Saying Good-bye: A Truth About Growing Older

Uncle Bill and me at a family reunion. Also, Aunt Vivian and my cousin, Chris.

When we’re young and think about growing older, we think about how we’ll change physically and probably think about our death. Our young minds scamper away from these foreign ideas, unhappy with the idea. Yet, it’s a fact a life.

One truth about aging that we don’t grasp until we’re older is the loss of loved ones, and, inevitably, the fact that we only see close family members at the funerals for these loved ones.

A little over a week ago, we lost my Uncle Bill. My family has said a lot about him on Facebook as each of us deals with this loss, but I’ve said little. Why? Probably because my grandchildren consume my time to the point of exhaustion, but this doesn’t mean my thoughts haven’t been on Uncle Bill. He was a fun man to be around, always joking. You knew when a joke was coming because his lips started to twitch and his eyes would sparkle with delight.

He had stories galore, too. Stories that my cousins and I need to capture before they’re all forgotten.

My earliest memory of Uncle Bill is at a family reunion when I was five or six. I was sitting on his lap and wanted to get up. He wouldn’t let me without the magic word. Well, guess what? I had NO clue what the magic word was. While I tried to guess he held me there. Yes, my parents had taught me to say please and thank you, but I guess they never used the term, magic word. Somehow, I managed to escape. I don’t recall if I said please or not, but I’ve never forgotten it.

After I grew up, Uncle Bill became the uncle I visited with when Mom and I took her annual trip to Sugar Mountain. Sometime during that trip, we’d meet up with her brothers for lunch. Bill was the oldest, then Bob who left us a few years ago, then Mom who we lost in 2014, and her younger brother, Wayne, the last surviving of the crew. The four of them together were an absolute hoot.

During these gatherings I heard stories about Uncle Bill’s flying antics (he had his pilot’s license), tales about their childhood escapades, and how Uncle Bill loved to goad Mom into an argument when they were young. He confessed that when she was attending Limestone College, he came along for the ride to pick her up for a weekend break. Within minutes, he’d picked an argument with her. As soon as he had her spitting mad, he sat back with a proud smile and announced that his job was done.

Here’s a video I shot in 2009 during one of those lunches. From left to right, Bob, Wayne, Mom (Babs), and Bill (apologies for the poor quality):

Bill was a softy, too. I don’t know how many times he called me because he was missing my dad or mom and just wanted to tell me how wonderful they were. He and his brothers came down to see mom and dad when my parents’ health declined. He was there the day my dad passed away. He was the first person who got a real reaction out of my mom when she was in the hospital after the fall that started the decline in her health.

Every time he spoke to me in the last few years, he told me I had his favorite name. His wife, who passed away in 1992, and my mother were both named Barbara.

So, yesterday, I gathered with family and his friends to say goodbye. It’s unreal he’s gone, but I’m so glad I came to know him better as an adult. I wonder if he’s picked an argument with Mom in heaven yet?

 

Parenting: Looking For the Prodigal Seeds

Image courtesy of artur84/freedigitalimages.com

It’s been a while since I blogged about my personal story. In some ways, I’ve been avoiding it because I’ve reached a point in the story where things began to fall apart for my younger daughter. I’ve blogged about her teen pregnancy, and I’ve posted several blogs about the prodigal, hoping to discover wisdom for myself as I share the current situation.

I haven’t talked about the years between the teen pregnancy and her current situation.  She’s almost 37 years old, so that pregnancy was some time ago.

So, what happened?

I can’t point to one thing. It’s a series of events and choices.

From the time she was three, she started doting on younger kids. She was great with them. You could see she adored children. I watched and realized that some day she would be a wonderful mother. But events changed that part of her. After she gave up her son for adoption, her interest in younger children evaporated. I’m not surprised by that, but I am saddened by it.

Instead, she focused on her studies, on activities with church and the school chorus and band, and on spending time with friends. I recall one Friday night, she and her friends showed up at our house shortly before her curfew, seeking shelter from a bad storm. I suggested the girls call their parents to let them know they were safe and at our home. Their response shocked me: they didn’t have a curfew, and their parents wouldn’t worry. Only one girl made a phone call.

What!?

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. Proverbs 22:15

My children always had a curfew. I expected them to let me know where they were and who they were with. These 16-year-old girls didn’t have any boundaries. As I dug deeper into the situation, I discovered that most of my daughters’ classmates did not have rules about where they were or when they came home.

At the time, my daughter expressed thanks that we cared enough to know she was safe. It wasn’t long before she pushed for the same freedoms her friends had, though.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3

As our children grow older, the choices made for them become a two-way street. We eventually lose control over what they are doing. The teen years is not the time to lose that control, but that’s what happened with her friends. Either the parents wanted to be “friends” with their children or chose to not fight with their kids in order to enforce rules.

I stuck to my rules, but that’s when things began to fall apart.

Where Is Your Treasure?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.lovecloud Matthew 6:21

I’ve spent a good bit of time wondering what to say today. Circumstances with my daughter have changed since last week’s post. She stands at a precipice and must put her words into action. Although, she claims a desire to fix her life so she can be with her children, I’m waiting to see if she will take even the first step. The question is what is in her heart? Where is her treasure?

If she can find treasure in restoration with her family, she has a chance. If she allows the world to tempt her with addiction and poor choices, her treasure will not be with us.

She is the only one who has control over where her heart leads her.

She is the only one who has control over which decision she makes.

She must navigate the obstacles, not us.

She must prove her treasure resides with her children by her actions.

Many people don’t understand why a parent doesn’t jump in and help a grown child who asks for help. We could, but we’ve been down that road. If a child who is visibly doing things to straighten out their life asks for help, that’s one thing. If the child continues to blame others for their problems, continues to believe their parents must help them, it’s a totally different story.

We’re not heartless. We care. We love her. We must let her choose where her treasure is.