Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don’t Like It One Bit (A Guest Post From Steve)

Once again, I would like to present to you my favorite husband as he shares the musing-filled missive that he wrote on the way home from Florida last week. It is followed by a few questions I've answered from the comment area. So today you're getting two for the price of one!


Don’t Like it One Bit

“I’m a bundle of confusion . . . . “ Isn’t that what Barbara Streisand sang in “Yentl?”

That pretty well sums up my emotional state as I’m headed home from the whirlwind trip to Florida for Nate’s twenty-first birthday. I’m just plain wrung
out with a singular sense of mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion sitting on my sagging shoulders.

Don’t misunderstand me--the three days with Nathan were positive, replete with lots of laughs, lengthy father/son talks, great food, and an action movie with lots of explosions. (And yes, Beck, the movie did have a modicum of character development and dialogue . . . but not so much as to spoil the fun.)

I enjoyed getting to know Nate’s friends and, of course, getting to see our friends, the Hawleys, was great as well. But on other levels, the visit was difficult, disconcerting, even painful.

During the whole weekend I was torn between wanting to insert myself into Nathan’s challenges and the knowledge that I needed to keep my fatherly fingers off his life. I dealt with restless nights, a swirl of thoughts, a mixed bag of emotions. I was trying to be fully there, redeeming the time, making memories and yet feeling the need to hide, to retreat, to process. The desire to fix and to help was almost genetically driven; however the related fear of encouraging dependence if I helped too much was always in the forefront of my mind.

For instance, on Thursday after he picked me up at the airport in Orlando, I was aware of something that needed attention and attempted a rescue to which Nate responded (very respectfully) that he wanted to handle it himself. Oops. So I backed off.

His big celebration was on Saturday night and he had requested that his party be a game style event; as a result, Ping Pong, corn toss and Frisbee football were all offered. Nathan invited me to play Frisbee football with the guys but I told him that since my right shoulder had been painful lately and I also had stitches from the removal of some suspicious moles, my Frisbee-ing would probably be brief. I did play, but I ran back and forth on the field as more of an accessory than a team member--complete with jiggling tummy. The young studs brilliantly and effectively avoided tossing the Frisbee to me.

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It didn’t take long before I retired to the sidelines to eat watermelon and lick the wounds of my no-longer-youthful pride. Nate, of course, carried on happily without me.

After the games and before the birthday blessing over the meal, the whole gang gathered in a circle in the kitchen and all fifteen of us said something about Nate that we liked or appreciated. I was last and by the time my turn arrived I was choked up, listening to the funny and heartfelt words being spoken, and so grateful that Nathan is surrounded by such quality people. I felt such deep love and pride and I was busting-my-buttons proud of the man he has become and is becoming.

I croaked out a heartfelt line or two of affirmation and said a brief blessing over the meal, ending by thanking God for Ping Pong (which earned a hearty laugh) in order to help mask my emotions. I was so proud of him and yet so sad that he is starting his adult life 825 miles away from Becky, Sarah and me. And yet I was convinced that he is tracking true--he’s right where he should be with the best kind of people around him.

After the games and meal, it was time for Nate to open his gifts. Before ripping open the wrappers, he read Becky and Sarah’s cards out loud; then he read the inscription on my card. He squinted and stumbled over my handwriting, which resembles an amalgam of Egyptian hieroglyphics, chicken scratch and kindergarten scribble-scrabble. He kept asking “What is that word?”

IMG_8473

He finally handed the card to me to read. The problem was that between my scrawl and my tears, I couldn’t read it either. Finally I croaked to the finish line and he went on to open all of his gifts with great appreciation.

I was really anticipating attending the Sunday worship service with him at Garden Grove Assembly, which is pastored by Revs. Frank and Sherry Hawley, the parents of Nathan’s girl friend. They are terrific people who both wear super hero capes and “leap tall buildings with a single bound.”

Here they are with their daughters and son-in-law.

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Nate had invited me to sit in with the praise band as they don’t currently have a bass player. I was honored and excited at the prospect and even considered bringing my custom-built, Carvin bass guitar with me. (I finally decided against it, due to the risk of damage and additional luggage expense.)

Nathan had told me that the church had an old bass that needed some repair, so on Saturday morning, he and I dropped it off at the musical store with the guitar tech guy who came complete with obligatory ponytail and John Lennon glasses. Happily, he got the thing working again and as I paid him, I was so pleased that Nate and I would get the chance to jam out in church together. “I’m finally going to be needed,” I happily told myself.

Well, when Sunday morning came and it was time for rehearsal, the bass guitar rolled over and played dead. (I could even hear it saying “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.”) No amount of fiddling, prodding, battery or cord changing could get it to cooperate. So when service time came, instead of getting to be up on the platform making music with my son, I sat out in the congregation and watched from a distance as my son expressed his musical gift. And you know what? He “done good” without me.

But I didn’t have to like it.

Sunday afternoon after a quick lunch, Nate and Meagan took me to the Orlando airport for my trip home. During the ride we talked about a variety of issues and in the middle of one particular chat Nate said, “So what do you do?”

Answering another question from the conversation that had been swirling in my head all weekend I said absently, “I let go.”

We were speaking on entirely different planes, the question and answer overshooting each other on different azimuths and altitudes, like airliners X-ing in the sky.

He probably didn’t even notice my odd answer, focused as he was on the stuff of young adult life--dreams, fears, and great expectations. Those same things he’s facing, from my middle aged perspective, look more like dreams altered, fears faced, failures learned from, and a few expectations greatly lowered. It’s amazing how the years can change your vantage point and perspective.

And now here I sit on the plane headed home, my ears popping even as the pilot helpfully informs me that we have begun our descent into Norfolk. I’m pounding and clattering away on my computer, with my tray table not yet in its “full and upright position,” eyes tearing up, spilling my guts into an inanimate machine while sitting among strangers. Such is modern life.

I suspect that a young man with an earring, reading a book (novel idea . . . rim shot!) sitting across the aisle from me might be looking over my shoulder at my musings. After all, the font is set for MIDDLE-AGED-HUGE on my PC.

And I’m quite sure that he heard me sniff a couple times and maybe thought, “Just some middle-aged dude with a paunch trying to be cool with ‘product’ in his hair writing some drivel about his latest midlife crisis.”

Whether he was even thinking those things or not isn’t important (he likely wasn’t, but isn’t paranoia fun?!), I still felt like putting on my parental persona and saying to him, “Tuck your shirt in already. PULL UP YOUR PANTS. Don’t slouch. Did you call your mother on her birthday? Are you saving money? Did you rotate the tires on your car at your last oil change?”

But alas, those speeches are for all those yesterdays when the world was younger and the young men of the world were still boys. Speeches like that are for all those long ago moments when I didn’t need bifocals and was still one of the young studs, sans jiggling tummy, playing Frisbee football with the guys.

Middle age has eclipsed my youth and manhood has dawned for my son and now I have to continually make the decision to let him be, to let him go, to keep my mouth shut, to pry my fingers off his life and to let him spread his wings. I want him to take the risk, take the plunge, and take on the adventures of life—wherever they may take him. Even if it’s away from me.

But I still don’t have to like it. Not one little bit.

NOTE: I am fully aware that some parents who read this missive have faced horrendous suffering with your children such as death, illness, divorce, dysfunction, addiction, imprisonment, to name just a few. This entry isn’t even a blip on the radar of pain in light of what many of you have faced. It was merely an account of my journey of a normal process every parent must face--namely a child leaving home.

_______________________________________________

A FEW QUESTIONS/ANSWERS FROM THE COMMENTS SECTION

Yesterday’s Casserole Recipe

Anon said, “I want to make this recipe for dinner soon! Can I use an 8 inch square casserole instead of a 6 by 10 one??? Thanks . . . love your recipes, they are good and usually do not require a trip to the grocery store for exotic ingredients! Unless you consider mayonnaise and the fact that you were out of it exotic!”

Anon, I think the 8 inch pan would work great; in fact, I think more people would tend to have that size, rather than the 6x10 size the recipe calls for.

Krueth said, “Sounds delicious! I will be making it in the next few days! I also did not know you could buy cornflake crumbs..LOL I always just dump some in a Ziploc bag and crush away.”

Dumping and crushing sounds good to me! That would be a much more economical way to get the crumbs.

Chick-Fil-A Post

Krista wrote, “ . . is that cheese sauce for the fries?!”

Jill said, “Yum! Chick-fil-A, Whataburger, and 5 guys are the best fast food when I splurge on junk! Oh, I like the "Polynesian" sauce and the newer "Chick-fil-a" sauce with my Chick-fil-A.

Harriet said, “I love Chick-fil-A also! That looks like the kids' meal size. You probably already know this, but at least at our Chick-fil-A stores here in GA, you can trade in your unopened kids' toy for a free small ice cream. Another yum!”

Love Being A Nonny said, “I get a kid's meal too and I always trade in my toy for a dream cone! The honey roasted barbecue sauce is THE BEST!!!”

Buff said, “I love Chick-fil-A also! And we do have them in Carmel....but something you must try if you haven't already...5 Guys...burgers & fries...I know there is one on the by-pass...Kitty Hawk, maybe?

Wow. Nice to meet so many other Chick-Fil-A fans! Although we used to live two minutes away from a Chick-Fil-A, now we’re a couple hours. So whenever I get to eat at one, it is a big treat.

My favorite part about eating there on my “doctor visit days” is going through the drive through, parking the car in an out of the way spot, turning on my book-on-CD, and spreading out my feast “just so” on my lap. Ahhh . . . the luxury of it all. I always get TWO packs of Chick-Fil-A sauce because not only is the sauce perfect for dipping the chicken tenders, it is also marvelous with the waffle fries! In fact, I love the sauce so much I am sometimes tempted to dab it behind my ears!

And to Krista who asked if that is a cheese sauce, it’s not. But I don’t really know how to tell you what it is—except to say that it is really good!

To those of you who mentioned trading in the toy at Chick-Fil-A for a cone, I had actually heard that a long time ago but had forgotten all about it. Next time I go, it’s gonna be a cone for me!

And yes, we do have a 5 Guys within about 20 minutes of us. I LOVE their hamburgers—they’re amazing. (Although I’m not as thrilled with their fries.)

Sigh. All of this food talk is making me hungry. I think I’ll go gnaw on a carrot stick.

Or not.

28 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Anonymous said...

Great post, Steve. Becky, I misread one of the comments. I thought someone was trading their kids in for the cone! Had to read it again to realize it was their "kid toy" they were bartering:-)
Jan from Toledo

MaryH said...

Steve, as I have always said, I would love to have my two girls back in highchairs and their only decisions would be to purchase a ball or a book or a Barbie doll when we went shopping. But, alas, they are both grown, wonderful women with real life (sometimes huge) decisions and tasks in front of them. I have been told (by them and by that voice in my head) that they can handle it and not to worry. Not to worry!!! How can we ever gracefully let them go and stumble and fall and succeed and fail and not worry! The rewards are great for planting those parental feet of ours and closing our mouths and swallowing all those words of wisdom because what we get to view and appreciate and love even more are wonderful, grown children. We are proud, we are wistful for the babies they once were but we are so happy for what they have grown up to be. Steve, they do find their way back to our counsel, to our arms, to our homes and into that very spot in our heart they seem to have vacated. Not exactly at the age of Nathan, but soon. More times than not, they are accompanied by a husband or a wife and have a baby of their own in their arms. We nod, we smile, we laugh and we cry because we know the path they are beginning and one day, they will be where we are today, God willing.

P.S. Becky, I wish I had taught my children to eat casseroles because your chicken one sounds delicious. I also like to find a quiet spot after purchasing fast food and relax in my car as I feast away.

Margie said...

Well I can't wait to tell my husband that I'm not the only one who eats in the car!
Steve that was a beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Steve, Your wisdom to hold back astounds me. I know from meeting you in person how very smart you are, but sometimes when the heart is envolved it's just hard! Looking forward to seeing you soon, Chlorita and I are very excited to finally get to attend one of your services. We can't wait to see the three of you!

Cindy from Sonoma

Kristina Creek said...

Hi Becky (and all of her readers!!)--

Just came from voting for Arms Wide Open, and it has fallen to third. It and whatever is in second place must be running neck and neck, as it was second when I voted yesterday. Every, please go vote so it can regain an "in-the-money" spot!! Voting ends this Thursday . . .

http://www.refresheverything.com/armswideopenchildhoodcancerfoundation

-Kristina

Lesley said...

"he is tracking true". That sums it up! I let my first son go and am in the midst of the second. It is SO hard. And it doesn't get easier with each child, by the way....It's full of pain and pride and the certain realization that we are plopped right in the chapter of 'middle age'.
Awesome post Steve. You are quite the writer.

MaryH said...

Kristina or Becky or anyone else - I just went and voted today for the money from Pepsi - how can (or can you) vote more than once a day? I have never figured that out.

Sue G said...

Steve, please believe me when I say that while they may grow up and become men and women, they will always be our kids. The situations of reaching out for advice or to smooth a ruffled feather may wane, but they never disappear for good. Just as you grew in the Lord, Nathan has grown through your teaching. And just as you continue to turn to the Lord when you need only Him, Nathan will continue to turn to you when he needs what only you can give him. Sometimes that is simply a reminder of who he is.

(And, no, I am not comparing you to God so don't even try!)

Our children may change their physical addresses, but the address written on their hearts is always home...and home is where you and Becky and Sarah are.

Becky, I agree with you about Five Guys fries. Don't know what all the fuss is about. Yick. I have never been to Chick Fil'et and we have two within two miles of home. Just never tried it.

Marysienka said...

Beautiful post Steve. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

Rachel said...

Having just come back from our amazing week in Nags Head... I've gotta tell ya, the last place we wanted to eat while there was a Chick-Fil-A... lol. Or a Five Guys or really... well... anywhere other than our favorite local beach restaurants. It's funny how much you crave something when you can't have it all the time. That's how I feel about Tortuga's and Red Drum :P

We have a Chick-fil-a and just a minutes drive from our home, but after eating there pretty much daily when I worked at the mall all I can say is... pass.

I do sympathize though, my aunt, uncle and cousin live in the Outer Banks and they have been wishing for years that a Chick-fil-a would come. I thought they were supposed to be getting one in Kill Devil Hills shortly though... so there's hope yet!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I so relate... have some of my own events that so resonate with your post. - Those same things he’s facing, from my middle aged perspective, look more like dreams altered, fears faced, failures learned from, and a few expectations greatly lowered.

Very heartfelt and well said, and I very much appreciate it right now.

Jean C.

Kristina Creek said...

Hi Again!!

MaryH - I believe you can vote up to ten times per day, but only if you're voting for different organizations. So you can only vote for Arms Wide Open once per day.

I realized looking back that the complete URL did not paste into my comment. It's:

http://www.refresheverything.com/armswideopenchildhoodcancerfoundation

I checked recently, and it was back into second place. So it must be extremely close between second and third. Vote, vote, vote!!

Kristina Creek said...

ARGH!!

Sorry for the multiple posts, it doesn't seem to like the long link. You'll have to splice these together (sorry for that, too!):

http://www.refresheverything.com/armswideopenchi
ldhoodcancerfoundation

Anonymous said...

I should digg your article therefore other people are able to see it, very helpful, I had a tough time finding the results searching on the web, thanks.

- Murk

Lisa said...

Wonderful post. Sounds like Father and Son are both growing up just as Our Father(Jesus) intended. Your son KNOWS you love him and will always be there for him.

I think Chick Fillet is over rated.

deb said...

Incredible writing, Steve.

Love, Deb

Sheri Hawley said...

Loved the title - that just about sums up the feeling of every parent. (Post-snuggling, cooing, giggling, stage of parenting. Sigh.) Glad you had a venue for expression.

Kelly said...

Steve, I loved your post. My kids are much younger...just barely starting elementary school and I already have a hard time letting go! I can't imagine how hard it is for them to leave home for good. Thank you for your well written and heartfelt post.

Becky, just wanted to let you know I always enjoy your posts even if I don't always leave a comment. Hope that you are feeling well.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful````
Thanks

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