Thirty Years Ago

Thirty years ago, we had no children.

Our last childless night changed when Jill knew her contractions were coming closer together.  We grabbed already-packed bags and drove to Miami’s Baptist Hospital: maybe a little faster than needed, hoping this was the one night an officer pulled us over and I could point to my wife in labor.  No such luck.

Two things from labor and the hospital stand out.  My wife amazed me with composure, tears, complete red-face effort, and her humor. She cited most of Bill Cosby’s lines from his monologue about his wife’s birthing(s).

Colt inherited the humor.

The second thing was the hospital nursery.  As people visited and asked which in the nursery was Colt, we only responded, “the blonde”.  Walking down to the glass to view a room crammed with babies in bassinets and nurses hovering over a sea of future hopes, they saw only one towhead in the room.  His standing out like that continues.

We moved to Austin to work on my advanced degree.  We settled on the east side to a great little house close to campus and great public schools.  Colt attended his first birthday party, where I worked in the kitchen with other parents and we all laughed.  He ran yelling and shrieking, oblivious to being the only white kid playing games in the Austin summer sizzle.  The blond.

He was blessed to have older guys be big brothers: Aaron Stern and Josh Taylor.  He took up their mantle for kids in the Stillwater hood.  He skied fearlessly and drew on a quiet confidence.  I saw that confidence as I conducted leader training in Virginia for college students and brought Colt along — the eighth grader.

Two guys led worship (not so great) and one caught something in Colt’s face to ask, “Hey, you want to try?”  Colt silently nodded, “Yes,” calling his bluff.  All stopped.  The student walked across and handed the guitar to Colt and things improved dramatically.  They adopted him for the rest of the weekend.

In college, he thought Claire was stuck up when they both performed in Freshmen Follies and we sat in front of her parents.  Oddly, she thought the same, and four years later they were halfway out of the sanctuary after exchanging vows before 800 friends and family caught on that Clarie’s organ teacher was playing the Theme from Star Wars and

Four years ago we had no grandchildren, but then one night Claire told Colt her contractions were coming closer together.

I have waded far enough into life to drink deeply and watch large life cycles wash over us.  I am wealthy, blessed, overwhelmed, happy.  And I pray he is when Duke turns 30.



I may not know much about thanksgiving

I may not know so much about Thanksgiving.  I have used silly phrases such as, “I don’t feel very thankful.” And “Here it goes again.”

Fairly depraved. 

I think that the most thankful people feel it the least tonight and tomorrow. 

The ones that have been travelling for fifteen hours and may not make it past cancelled flights and road crews trying to keep up with falling sleet, ice and snow.  They know. 

The men and women in uniform who may feel only a tear or a lump in their throat at the thought of Thanksgiving, and still go out on patrol; walk out and preflight their very cold aircraft; or stare at the prosthesis that may as well be Mt. Everest as far as ease of use.  They know more about thanksgiving than I do.

The same is true for First Responders, Emergency Room doctors and nurses, who grabbed a bit of the terrible turkey at the Station House or Cafeteria with luke warm coffee.  They know more about Thanksgiving and what it truly costs, than I do. 

The Pilgrims had buried a staggering number of their own in that first year and winter.  They had their noses rubbed in their mistakes, missed opportunities, and “if only I had” bashings.  So scheduling the feast with the Indians, their only neighbors, took courage.  It has always been a holiday that looks beyond the cemetery, with great hope at the children, at the mom-to-be, and the land and its opportunity that is so very much harder than you had dared imagine. 

It has always been the holiday that chooses to thank God, when screaming or whining is easier, closer to your heart. 

The expense.  It is the expense that makes the smells, sounds, tastes, and minutes so terribly wonderful, deep, abiding. 

So to those of you travelling, guarding, and responding, if this is not the Thanksgiving, then may one truly wonderful find you.  I am grateful for you.  And if it is with cheese and crackers and a salty tear only, may the Father from whom all good gifts come take note and bless you. 

Two Men

Two men are sitting at the breakfast bar (we call it the aircraft carrier) in the gray drizzle of this day. 

One is a soldier, the other a painter.  One is younger, the other a child of the sixties.  

Both have traveled far more than Jill and I put together: Europe and her off-the beaten-paths places – Nepal, the Hindu Kush and some of the ‘smaller peaks’ there.

They can each tell their stories compellingly, articulately.  Jill weeps quietly at some of the stories.

They use Google Earth to view homes, the train station, pubs, galleries in Brighton, England.  We watch how the younger has transformed one small home in Brighton since the passing of his mother.

The painter shows in galleries, the soldier has an adventure business and aspires to be a stunt man.  

Both are tall, the older has white hair where he had blonde before, and he explains to the younger that his grandfather had red hair as does he.  

They are father and son. 

Father with all his failings, and son for all his longings.  They are tentatively, poignantly reaching to 

Reaching to touch each other after a gap, an abyss of thirty missed years.  

And I am pushed to see that every relationship that we have that is restored or that endures does so as Miracle, and nothing less. 

And I am stunned to think, as one friend pointed out, how many, many times this is being multiplied (and not even attempted to play out) when we treat our bodies as our own as if we will never answer to another, or to Another.  

The father is haltingly, sometimes painfully trying to answer to another man who came from his body, so many, many years ago.  

Maybe the best miracles always start this way, courage, uncertainty, admixture of pain and hope, and always a possibility.  Did God make us to always hope for the possibility that most seems like Home?

It’s all unfolding in my home because my wife has this courage, has this unwavering hope for possibilities that others scarcely dream.  You probably call that prayer.