Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why he is "The One"

I sometimes think about who my parents or grandparents were before they were parents and grandparents. I wonder if my children might one day do the same. If they ever wonder, I want them to know why their Daddy is "the one" I chose.

He has a smile that says, "We can have fun together" and eyes that say, "I'm not just looking for fun."

He knows what he wants, and it seems that he always has. I once heard someone say that the job of an orthodontist is "to apply gentle, consistent pressure to create change" and I think that is how he lives life. I have never known him to forcefully rush into a situation and try to make everyone else adjust. He helps me to remember that chivalry is not a thing of the past.

He accepts me as I am, and yet with him, I want to be a better version of myself.

While we were dating, he encouraged me to go where God was leading, even when that meant spending a year away from him, on the other side of the world.

He has a heart for people, and a willingness to serve without expecting anything in return.

He is willing to sing with me, even when I sing off key. He is willing to dance with me, even when I step on his toes. He is willing to listen to me, even when I don't make any sense. He is willing to laugh with me, even when he doesn't really think things are as funny as I do. He is willing to hold me, even when I cry for reasons I can't put into words.

He lives up to his words in one of the earliest conversations we had, "I'm not like that. I'm different."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Man Who Was My Papaw

My Papaw was part of "The Greatest Generation". As a young man he spent the latter years of World War II on a Destroyer Escort in the South Pacific.

He was a man that knew what he wanted and how to get it. While at a dance he spotted a beautiful young woman across the room and couldn't take his eyes off of her. The girl he was with noticed and complained, so my grandfather took her home, then returned to the dance in an attempt to meet the woman who would become my grandmother.

He was a man of his word. Even if he spoke a word in haste, once it passed his lips, you could trust that what he said, he would do.

He appreciated hard work. He was more than willing to pay others to help with the tasks of running a farm, but if you said you would help bale hay, you should expect to work as long as the sun was up, then be sore for a few days after.

He valued education. He was proud when you brought home a report card with all A's, but to keep you humble he would teasingly call you "smarty pants" when you solved the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune before him.

Sometimes the paradox of my Papaw was difficult to understand.

As I look back now, I think that what often seemed to be contradictions, may have been a simple attempt to achieve balance.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Papa

Some people have grandfathers that smell of Old Spice and tell tales like those of H.C. Andersen and C.S. Lewis. I'm not one of those people. My grandfathers are admirable men, but there aren't greeting cards available that capture just what you'd want to say on Father's Day. This is the gift I gave my Papa last Father's Day...

My Papa is a mechanic by trade. Not the kind of mechanic that went to a vocational school or had any sort of special training, but the kind that began learning, at a very young age, the way things worked by his own experience, using his own hands. 
He has strong hands, my Papa, full of skill, usually with a few bandage wrapped knuckles and grease around the fingernails, scarred from use and wrinkled with time. His hands have built countless engines, repaired carburetors and transmissions. They’ve built houses, sheds, and his very own garage. “Come here scootie, come see Papa for a minute,” he says as those rough hands lift small children onto his lap and hold them close so that he can tenderly hold the child’s hand in his own and brush the back of it against his ever-present chin stubble--which usually brings a smile to the child and always releases a grin from Papa.
He has clear blue eyes, my Papa, that glisten with sorrow when he hears of tragedy or speaks of the girl he loved for more than fifty years. They almost sparkle when he sees “the grandbabies” and seem to dance a little when he offers his standard greeting of, “Yeah, how ya’ doin’?”
He has a loud voice, my Papa, which might lead you to believe that his hearing is not so good, but you’d be wrong. Sitting on the front porch he can hear a car before it rounds the curve and tell you if it’s a “front-end-pull or back-end-push”, if it’s idling too high or too low, and if you say it’s “pinging, knocking, or rumbling,” he’ll know just what to do.
His ears aren’t just attuned to the problems associated with cars, but he also hears their drivers. From his garage he offers automotive repairs and his own brand of counseling. His words are direct and to the point, but I’ve found great value in really listening to what he says. It sometimes takes a little bit of translation or interpretation, but if you look just beneath the surface, there are valuable lessons to be learned from his advice.
“Once you make a bid, you gotta commit. Just keep the pedal down and don’t let up ‘til you get across,” he told me as I relayed the story of wanting to cross the median of a divided highway to avoid a major traffic jam. His words made me smile as I imagined the number of times he’d probably done this very thing. I understood that he meant don’t start something that you don’t intend to finish and once you’ve started, give it all you’ve got if you really want your efforts to succeed.
“You ought always have ya’ keys in ya’ pants pocket. That way, if ya’ got your pants on, you got your keys,” he explained to my brother after realizing he’d left his keys at someone’s house and couldn’t drive himself home. Papa’s words are true and seem quite obvious, but once again, there is vital information just beneath the surface. Be intentional, even with the obvious things. Be aware of your priorities and make sure you do what needs to be done in advance so that you’ll have the freedom to do what you want to do in the future.
“Keep a wrench or screwdriver, some WD-40 and a grease rag behind the driver’s seat” is a piece of advice that most of us heard as we got behind the wheel of our first car (most often one that frequently required the use of these items). Papa encourages us to be prepared for difficulties and be able to handle it, to some degree, on our own. He’s willing to pick you up on the side of the road somewhere and tow you back to the garage, but it’s always helpful if you have the required supplies behind the driver’s seat.
He has quite a heart, my Papa, that beats loyally after multiple surgeries and near death experiences that range from chain saw incidents to falling cars. His heart is filled with love for those he holds dear. It is the heart that makes him willing to help you out by cashing a check or making a run to the “parts house”, a heart that sometimes grumbles, but always loves and hopes for the best life has to offer us. A heart filled with devotion for family, good food, and Fords. And like any truly devoted man, he doesn’t compromise in his choice to continue loving, even when his words are sometimes harsh, his actions sharp or impatient, and his obvious disagreement with bad decisions we’ve made.
It’s like the way he wears coveralls over his Sunday clothes. The exterior may be a bit rough around the edges, but if you can get underneath it you’ll see what a fine man my Papa is.