“I had an inheritance from my father,
It was the moon and the sun.
And though I roam all over the world,
The spending of it’s never done.”
I am an early riser. I don’t sleep all that well these days. Illness, late middle age, and my adorable, annoying cat conspire to disturb each night’s rest. So, I am usually awake when, at five am or so, I receive a text from my youngest son, Isaac, inviting me to breakfast.
He is a building contractor. He lives in the upper Hood River Valley with his wife and two children. The kids, one and four, make for unpredictable nights. One or the other or both may have awakened him. After settling the children, he is ready to eat and get on with his day.
There are two restaurants we frequent, Bette’s Place and Egg River. We like the oatmeal with fruit at one. The other is famous for their cinnamon rolls. Most importantly, though, it opens earlier.
Often, we talk about life in the fast lane of parenting: the sleepless nights; the diaper duty; the child’s loving worship; the financial strain; family stress; the shared joy of a child’s wonder at the world, and the list goes on. I find it difficult to remember the doubts and fears from when I was the parent and he the child. I seem to recall only the fun times. Accordingly, my counsel is always … patience.
As we munch our oatmeal and sip coffee, we are sometimes visited by the ghost of my own father. Like my son, he worked with his hands. Isaac builds houses, my dad was a welder. Unfortunately, he died young from the complications of alcoholism. We never connected as adults. In my teens, I was ashamed of him. My defense mechanism was to tune him out.
I shared my childhood with three older brothers, something like a secondary moon in the orbit of their comings of age. About the time they were leaving the house, a younger sister arrived. My perspective then shifted to that of observing my parents cope with this “surprise”.
Like the grandchildren, my siblings and I were the source of much love and some terror for my parents. My mom had strong roots as a third generation offspring of German dairy farmers. Dad, however, was raised as an orphan in Oklahoma and separated from his sister as a child. Dad’s insecurities were engrained at a young age. Eventually, the unsteady foundation of his childhood crumbled under the weight of alcohol.
Nonetheless, he made sacrifices to assure us opportunity in our lives. Opportunities, I might add, that he did not have. Opportunities, furthermore, that I did not appreciate until years later.
Perspective is the reward for living a long life. It erases the pain of the past. It reveals wisdom neglected and forgiveness earned. I see the well being and self confidence of my grandchildren to be the byproducts of good parenting. We did some things right, as did the parents of my daughter-in-law. She and my son pass it along.
So, too, my parents were determined to do right by their kids. My selfish needs as a teenager notwithstanding, I did feel loved and wanted. These days, I finally understand the value of their gifts. And, I am humbled when dad occasionally stops by in spirit … he would have liked Isaac, they could talk about tools.