The Parking Lot

Wednesday morning. Early. Open parking lot. Traffic humming by on the street. One car pulls up and waits. A second car pulls in a few minutes later and a small boy emerges. As the man from the first car is making his way towards the second car, the boy is running. Arms wide open, excited and hungry for the arms of his Father. Hugs of a broken heart, of feeling what he doesn’t understand. Hugs with no concepts concerning time, where a week feels like a lifetime. Hugs of maybe not enough time to ever heal this pain and heartache.

The Mother from the second car gets out and patiently waits; giving the Father and Son their moment. No smiles or frowns from behind her big sunglasses. She just watches and waits. Part of her broken heart is in those tear-stained hugs of this sad weekly ritual.

The man and the woman talk. She points out how slim he looks. He pulls open his jacket to verify. He may be flattered but he also knows firsthand how sorrow can strip a person’s weight in a hurry. They speak briefly, exchange a few papers. Hand gestures but no anger from my silenced point of view. No waves goodbye, they just walk away ….again. They thought the first time they walked away would be the toughest, but now with the little boy getting older and clinging more, it becomes apparent that this new life is tougher. Heavy stuff. Sad stuff to witness and sadder still to be the one involved.

They have chosen this parking lot to make their weekly exchange. Half way I guess from the old place to whomever had to move out. They exchange the boy, the best thing they ever had in their world. The most loved. She tussles his hair and watches him get into the Fathers car.

I have chosen a parking lot such as this in past years. I have pulled up with degrees of resentment, pain and confusion. Blame for the other and just as much blame for myself. I have hugged so tight as if to never let go. I still don’t want to let go. It can still draw tears. Divorce doesn’t have to be the worst event of someones life but I will say without a doubt that when our children are involved it will be a wound that never totally heals. Perhaps we learn to live with our regrets and pains. We learn to mask and cope, but make no mistake, these sorrows shape us.

I hope you or I never have to choose a parking lot somewhere in between what should have been forever and what will never be again. I hope we can see the beauty of tending our gardens, and giving our children the best of ourselves. And if we do, I hope forgiveness begins on our own tongue and ends with the ones we’ve hurt. I will be looking for this family again next Wednesday. To see them is to see myself and to see myself is a reminder that hope and forgiveness loom large and are sometimes brought down to a single hug. A clutching moment in time where love is all that really matters, and the wish that this hug would never end.

Advertisements

Better Than the Sum

The other day was a stressful one at work. The kind of day that really makes you question what you are doing, especially when you are rolling down the backside of life. You know those kinds of days, right?, where you start entertaining the thought of the stress-less days of a Wal Mart greeter !!!

That day I’d driven my wife’s car that has been passed down from her father. It’s a 66 Mustang, mostly restored and runs really good. So I leave work, hop in the Mustang, with my three legged dog, Josey in the back. It’s a rare low humidity August day in Nashville, so I slide the windows down, turn on my ipod, and put ear buds in. The first song that came on was a live version of Jackson Browne’s “My Stunning Mystery Companion”. All of a sudden the stress of the day all slipped away. Cool evening breeze, and 289 engine that sounds more like a well oiled Harley, Josey smiling in the back, not much traffic and Jackson’s sad but reassuring voice telling me that it’s all gonna be just fine.

“what with all my expectations long abandoned, and a future I no longer saw my hand in / how I found you is beyond my understanding, my stunning mystery companion.

Ahh that voice, that sweet melody that is a true Jackson Browne signature….he continues

“what with all my expectations long abandoned, and my solitary nature not withstanding / You’re the one who pulled me out of that crash landing, my stunning mystery companion.

It was all these elements together, thinking of my wife who is my own stunning mystery companion. Thinking of my children, my life. With the breeze on my face and a smile of gratitude on my lips, I was born again and again in those moments. And while a car ride alone or even Jackson’s music as much as it holds a dear place in my life, or Josey in the back, can totally transform me, these single parts were shadowed by the sum feeling of what a wonderful world it can be. Thanks to my wife and family, my dogs, to Jackson, and to that sunny Nashville evening drive home…..

Here is a studio version of “My Stunning Mystery Companion”…..

 

 

The Parent Thing

For about every parent I know, I see a different way of parenting. A reminder that there is no manual and to distill it down to nothing but “love” is tricky. There is tough love of course, which as a whole, we aren’t as fond of these days. It seems that when we give “tough love” is when we can’t afford to do something, so we call it “tough love”. I wonder if that was always the case.

I am a parent to children from ages 15- 21 right now. The further I go down this road the less I feel I know, yet at the same time, I find pockets of peace. I get the sense that everything is going to work out ok. It scares me to write that and say I believe that, when so far no big tragedy has happened. So within the non tragedy realm this post would be. For those of you that I know and ones I don’t that have faced a big tragedy, my heart aches for you always, and your courage and peace are pulsing through my veins always.

I think for me, when I realized that I didn’t own my children, it gave me a freedom to love them deeper for who they were. Yes, I feel a large part of my role is to shape them, but also to introduce them to a world of possibilities and a way of thinking that is open to hope and being positive. While it is keeping them between the ditches of life, it hopefully isn’t done with fear. They will find and need their own ditches for sure, but I want them to know that isn’t where they have to stay.

I also have to be big enough to let the child be the teacher at times. That isn’t always easy for me. Any of us that have teenagers already know when we have difficulty hooking up some electronic, you go straight to them. But they can be teachers of who we really are as parents. We can see our behaviors , justifications and ill reasoning in them. We can sense when, who we say or think we are, tears away from who we really are as we look into their eyes. For me, those have been times of growth for both child and parent.

This is a short post because I really don’t have any deep words of wisdom to pass on. It is a role in my life that I live with and breathe in deeply everyday. My mistakes hang over me like a heavy cloud sometimes, wishing I could change what happened to their little hearts. The closeness I feel, I cherish like something I may never get again. I try to carve deep into their spirits their connection with the Creator. One free of guilt and shame. One of love, one of fulfillment. And yes, of course love. Lots of love. I hope they feel it and would agree.

Fathers Day

The older I get the heavier that word “Father” gets. It’s deep and wonderful, and a sometimes painful role that goes both ways, being a father as well as a son.

Every generation tries to hand their children a better deal. To somehow fill in the places in their spirit that you felt were missing in yours. Perhaps we all go through that stage of “well, I’m not gonna do it like my daddy did”. That kind of stuff you know. And somehow you think you are going to do everything right ! That’s pretty funny right off the bat.

And while doing all of those thoughts are courageous and I believe in them, I think we learn a little humility about fathering as we go along the way. We learn that most fathers are just doing the best they know how to do with the tools they were given. And that goes back generation after generation after generation. And I’ve surely learned that I was not always easy to teach nor easy to reach ! That maybe right choices were made, but I still went the wrong way. My father taught me a large quiet, non spoken lesson in that he didn’t own me, and allowed me a road, my own road to go and my own light to find. He was always there for the questions but never pushing.

I am a different father than mine is, and he is different than his father was. My children will become different fathers than I, trying to smooth out the rough edges for their children that I left in them. Nobody is perfect and they know I’m not, but they also know they have my heart and I am always on the wind that blows through their lives.

I hope all of us fathers will remember on this day how wonderful this journey of fatherhood is. Give a call if you can and receive a call with the wonderful gratitude of the ones you gave life.

I wish you all a deep, wonderful fathers day from the hills of Tennessee to wherever you are…..

Earth Day

What does Earth Day or its intentions mean to you? Does it sound hokey?, kind of Euell Gibbons-ish? Do you picture earthy kind of folks drenched in patchouli, wearing Birkenstocks? Maybe you kind of chuckle at the “Mother Earth” kind of stuff or think the earth has been giving for centuries and it probably will for many more to come.

Or maybe, just maybe, you think of future generations. Maybe you try to live a life of using only what you need, and making sure what you throw away goes to the right place. Maybe you believe that this earth is a gift from the Creator and you wish to honor that gift by caring for it and teaching your children to do the same thing.

I know folks on both sides of this idea. But it is time. It is time to honor this gift that sustains us and our children and our children’s children ! Maybe the shift in thinking is just that because we are human and have “dominion”, doesn’t mean we are separate from the whole. We are a part of everything, of the source. Only fools bite the hand of the source. I hope you find a way to honor this sustainer of life on Earth Day. Even more, I hope there is a stronger shift in my mind, towards living as a part of the whole.

AHH FIRE IS GOOD

I’ve been sitting around campfires with friends for probably over 20 years. I kinda thought I was in the minority, but I’m finding out how wrong I’ve been. People are sitting around fires around the country in big numbers. Playing music, talking of life and spiritual journeys, eating, laughing, just being together.

There is something about fire itself wouldn’t you agree? Something mesmerizing, soothing, and yes something that connects us to the generations that have come before. There is something special about the conversations that are had around campfires with our spouses, with our friends and our children.

The more I talk with other men, the more I find they are a part of a group of guys that meet around a fire regularly. I think it would be really cool to see the campfires with friends huddled around from a birds eye view all across this land.

Do you think it has something to do with the natural gravitation back to the earth? I do. I think we need her, she is our grounding. I prefer my fires more primitive with my feet on the earth, but some prefer having them on the deck and some do a gas fire ! I urge those folks to go primitive on occasion.

It sure isn’t a man thing only. My wife loves to bring a blanket out, maybe a glass of wine, and enjoy the sights and smells of a fire.

Time Marches On

I will turn 50 this spring. That’s hard for my ears to hear. I’m beginning to believe it’s all about perspective. Some would look at 50 and say the really good stuff is all ahead of you and some would say I’ve already got one foot in the box ! Since it’s not anything I can control, I might as well go with the flow and seek contentment in the moment.

Sometimes I look back at pictures of my father and grandfather to see what they looked like at whatever age I’m presently at. Maybe we all compare ourselves to our forefathers in some fashion. Maybe it’s a measuring of some sort. I look to see how they’d aged at that point and then my mind takes me to memories of those stages. They are my memories and they are surely slanted from my perspective at the time. Most times I feel like I am not the man that they were.

When I bring the subject up with my father mostly what I get is that he thinks I’m doing fine and I’ve over inflated my sense of who they were. That they were just doing the best they knew how to do at the time with no manual of life. I wonder if I will have similar conversations with my children at some point.

How should I see myself at this watermark of life. Maybe I should just take some comfort in the “er’s” of life. I’m not wise or smart, but perhaps wiser and smarter. The older I get the more I realize how much I don’t know, and that having all the answers was never the big point anyway. At least I don’t ever think it was Gods point for us. Maybe He wants us to rattle and bump along. To be in the moment of falling, reaching, getting up, crying, laughing and loving.

As this stage I sometimes struggle with this middle ground. Neither young nor old. Reading glasses are everywhere in my home. Waistlines are not where I’d like them. Joints are stiff. Memory is like Hudini, disappearing without notice ! Hair is gray headed for white. Youth gets younger. Fashion and music harder to relate to.

But I have my health, my family has its health. My children are wonderfully centered and loving. With a little warm up I can still shoot a game of hoops, chase a tennis ball, swim, surf, and throw a frisbee. I grow more and more comfortable with who I am. More comfortable in my own skin. There are many things I don’t like, and many poor choices I will live with forever, but all in all, it’s a good life. It’s simple and full of wonder, and I try to embrace each day and what it holds.

It makes me think of the Jimmy Buffett song “Growing older but not up”. Willie Nelson has always said that they key to not losing your sanity and creating happiness is humor. To keep laughing, and to be able to laugh at yourself. Or like the Walt Wilkins song “Stand Up Seven” “Fall down six times, stand up seven, that’s how yo make it” ! I’ll go with that. Sorry this post is a bit long winded. Time has been on my mind. I’d love to know how you feel about time from your perspective.