One-on-one

Last night I got a text message from a co-worker.  She shared that a third grade boy at one of our after-school sites, a kid from a single parent family, lost his mother and sister in a horrible car accident yesterday.  He rode with them to school.  At 6 pm when our program closed, no one came to pick him up.  That was very unusual.  Then the news.  He spent last night in foster care.

He lost his mother and middle school sister and then had to, at least temporarily, go, alone, to a stranger’s house to spend the night.

I don’t know the kid.  I don’t know much about his situation.  Yet my heart aches for him.

This little guy now has to navigate life without the two people who were his foundation.  His world turned upside down.

I’m thinking about what must be going on in his mind today.

Two weekends ago I spent the day at Elon University with Stephanie.  It was Men We Love weekend with her sorority.  It was likely designed for dads but knowing not everyone has a dad, they broadened it to men.

We spent a little time with her crew at school, but mainly we had an almost full day together.  We laughed and laughed.  Talked about her future.  Talked a bit about mine.  Saw the better part of a football game and an acapella concert together.

I cherish the time I get, especially one-on-one, with those I love.  It might be the most meaningful of all.

None of us knows how many more days we have left on this earth.  Man, I want to spend more of it intentionally building connections with those around me.

That’s the important stuff.

The First Stone

When I was a young teenager, I distinctly remember walking into the Darryl’s restaurant in Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, NC, and seeing several adults who worked with my youth group at a table with what appeared to be alcoholic beverages.  Being raised Baptist, I was appalled and saddened that they would be going to hell.

My grandfather was an alcoholic so my parents chose not to drink.  I don’t mean not to drink a lot.  I mean teetotalers.  Alcohol has not pursed the lips of my father’s mouth.  And he is pushing 82.  He told me if I had lived with what he lived with as a child, I too would not partake.

I’m not sure when it hit me that you could be a Christian and also drink beer.  Or smoke.  Or even cuss.  And I guess that there are a lot of Christians doing a lot of other stuff that I would have questioned when I was 13.  In fact, I am.

The older I get, the more I realize that life is hard.  I also realize that people, none of them, not even my dad, are not perfect.

I recently gave a panhandler $5.  I’m not sure what moved me to do so.  It was cold outside, and I had cash which is unusual for me.

For a split second I wondered what he might do with the cash.  Maybe buy a six pack of PBR I thought to myself.  And then, I realized, if I was going to have to sleep outside that night, I’d likely do the same.

What makes it OK for me to assume he’s going to do something bad with MY money, which I gave to him, and not OK for him to spend it for his needs?  Is it worse for me to judge what he might do or for him to buy the beer?  I didn’t even know his situation.  Nor do I know what I’d do with $5 bucks if I was in his shoes.

I become exhausted with myself condemning others while I, on my very, very high horse, disappoint God and others on a quite frequent basis.  I become exhausted with others for that too.

The older I get the more I find myself wanting to love, and the more agitated I get when I hear racial bias or prejudice against gays or a lack of love for an addict.  Maybe it is because I clearly see all the junk I do wrong.  I believe in the bible it says something like let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

I’m going to try to hold on to my rocks.

I Love You, I’m Proud of You

Both of my  grandparents on the Tanner side had bypass surgery.  Last week was my dad’s turn.

He had a bit of chest pressure, and after multiple stents, figured he’d better get it checked out.  The ambulance picked him up at 5 AM.  Mom followed in her car, but only after she got her makeup on.

It is disconcerting to see your parent, or really anyone you love, go through such a procedure.  It’s scary.  Even with modern medicine and a really good doctor, there are risks with an almost 80 year old having extensive surgery.  My dad knew that.

He knew it enough that last week he made it a point to tell each of his children and each of his grandchildren that he loved them and was proud of them.  Covering his bases, just in case.

My dad actually does a pretty good job of letting all of us know just how thankful he is for his children on a regular basis.  He gets a bit emotional before the dinner prayer at family events because he is so proud of the group of heirs that now surround him.

So for us, it wasn’t an earth shattering moment to hear his words of affirmation.  They are fairly normal in the Tanner household.

I think I’ve done the same for my kids.  I just love them simply because they are mine.  I see wonderful in them that they can’t even fathom yet.  Although I tell them, they don’t yet realize how special they are.

If something happens to me, I don’t want my girls to have to guess about my feelings for them.  I want them to be 100% confident that I loved them, that I respected them, and that I was proud of them – no matter what.

I think growing up with that safety net gave me a peace that enabled me to be myself, not working to prove something to the world.  I always felt that I was a pretty cool person.  May not have been outside of the family, but within those walls, I was made to believe I was a rock star.

Not every kid has that level of acceptance.  Although ideal, maybe it doesn’t have to come from a parent.  Perhaps I have an ability to show love and acceptance to other kids through my interactions and encouragement at church or the mall or at my kids’ schools.

My dad seems to be doing well.  I am thankful for his acceptance and hope to pass that on to others who need it.

Taking It In For Two

Bailey at commencement

As wonderful as special occasions can be, I still find them hard.

For some reason, I can head to work each day without incident.  When Lisa died, we stopped eating dinner at the table and moved to the bar in the kitchen.  Ironically, I was the one who insisted on the table.  I think I like the Leave It To Beaver image of a man, me, sitting at the head looking out on all that I had – my kingdom – beautiful wife, three charming daughters and a nice backyard with very green grass.  Stools at the bar seemed to solve my emotional food disorder; even sleeping in that bed alone has become comfortable to me.

But toss in a high school graduation, a wedding or a funeral and I resort back.  Not necessarily to her death.  I harken back to what should have been.  She should have helped address the graduation announcement invitations.  She should have OK’d the white dress.  She should have read over DJ’s last speech to the school as Student Body President.  She should have been behind the camera lens, at the Apple Store picking out her college computer; there when grandpa gave her his old MINI Cooper – her character building Subaru in the junk yard.

As my beautiful senior walked down the brick pathway through the Grove at St. Mary’s School, I leaned over to my sister-in-law, “I feel like I need to be watching for both of us; like I need to be Lisa’s eyes too.”

It’s unfair to me to have to carry the emotional insecurity of sending my kid off into this big world alone.  It’s unfair to Lisa not to see her daughter soar.  She’s missing the tough parts and the glorious.

And I get it all.

Have We Said Enough?

Valentine’s Day, 2010, was ten days before Lisa died.  Although it’s been five years, cupid brings back vivid, vivid memories.

In many ways, it is my hardest grief day of the year.  The reminder that it is coming is blasted everywhere I turn:  on TV, in the grocery store, billboards – even Jiffy Lube has an oil change coupon special for your sweetheart!

The last dinner my girls and I ate with Lisa was on Valentine’s Day.  Of course we didn’t know that would be the case, but deep down, maybe we had a hunch.

It was an odd evening.  Lisa and I were trying so hard to be happy for three excited kids.

Yeah, yeah, it’s Valentine’s Day!  Candy, candy!  Love in the air.  Ignore the fact that your beloved mother in the seat beside you is hooked up to a morphine drip and dying from cancer.

As difficult as it is to face this annual reminder, February 14, 2010, ended up bringing me the greatest gift I ever received.  It gave me what I needed to take the steps  to put my life back together.

It was this day that prompted Lisa to write me a note.  Although I knew my wife loved me, she was not one to gush.  But this note encapsulated her feelings about me.  The last sentence she wrote was:

You are the husband, father, soul mate and friend that I want – never been another.  I love you very much.  Lisa

If I died tomorrow, I wonder if the people around me would know how I feel about them.

I have a buddy, Steve, who occasionally texts with the message, “I love you.”  When I see him, he says the same.

Another dear friend, Brad, and I hug and share the same sentiment.  His wife occasionally rolls her eyes at our mushiness.

I pick on people who mean a lot to me – just ask those in the offices next to mine at the YMCA.  Do my co-workers understand how much they mean to me?  I spend more time with them than any other friends and often more time than I spend with my family.  Do those at church know how much I look forward to seeing them each week?  Can the girls see my love through the nagging?

I’d like there to be no question in the minds of those who mean the most to me.

I’m not sure why it is sometimes so hard to express love.  It makes us squirmy and uncomfortable.  I’ve been the recipient of unfettered expression.  Lisa and I were given that chance.  Had she died in an automobile accident, that would not have been the case.

I have lived the past five years with a lack of guilt or regret about my relationship with my wife.  She let me know I was what she needed.  And yet, at times I still struggle with sharing how much I appreciate and care for others.  If it is tough for me, I imagine it might be even harder for those who have not experienced the joy of knowing that someone you loved so much loved you so much in return.

Thanksgiving Jam Session

Uncle Jesse comes through with the Thanksgiving sing along.  It’s good to have an uncle who can play piano by ear, postpones the after Thanksgiving food coma by at least an hour…

Even Grandpa raised the roof!

Here’s a Christmas tune…

 

 

Sunday Post 157: Four Years Ago

It was four years ago tomorrow. Seems like longer. In many ways I’ve done more in the past four years than I did in the first forty-four. That’s actually sort of pathetic.

I don’t have the intense feelings of grief this time. There are a few, but it doesn’t feel like someone is stomping on my chest.

What I have noticed every February for the last four years, is that I find myself in a fog. It’s like I’m walking around in a card board box.

I’ve struggled to focus, like a fly on horse poo. I’ve missed a few appointments – one where I put the meeting in my calendar starting at 10 PM, not AM. The girls’ winter break snuck up on me. Didn’t line up child care until two weeks out. That’s not typical for me.

On Saturdays I usually conquer the world. Lately, I’m fine to sit. I’m not really doing anything – I guess I’m just thinking, sort of day dreaming.

Sitting – how uncharacteristic of me.

Knocking out push ups is a nightly activity year round. Right now each one feels like a mammoth undertaking.

I do find myself reliving that last week of her life. She in the hospital in her blue, cotton robe. Those last few days were painful.  Scary. Wish I could dismiss them. Unfortunately, they’re etched.

My buddy reminds me this is my month – “It was like this last year too Danny, remember?”

“Yeah, I do.” Hunker down. It’ll be over soon.

Sunday Post 152: Too Soon?

Last Sunday DJ announced that Stephanie was my favorite child, “You clearly love her more.” She didn’t seem that upset, she was just sharing fact – or at least her perception at that place and time.

Michelle was appalled. She clearly thought I loved her the most.

Stephanie just cheesed, happy as a lark.

I dispute DJ’s claims. My heart is huge. When I think there can’t possibly be room for anymore love, sometimes I just make more.

Not too long ago a friend of mine got married. His wife passed away like Lisa.

Some have criticized him. Said he tied the knot way too soon. I’m guessing those who are critical have never sat at home on a Saturday night alone. I bet they didn’t get left out of the dinner party because it was a couples thing. They probably had someone to sit with on Sunday morning at church; someone to go out to lunch with after the service.

I’ve waited four years and am nowhere near married again. But I surely wouldn’t criticize someone who happened to find someone who they loved and who could help fill those voids.

It’s easy to question other’s actions when you haven’t walked in their shoes. Finding new love isn’t necessarily a sign that one has forgotten or fully moved on. It might even be a sign that their first marriage was really very good!

I have a big heart – plenty of room to love. My friend did too.

Sunday Post 150: Teach Them Well

You always try to teach your kids good stuff.  Sometimes I think I focus more on making sure that they know the proper way to use me and I in a sentence than to ensure that they understand the importance of loving their neighbor.

On Christmas, I worry about the same thing.  I know of families who forego presents and instead take a mission trip.  Others choose to make a significant contribution to a charity or serve lunch at a shelter on Christmas day.  We just eat like hogs and give each other an exorbitant number of presents, many of which we don’t really need.

I think my parents realize how we indulge on this day and that we really should have a different sort of focus.  So each year, after we’ve opened our presents and before we stuff our faces, they sit the family down at the dinner table.  As our stomachs rumble and the smell of turkey wafts through the air, we pause to listen.

Being a minister, my dad has always been able to share a sermonette off the cuff.  And that’s exactly what he does.

In front of your plate you’ll see an envelope with your name on it.  Your mother and I have decided to support several charities across the world in your honor.  There are a ton of folks out there who don’t have the ability to give a single gift at Christmas.  There are many who don’t have food to eat, and yet, look at us.  I’d like for you to read your card to the family.

Each of us, from age 11 to 75, reads and shares the story of someone in need throughout the world and how my parents have chosen to support them.

They aren’t sharing this information to say look what we’ve done.  They’re sharing the information to help teach the next generation that it isn’t all about us.  They share to teach us and remind us that we are incredibly fortunate and that we should be thankful.

It’s not a guilt trip – my mom and dad would be the first to tell you they indulge their children and grandchildren as much as any other proud grandparents.  But they take their job of passing down their passion for loving their neighbors to those who will soon follow in their footsteps.

I guess one day I’m going to be the one holding that torch.  I should start now – pretty big shoes to fill.

 

Sunday Post 149: Love, Love, Love was all around

Uncle Jesse turned me on to this Christmas song a few years ago.  It’s by Dave Matthews and has some really beautiful lyrics.

The people he knew were
Less than golden hearted
Gamblers and robbers
Drinkers and jokers, all soul searchers
Like you and me

His heart was full of love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around

Love is easy for me.  It’s easy because I don’t work to associate with folks who I think might be unloveable to me.  I just avoid them.  I live in the Danny Tanner bubble.  Roll up my window when I come near a panhandler.

For me, it’s not even necessarily the outcasts of society I struggle to love though.  Nah, it’s the folks who get on my nerves.  Or groups of people who don’t hold my same views.

Yeah, those are the ones I struggle to love.  I think they struggle to love me too.

It’s interesting that Dave Matthews is right.  Jesus didn’t choose folks who were just like him to love.  He picked whores and tax collectors and some fairly surly human beings to hang around.  I like Brad and Robyn from work, Carnessa and Andy from the play, Jeff and Steve – the guys I occasionally go out with.  That’s who I love.

Maybe God’s calling us to do more.  Maybe He wants us to stretch a little further – a step or two out of our comfort zone.  There are certainly people out there I could work to appreciate a little more.

Gonna look to share a little more love, love, love this week.

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and BraidsAmazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

Three day special on the Kindle edition of Laughter, Tears and Braids – 50% off December 22 – 24!  Great Christmas gift – click here:  Amazon Kindle

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:  Click here.  And thanks!

  • Tanner Tweets

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 11,934 other followers

  • Past Posts

  • Contact Us