Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stories from a Grade School Lunch Table

Take a break from lessons on thrift, and go back in my history with me for a few moments. I was sitting in Chick-Fil-A desperately trying to enjoy dinner with my family and my friend Clare. All I could think of was a book my dad had given me, well actually two, Scary Stories & More Scary Stories. They're not profound literature and they don't hold any real value to anyone other than me, and maybe my dad, but when he gave them to me & signed the inside cover, they became priceless. I was in grade school, can't tell you the specific grade, but I'm thinking it was around third when I was in Mrs. Nalley's class and was far from popular. But when my dad came to eat lunch with me, I felt like a queen for a day. He's a great story teller, and all the kids knew it. On those days, everyone wanted to sit at my table just to hear my dad tell about the days he was a cow chip inspector in south east Georgia. Now you might know what a cow chip is, but it took it me years to figure out it was dung...and even more to clue into the fact that he was joking. I didn't care though. He was there. To be honest I don't remember if it was pre or post divorce. It's one of the few times in my life that I just remember being with my dad...on my turf, when he came into my world.

One day he brought a book with him and began reading these "scary" stories. Kids flocked to hear him read. And for that day, I had the coolest dad in the world. He gave me the book before he left, signing the inside cover. Every night for weeks, maybe months, I read that book before I went to bed. A little while later, he came again and brought it's sequel, More Scary Stories. Again he gave me the book, and again he wrote in it. I still have them today.

These are the types of memories I choose to remember about my dad, the times when he seemed larger than life...the times when he was a normal dad and I was a normal daughter. I'm leaving in a few days to go down to Georgia while Neil is out of town on business. I hope to spend some time with my dad. He's not doing so well, and to be quite frank, it scares me. I don't know how long I have with him. Do you know what scares me even more than losing him to this terrible disease? Not knowing what he believes about eternity. How do you have that conversation with your dad who's clearly dying? From the time I heard he had cancer, for three years now, my prayer has been that God would heal my dad spiritually and that he would die knowing true peace, peace that could only come from a relationship with Jesus Christ. I just want him to be in peace.

Right now, I'm battling away the sadness. I simply have no answers, no guarantees, and I know he's not getting any better. Honestly, I'm afraid to see him so weak. In my mind, my dad is larger than life, like the man who made me feel larger than life for a day or two in grade school. It must be so humbling for him that people see him in this state. I spent most of my adolescence being angry and bitter that my dad left us to start a new family, a family that wanted nothing to do with us. When I became a Christian at 18, I finally found peace, (the same peace I want my dad to experience) and the ability to forgive. I chose to love for dad for who he was, with all his flaws and insensitivities, and not for who I wanted him to be. Since then, I vowed to spend as much time as I could with him, and I did. I don't have any regrets and I don't harbor any bitterness. Sure, it's been a struggle, especially after I married Neil and realized I had all these insecurities and fears.

I don't think my dad realizes the effects he has on people, mainly his children. Or maybe he does, but his pride won't let him admit it. I'm not even sure if he knows it was wrong to have affairs, to betray the woman he vowed to love until death. Maybe to him it's just part of life. I have to imagine that this very battle with death has likely caused him to think back over his life, but I can't tell you what he found or what his perspective is of it. The truth is I don't really know my dad all that well. What I do know I've gathered from what little I remember from the first 10 years of my life, which isn't much, and the pockets of time spent since. It's not much, but I do know he's a human being who can feel, and think, and act. I know he loves me, and my brother and sisters...at least the best he can. I don't doubt that. I love my dad very much, and I don't want to lose him. Sometimes I wish I could just be back in that school lunch room listening to him read from a book about silly scary stories.


Katy said...

I'm sorry I won't get to hang out with you while Neil is gone, but I'm glad you'll get to visit your dad. I hope you have a nice visit!

Becca said...

I read it