Sunday, January 30, 2011

I'm Sorry

     Marty once asked me about growing up in my family and if anyone ever apologized to each other. Of course, she was asking knowing I'm not a natural apologizer and was trying to figure out why. I thought about it and the answer was no. I did not hear the words "I'm sorry" coming from the lips of my parents or siblings. How sorry is that?
     I've since had to learn to apologize and not just say the words, but mean them and feel remorse and convey true repentance. I know I've said "I'm sorry" to my wife during our marriage, but after starting recovery it took on a whole new meaning.
     When I found the strength to confess to her my addiction issues, I wrote her a letter bringing everything to the surface. Several months later as I was working on making amends in my steps, I re-read that initial letter and noticed that I didn't ask for her forgiveness in it. So I wrote her another, this time including those very important words. And as we continued down the road of recovery, I found that saying I was sorry once wasn't my eternal "get out of jail free" card. I was in the process of learning how to apologize.
     Typically, apologies usually followed excuses or a great defense, or a head-spinning turning the tables moment, if an apology came at all. I have since learned that if I need to ask forgiveness, then that is what I simply must do, not try to make Marty feel bad for me or try to get her to take care of me, I need to own up, humble myself and do what's right.
     It is so hard for a person who's not a natural apologizer to say those two agonizing words, but learning how to do so has made me a better man. I'm not sorry about that.

Monday, January 24, 2011

If My House Was On Fire, I'd Save My Kids, My Wife, and Then...

     20 years ago this month I started a journal. I have no idea why, I just did. Maybe it had something to do with the date being January 1. No one modeled it for me, no one advised me to, I just had an empty spiral bound notebook and wrote "journal" on it, and it was so. The entries were very titillating: "Got up today. Went to Math. Went to chapel. It was good. Ran into Scott S. and we hung out for a while. Went to lunch. Did some homework. Ugh (as in caveman grunt)." THAT journal is certainly no piece of great literature! But over the years I kept writing, and I began to appreciate writing and notice how authors spun a tale. I began to write about the EVENTS of my day, not the mundane routines. Prayers and revelations from my Bible study found their way in there. Memories I wanted to keep fresh, romances I had (there's a topic that spared a few trees' lives), my love story with Marty, and a journal always accompanied me when I was fortunate enough to travel the globe.

     When our babies entered our world, I had a whole new reason to write. I had to get down my feelings about them, the funny and poignant things they've said, my mistakes in raising them, my cries to God to help me parent as He does...

     52 journals later (and still counting), they have now become my legacy. I cherish the thought that when I'm gone, my kids will have answers to so many questions that I'm not able to ask my own parents now that they're gone. I'm not afraid of them discovering just how imperfect I was, as long as they see that I still had a heart for God and tried very hard to please Him, admittedly failing here and there... and there, and there... I imagine that corner bookshelf that holds them in one of their houses, and when they get together for the holidays, Ella, let's say, will ask Julia for the next journal of mine to take home and read, maybe to her kids. Maybe the one where my sweet second daughter was born because the details of that day were recorded in great detail and Ella will always know exactly how I felt about her from the day she was born.

     So here's to 20 years of journaling. Stay tuned and you may just hear about my first book getting published!

Heres that infamous first "journal."

Some uber-cool ones I can't wait to fill! Superhero and peanuts journals rank high, especially if they're nostalgic. 

Some favorites. My youth kids thought I looked like Dwight from The Office (ouch!), so my wife bought me a Dwight journal (double ouch!).

More favorites, Peanuts, classic Loony Tunes (from the defunct WB store), and Animaniacs.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dad Wounds

     It seems there's a lot of books out there written for men that talk about the wounds we received from our dads. He was absent, he was cold, he criticized, jab, jab, jab... if you're a man, you have Dad wounds, there's no way around it. Some authors made me feel that if I didn't have Dad wounds and Braveheart wasn't my favorite movie, then I really wasn't a man. Okay, I admit it, I have Dad wounds.
     I don't remember ever being close to my father. He was a truck driver, worked odd hours, slept in the day, got up at night to go clock in. We never really bonded. This was evident in a story he would tell practically every holiday around the dinner table. "One day I came home from being on the road and you were sitting in front of that TV watching Sesame Street. I walked in the door, you looked at me then turned right around and kept watching TV." The older I got, the more I despised that story. That's not how it should have been. As a three year old kid, I should have ran to my dad and jumped in his arms when he got home. He absolutely should have won over Sesame Street. But he didn't. As I approached fatherhood I vowed it would not be that way with my kids.
     As time passed things never really changed between us. I respected him, honored him as a good Christian son should, but didn't call him for advice or even just to chat. There were private moments when I got very angry with him, asking the four walls why he wasn't around when I was a kid, grieving the fact that we weren't close, and feeling like it was much too late to do anything about it now that I was an adult, a husband and father myself. Talking to him about it, or yelling at him for it would only make him feel guilty and he would bear that burden until the grave, so I never addressed it with him.
     Shortly after Dad died, I was reading one of those man books I mentioned. It got me thinking about my relationship with my dad and helped resolve a lot of frustrations I had about our lack of closeness. I realized I was very thankful for my dad. I know he wanted certain things for me like being able to fix my own car. He wanted to pass that mechanic's gene on to me, but once he saw I just didn't have that affinity, he never made me feel stupid about it. Dad never made me feel stupid about anything. He never berated me or belittled my interests. I think the harshest thing he called me was "ding ding," which is Oaky for "ding dong" which my family shortened to "ding." But that certainly never made me feel stupid. I took piano lessons and he never objected because it wasn't sports. In fact, he would always ask me to play "Joplin," meaning Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer." Looking back at my life with him I realized others have suffered much more severe "Dad wounds" than I did.
     I know Dad's greatest desire for me was to do better than he did in life. And I know he was very proud of the man I became. A year before he died I was very angry and bitter about how he parented me, but now I'm very thankful for the good, kind, hard working and gentle man he was.

     This is Dad serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. I think he looks very cool.