Friday, August 31, 2012

A celebration of family

Psalm 20:4-5 (NIV)

May he give you the desire of your heart
    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
   and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
And so we come to the end of another August. This has been a particularly busy month for our family so long as I can remember, and with good reason. But of my dad’s brothers have birthdays in August. His parents were married in August. I was born in August, and five days shy of six years later, so were my brother and sister. And thirty-eight years ago today, my parents were married. So while we have all the regular back-to-school activity like any other family, we’ve also got plenty of reasons to celebrate — sending summer out in style.

As I reflected on the end of my grandmother’s life earlier this month, I focused a fair amount on the example she and my grandfather set in terms of the kind of marriage I hoped to emulate. In so doing, I may have failed to give sufficient credit to my actual parents, whom I have observed closely (some times more close than others) over the last three decades. Working with them and seeing them in that capacity on a daily basis over the last three-plus years had shed additional light on the matter.

My parents on their wedding day (Aug. 31, 1974) with my dad's family.
The divorce rate notwithstanding, I don’t find it especially rare to have grown up in a loving home with parents committed to a strong relationship. But I do have enough perspective to not take it for granted. And the older I get, and the more my own life begins to resemble the path they followed, the more I appreciate exactly what is involved in being happily married for 38 years. The more I understand about family history, and the more I simply watch and listen, the more I realize my parents are no accident. I can’t say is if there were any especially rough patches by the world’s standards — though my dad has had his share of boneheaded moments that might drive a less patient woman off the deep end (and guess in whose footsteps I follow?) — but I realize both of my parents have seriously considered what type of person, parent and partner they want to be, what they are called to be and what they are capable of becoming.

This is the lesson I take from them: to not just find someone and fall in love and aim blindly toward forever, but to continually focus on the partnership. It’s easy to say there must be give and take and compromise and sacrifice. But actually applying those principles, day after day, month after month and year after year, especially when children enter the picture, requires a significant degree of wanting to be and to stay involved.

I sometimes wish I had a specific story of a special moment when I witnessed my parents demonstrating their love and commitment to one another, or perhaps some worldly advice one of them bestowed that I carry on my heart to this day. But I don’t. I don’t have any such grand tales of my own marriage, either. Yet sometimes I feel the whole thing is even more special for its seeming blandness. We’re not trendsetters or larger-than-life personalities. We’re just people who found a partner who makes us happy and wake each day trying to give the family the best version of ourselves. And we know God sits at the head of the table. If we live lives worthy of God, we live lives worthy of each other. That’s the goal — yesterday, today and all our tomorrows.

I wrote a few paragraphs about my parents three years ago today, and rereading them now I find them as true today.
I hope my parents know how truly special they are and how much it has meant to me to have them be the ones who showed me, directly and indirectly, the way to be a good person, a good husband, a good father and a good son.

When I started out at Coe in 1997, I didn't know for sure what kind of job I wanted or even what classes I wanted to take. But I knew I wanted to get married (to a Kohawk, of course) and I wanted to have kids. I wanted to be the kind of parent I had as a child and, with the help of my lovely wife and the influence of her family as well, I like to think we're doing a pretty good job so far.

It will be another 28 years before Kristie and I get to our 35th anniversary. That's nearly twice the time we've both been alive so far. We aspire to be like our parents and grandparents — true life partners who are not so much a couple as two halves of a whole.

When I pray, I always start by offering thanks for my wife and my kids. I know she and they are what make me whole, and that's because I see that kind of love in my family everywhere I turn. I know it didn't start with my parents, and I know it won't end there. But today is a day to honor their relationship and consider all the good that has and will continue to come of it.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. Thank you for everything. May you find something in each day that lets you know how important you are to all of us. And may you have many more happy years, filled with occasions big and small to smile the smiles of people who have found true happiness together.
For the two people who have given me everything, and whom I know will always love me more than they know how to explain, the best I can say is thank you. The best I can do is to love as I was loved, and to raise their grandchildren to understand the things I came to know because my parents first loved me, every day and in every way. They deserve nothing less.

A prayer for August 31:

Lord, I thank you for family. I have been blessed by so many people in so many ways, and my heart breaks for those whom I know struggle to find such comfort and support. Please open my eyes to opportunities to be an extension of your love to those in need, that I may in part repay the many blessings of my life by bringing your blessings to other people. Give me the wisdom to see where I might make a difference, and the strength and courage to follow through when you call me to action. Amen.

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