Friday, August 20, 2010

First of the Last

The start of school came and went with little fanfare around here this year as Younger Son started his senior year of high school. Wife figured out that this is our 20th (and last) year of having a “little one” start school.

It all began when Older Son started kindergarten lo, many years ago. We made a huge deal out of it, of course, taking pictures galore with him and all his little school supplies. As I remember, Wife took him that morning and shed a few tears as she launched her first baby off into the world.

The second day he told us he had tried it and, while it was OK and he liked his teacher enough, he had decided he would rather not go. Somehow in all the preparation, we had failed to tell him that it was a somewhat permanent arrangement. After a few tearful mornings, he finally got in the routine.

Daughter, on the other hand, was born to go to school. From her first day of kindergarten she loved school and will no doubt carry that enthusiasm over to her students when she has her own classroom.

She also LOVED school supplies! She would wait all summer for the trip to buy supplies for the upcoming school year. She would spread them out on the floor and label them.

Younger Son, as he did with everything when his time came, took it in stride when school started for him. When he started kindergarten, Daughter was in fourth grade and she was happy to take him under her wing and show him the ropes.

We used to take their pictures every year when school started. This year, as I said, it was kind of a non-event. I feel kind of bad about that.

So this morning as Younger Son hurried out the door, wearing his football jersey in recognition of tonight’s first game of his final season, I followed him out the door with the camera. After the obligatory eye rolling, he was very accommodating.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lifetime of Memories

I mentioned going to Atlanta last weekend with my mother-in-law and father-in-law. At 81 and 82, respectively, they are doing remarkably well and we are so thankful to have them as part of our lives.

Long travel tires them out, though, so when they told us about the possible trip to Atlanta, Wife and I suggested that they drive from Little Rock to Nashville and let us drive them to Atlanta. They liked that idea. They would come here on Friday and the next day we would go to Atlanta, spend the night and return here on Sunday.

The trip was for the purpose of attending a memorial service for Barbara, a friend of my mother-in-law’s from her childhood in Oklahoma. Barbara and her husband moved to the Atlanta area a few years back to be near their daughter and her family and, unfortunately, Barbara became a victim of Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago. She passed away at the end of June.

Her body was cremated and I never fully understood why the memorial service was delayed – whether it was to allow friends and family adequate time to get there, or what – but it worked out well for my in-laws that they could plan, and it certainly helped for us to go with them, which we were glad to do.

Now, I can tell you that my in-laws are among the most efficient people I have ever known. They have never, ever been late for anything. My father-in-law plans for flat tires and breakdowns, always expecting the unexpected. There is always a built-in cushion of time for anything. I was instructed to knock on their door last Saturday morning at 6, but of course they were already awake and almost completely dressed. I served coffee and a light breakfast at 6:30 and we were out the door at 7.

Typically, they had packed separate bags for (a) the trip here and (b) the trip to Atlanta, so no time would be wasted re-packing on Saturday morning. As for me, I had not really given much thought to what I would take for the barely-24-hour excursion so I was, of course, packing Saturday morning. I have no doubt that my last-minute scurrying around unnerved them, but I assure you it wasn’t the first time. (I won’t comment on Wife still trying to decide on Saturday morning what she would wear to the memorial service and/or dinner that night, and finally opting to take a number of different choices).

My father-in-law was equipped with GPS, a physical fold-up map and print-outs from MapQuest, so there was absolutely no chance of our getting lost, either between here and Atlanta (a drive I have made a number of times) or once we got there. I find the lady who speaks on the GPS a little annoying but we’ll talk about that another time.

Wife graciously volunteered to do the driving for the trip down, and her mom rode up front with her; my father-in-law and I rode in the back with the GPS lady, the map and the print-outs from MapQuest.

Our ETA was between 12 and 12:30 EDT (we lost an hour changing time zones) and, although we arrived at 12:20, well within that range, they were a little undone that we were “late.” To their way of thinking, if one is not early, one is late, and that is unacceptable. Since I had not been driving, I bore no responsibility, although I’m sure my failure to pack the night before probably had something to do with it.

Our first stop was lunch at the home of Barbara’s daughter and her family. Barbara’s son and family, who live in Ohio, were also there, as well as Barbara’s husband, Norman, a couple named Helen and Jim who are also longtime friends of my in-laws and now live in Colorado, and Helen's and Jim's daughter. Although Wife and her parents are not related to these people, they are very much like family and have the kind of relationships where, when they get together, no matter how much time has passed, it’s like they have never been apart. My in-laws’ friendships with Barbara and Norman, and Helen and Jim, go back more than 60 years.

Barbara’s daughter had a lovely buffet spread and we sat around a big table and ate and talked. She said that this day would be about remembering Barbara and asked my mother-in-law what her fondest memory of Barbara might be.

Of course my mother-in-law immediately said that there was a lifetime of memories for those two who had known each other since junior high school, but the most significant to her was not one specific time, but rather a span of time during the Korean War. My father-in-law was stationed in Korea and my mother-in-law was home alone.

“Barbara was such a help to me getting through that lonely time,” my mother-in-law said with misty eyes, recalling many days and nights they spent together. This conversation quickly turned from somber to humorous, however, as she related a hilarious incident where Barbara posed my mother-in-law for a picture IN BED with Barbara’s husband, which they mailed to my father-in-law in Korea! My father-in-law said that he didn’t find it all that funny (although he smiled when he said it).

The rest of the day was a continuation of recalling fond memories. The memorial service was uplifting as Barbara’s son and daughter both spoke of a devoted mother who had a zest for life. There were photos displayed in the church foyer, chronicling Barbara’s life as a young girl all the way through being a five-time grandmother. Several of the photos included my mother-in-law and father-in-law.

Back at Barbara’s daughter’s home they all continued to remember. We toasted Barbara’s memory and enjoyed another meal together.

One might think that for me, an outsider who hardly knew Barbara, this occasion might have been, at best, tolerable, or at worst, maybe a bit boring.

It was neither. Getting to see my in-laws yuck it up with their old friends gave me great pleasure. When they are with these folks, they are not in their eighties -- but neither are they in their sixties, fifties, forties or thirties. They are teenagers, or early twenty-somethings, and I have the privilege of seeing them differently. As I said, I did not know Barbara well, having only met her a few times, but I definitely got to know her better last weekend as her life was celebrated. That was fun for me too.

Back at our house last Sunday night we celebrated Wife’s birthday. Monday morning they were gone and reported in, of course, when they were safely home.

They were scheduled for a few days of rest before leaving yesterday for another trip, this time to Southern Missouri, where they would meet their other daughter for a couple of days. I trust the GPS, et al, got them safely there.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Thoughts; Two Occasions to Celebrate

Yesterday was Wife’s birthday. We’re celebrating tonight. Her parents are in town and I know they will enjoy being with their daughter celebrating her birthday. We took a trip to Atlanta with them yesterday to attend a memorial service for one of their friends who recently died.

Anyway, I’m grilling some stuff and will bake some potatoes. Older Son and his girlfriend are bringing asparagus and a salad and I ordered a birthday cake from a bakery. The goal is for Wife to have to do as little as possible. Due to her superior culinary and hospitality skills, family meals and celebrations are usually her game. (And if my sweet daughter is reading this, well Sweetie, we are just missing you so much . . . )

This Wednesday is our 26th anniversary. We got married just four days after Wife’s birthday so it’s a double whammy. We rarely give each other anniversary gifts, usually just agreeing to either (a) call some recent purchase our anniversary gift; (b) go out for dinner; (c) say, “Happy Anniversary” to each other; or (d) some combination thereof. With all we’ve had done to our house lately, the mirror in the entry hall, which Wife had technically had “on loan,” will be our anniversary gift to each other. I’m hoping that, with that, we can pronounce the renovation officially “done.”

I just re-read that last sentence and that’s actually funny. We’ll never be done. We’re out of money for this project, so we have limitations. But our house, built in the mid 1980s, will continue to require “tweaking” as long as we’re in it.


It is almost unfathomable to me that we have been married 26 years. That’s half of my life.

I have written a few other times about marriage. I am very fortunate to have a very happy one. There are many theories on what makes a marriage successful. I hear a lot of people say, “It takes hard work,” and I guess that’s right, but I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that I was working too hard to be – or stay – married. But I know it’s not my charming personality that keeps this institution going.


Many of my fellow Christians believe that the husband is ordained by God to be head of the household and the wife is supposed to submit to her husband in all things. There are entire books and studies on this. There are some people I really respect who believe this. I respect their right to believe this and believe that they should not be criticized for this belief. For those who subscribe to this belief, it does not in any way mean that husband and wife are not equal; they just have different roles. It comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 5.

I’ve pondered this a great deal over the life of my marriage. I have read Ephesians 5, as well as other passages in the Bible dealing with marriage, many times, and I just don’t reach the conclusion that I have authority over my wife. Paul says husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loves the church,” which is an incredibly high standard, one I take quite seriously.

I don’t, however, see the way Christ loves the church to be an authoritative type of love but, rather, a sacrificial and irresistible type of love, the kind of love where one would lay down one’s life, which is exactly what Christ did. And I would do it for my wife in a heartbeat.

There is a verse in Ephesians 5 that says, “Wives, submit to your husbands,” but the one right before that says, “Submit to one another.” To me, as Christians, we should all be deferring and submitting to each other, putting others’ interests ahead of our own. The way I read it, Paul uses a wife’s submission to her husband as an example, but this doesn’t mean that submission is not mutual.

Now, that is not to say that there are not times when Wife submits to a decision I make. We decided when we started having children that I would be the main provider for the family. It took a while to get there because, when our first child was born, Wife made more money than I did. But we eventually reached that point and we both agreed on it. Wife has worked most of our marriage but since we have had children there have been times when she did not work, and most of the time she has worked part-time rather than full time.

In 1997 the company I was working for proposed that I move from Little Rock to Nashville. I thought it would be a good move. Wife thought the job opportunity was good but she did not – in any way, shape or form -- want to move. But because we had jointly decided that I would be primary breadwinner and this looked to be the best thing for me at the time, she submitted and deferred to my decision. I didn’t stomp my foot and demand it but I told her why I thought it was the best thing, and she ultimately agreed. If she had objected, I would have found another job.

As it turned out, it ended up being a lousy job long-term. The company went bankrupt the week after we moved here and six months later they let me go.

And what did Wife do?

Did she say, “I told you so?” Did she insist we move back to Little Rock since we had not even bought a house here and still owned one there? Did she roll her eyes and say, “So what do have up your sleeve now, Big Boy?”

None of the above.

She loved me in an incredible way, encouraged me and prayed for me. She assured me we would be fine (and she was right). She never once said, “This is what I get for listening to you.” Not only did Wife submit to me, but when the result was seemingly not a good one, she didn’t throw it up in my face. Now that’s what I call biblical submission.


There are times, however, when I believe I’m the one that should be doing the submitting. I’ll give you a recent example.

As I’ve written recently, Younger Son drove himself to camp this summer. Because of this, I saw no reason for us to go for the camp closing.

Wife disagreed. She thought it was important that we be there and see him in his role as “chief” and hear the little talk he would make to the campers. I told Wife that would be a long way to drive for a very short little ceremony and I didn’t think we should go. I felt pretty strongly about it too.

Wife never became angry or upset with me but simply stated that she felt it was important enough that she would be going. I was welcome to go with her but, if I chose not to go, she would go alone. I knew in my heart, however, that she wanted me to go with her.

I went. And you know what? I’m glad I went. I told Wife so. We saw Younger Son in a light in which we had never seen him. He spoke eloquently. We saw parents of young boys thank him for investing in the lives of their sons and we saw him respond to those parents with poise and politeness beyond his years. It was extremely meaningful to me.

Had I not submitted to Wife in this regard, I would have missed that. And if she subscribed to the belief that my word is final, she would have also missed it. And we would have missed a lot.


So I’m a firm believer in mutual submission.

In reality, Wife and I really don’t concern ourselves too much about it. We love each other and we both try to consider the feelings of the other at all times. We’re not perfect so, obviously, it doesn’t always work.

We’re also not hesitant to say, “I’m sorry” when that is indicated. I probably end up needing to say that much more often than Wife.

So Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to my soulmate. The best is yet to come.

Friday, August 6, 2010

20 Years of Photos

When Older Son was born in January of 1986 we took pictures of his every move. We made prints for grandparents and sent prints to various friends and family. We felt we owed it to them to let them see the cutest baby ever born.

We also dutifully put those pictures in albums to preserve for years to come and for, you know, posterity and that type thing.

When Daughter was born in November of 1988 we took pictures again. For the first girl born to my side of the family, it was important to document all those frilly little dresses and bows. We put a few of those photos in albums but stopped at about six months.

Then life got busy with two little ones. We still took plenty of pictures and had them developed, but they got put in drawers or boxes so we would put them in albums when we got around to it.

When Younger Son was born in October of 1992 we took a few pictures but not anywhere near the amount taken of his older siblings (this is something he will have to one day sort out with his therapist -- he can send me the bill). We recently had to submit a picture of him as a baby to put in the program for the upcoming football season, something that is done for all the senior players.

That sent me to the “tub.” Not the bathtub, but the rubber container that, I am embarrassed to tell you, now holds the pictures that were taken from mid-1989 until the present. When we moved from Little Rock to Nashville in 1997, we had all these boxes of photos and I don’t even know how they got packed and moved, but somehow they did. Soon after moving we bought the plastic tub, with a lid, and dumped all the pictures in there for the eventual sorting and placing in albums.

One day about twelve years ago I tried to sort the ones that had thus far accumulated, and even enlisted help from the rest of the family. We started on the dining room table and had the best of intentions, but eventually the photos went back to the tub, along with new additions.

But it’s over, friends. The tub has been opened. I am tackling this and I will finish. It might take a year or it might take longer than that, but I am going to finish it. These photos are going to be put in albums in as close to chronological order as I can get.

Getting them in that chronological order is the tricky part, of course. Only a handful of them are dated. For the vast majority, I am required to look at sizes of children (and parents), how much hair I had, whether or not I had a moustache (I shaved in the summer of 1998 after 14 years), numbers of candles on birthday cakes, houses we lived in or hair and clothing styles, and from there make as good an estimate as possible of when the pictures were taken. They are first being placed in accordion folders marked with a year. When that is complete, the album placing will begin.

Although tedious and time consuming, the project is not altogether burdensome. There is a certain element of fun and nostalgia in looking back at all these photos spanning 20-plus years. After about an hour, though, the tedium sets in. I have to take baby steps.

With the advent of digital photography, where we can view the photos instantly, we have far fewer prints made. They tend to stay in directories on our computer. We have had a few of those books made by Shutterfly or Apple. Of course I have not done it, but Wife and Daughter have been able to figure out how to send the photos and a few weeks later have a book of them sent to our home. The photos are scanned right onto the page, on quality slick paper. That seems like perhaps a better way to go than printing them out and ending up with all these prints as we now have.

Of course for the more organized among us, who have conscientiously placed photos in albums and have even made lavish scrapbooks (not at our house), none of this presents a problem. Alas, neither Wife nor I are among those, which is why I must now retroactively try to piece together these past two decades.

Wish me luck . . . .