My parents just celebrated their 59th anniversary! Quite a milestone! And so, having set the furniture down in Texas and unpacked almost all of the boxes, I’m now making plans to head to Colorado to be with them. My father had a difficult early winter, and my mother is his main caregiver. Their final years have been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
I’m the firstborn, the experimental child, the guinea pig, the one who bore the brunt of their youthful energy and expectations. My growing up years were a gifted learning program far ahead of its time. My mother taught me to read when I was three. Everything we did was educational.
They were also superb athletes, therefore competition was encouraged. At their urging and with their full support, I engaged in every sport available to young girls and women in the 1960s and 1970s – summer Junior Olympics included.
They worked their way through college when I was in grade school – my mother graduating summa cum laude while compressing her college degree into only three years and winning the top teaching award in the process. For fun, I read and sometimes confiscated her college child development and psychology textbooks. My father didn’t sleep, I don’t think, for the entire four years he studied and worked full-time, and then he got his masters degree, becoming a college librarian.
Next we built a log cabin with our bare hands, digging the entire leach line and the hole for the septic tank with shovels when I was a young teen, not very cooperative, and certainly lacking in carpentry skills. Then three generations of us constructed it, log by log. My grandpa the science teacher had me figure the geometry for the angles in the A-framed roofing.
In short, my childhood was intense.
My parents are the smartest, hardest working people I know. Without their hand in the middle of my back shoving me through my formative years, I wouldn’t have the work ethic that allowed me to raise and educate six children. Without their parenting, I wouldn’t have the drive to write, finish, and publish novels and Bible study material, all while pushing my body through the recovery and hopeful remission of an autoimmune disease.
They made me who I am. I follow in their footsteps. I get no credit.
But the underbelly of my childhood had rough edges, built on their high expectations of themselves and, therefore, of me. My parents are human, as I and all other parents are. Parts of my childhood were dark and devastating. That is past. They have always been my loudest cheerleaders, but now their edges have softened. They love me incredibly well. The sharp places have been honed down.
When I visit them, they hold me between the two of them, their arms about me, and they pray over me every morning before breakfast. My daddy now tells me and my siblings the stories that hurt him too badly to talk about when I was young, but which drove him and stabbed at him throughout. My momma tells me again how she wishes she had done this or that better. And I thank and praise her, again, for what she instilled in me and for how seriously she took her parenting.
I look forward to this trip. Daddy ever-so-slowly fades and Momma elevates to sainthood almost before our very eyes as she cares for him, singing him love songs, attending to his every need, softening his confusion, comforting him in pain, and hovering over him like a guardian angel. They surpass me, per usual, and this is yet another part of their model that I hope to follow as steadfastly as I have so many other examples they set.
I’m grateful for who they are. The gift of such parents impacts generations.