming to rescue me from a nightmarish daycare situation. He doesn’t remember it, but I know it happened. He just strode in, picked me up, and carried me to safety. He’s being doing it since the day he brought me home from the hospital. And I don’t know how to adequately express the magnitude of what that means to me.
    Dads are born to be heroes. There are days when you’ll fail. Days when they ‘hate you’, but they don’t, and they won’t. Because there is nothing on this earth that compares to being wrapped up in Daddy’s arms. No matter how old you (both) get. :)
    Sadly, the breed is growing more extinct by the day.
    But I think you get it.
    Live it. Do it well and don’t stop. Not for anything.
    And don’t let your daughters settle for anything less.

    1. “And don’t let your daughters settle for anything less!” As much control as I have over that, which is very little, I think, I will remember that’s the goal. That they would know true love like that so well they wouldn’t think of settling. Rare as such princes might be.

      You’re a wise one, Cathy. I pray you know your thanks from your kids. It’s got to be so gratifying after all the work and sacrifice.

  5. If it’s any encouragement, my daughter jokes that she ‘married her father’. And we take that as a compliment. I know it is a gift we have, that our grown kids actually want to hang out with us, and I do treasure it. But, yeah … those in between years… ugh. Praying yours will be less dramatic. :)

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