Leukemia would take her within a few months. She hadn’t any money. It was 1916 and she could barely do her job at the laundry. The mining explosion in childhood had burned her hands so badly she couldn’t fully open them, but they gripped laundry well enough. Now they struggled to hang onto a little boy.
Who would take care of little Albert?
Robert looked down at his neighbor’s child.
“I’ll do it.”
“Yes. I’ll do it. I’ll marry you, and Harvey will be my boy. I’ll take care of him. I’ll raise him.”
So, the little boy, Harvey Edstrum, son of an occasionally drunk, occasionally abusive father, became Harvey Greenleaf. His mother died. He grew up, working with his dad as a migrant farm hand. He married, and 18 years later, divorced. He moved in with his son, my father.
He taught me how perseverance at an ice cream machine crank paid off. He taught me how to tip a waitress for a morning cup of coffee (leave a nickel under the saucer). Grampa bought me cherry Mountain Bars at the cafe on the way to kindergarten each morning, and a Squirt soda and maybe a box of Cracker jacks (with real toys) on the way home.
He moved out before I finished kindergarten, bought a grocery store in Paradise, California. He married a woman with three teen sons (one of them broke my bike). A couple of years later those stepsons got drunk, argued, and killed him.
That’s all I know about them. I don’t know my great grandmother’s name. I don’t know her first husband’s name. I failed to learn and remember little more of my family history than a few paragraphs, a faint echo of their lives. In less than a century the struggles and achievements of a life are forgotten.
We want people to know who we are. Today. Forever. We want them to love us, respect us. We ache to be noticed. We are born needing constant attention. If we don’t get it we will die. We demand to be fed, to be held. It doesn’t stop when we learn to feed ourselves.
It’s more than a physical need. It is a soul need.
Something deep inside wants attention, craves it, needs it.
Why write this blog? Is it a personal exploration, or to help others, or is it a cry for attention? Am I crying into the darkness, into an empty spot deep inside and shouting “Look at me! Hear me! Think of me! Look at how I string words, thoughts, together! Let me affect you! Let me show you truths and in doing that you will see me. Then I will know I exist.”
Why do I get upset when my wife is a little controlling? Because I want to be recognized for being the man of the house. Because I want to be respected. I want to be king.
Why am I irritated when a student interrupts me? Because I want to be the source of authority. Because I want to be respected. I want to be king.
I want to be important. I want to make a difference, I want to be remembered.
I want to be loved.
What is the point in raising children? Those who cannot have biological children learn something about the need for them that others often miss. When the children don’t come, when the heart has moved beyond sex and is forced to consider children in and of themselves, something deep inside begins to throb, to ache, and the heart and the mind start casting about for a way to grasp the source of that ache and fix what is broken.
I used to think children were about reproduction. I thought they were about the need to replicate ourselves, to create an echo of ourselves. To pass on our insights and ideas and views and attitudes. To do such a good job in raising children that in someway we would survive. It was about leaving a legacy.
Today I am wondering... maybe the act of raising a child is an echo of something else, something more real.
Today I’m wondering...
I sense a spot in my soul, not in my mind, or in my spirit, or in my body, but in a part of me that seems eternal, that longs for something magnificent. I sense a spot in my soul that longs to reach out, to reach up, to see my Creator and pull His face towards me.
I think that is the truest part of who I am... a being who yearns, who longs, for his Creator to look at me.
Perhaps the raising a child is about that longing, that relationship.
I feel something when I look at my children, it is difficult to describe. As I think about my feelings toward my children that spot in my soul throbs.
I think that spot has a name. An inadequate name, but a name that touches upon the yearning, the longing, the “father thing,” and the stuff Jesus tried to explain. I think that spot is called “love.”
I was created with a soul, a part that is above the mind, beyond the body, a connection between my spirit and eternity. In that soul there is a place that is designed to plug into God, where I am supposed to be getting instructions. I am supposed to be connected to something bigger than myself. I’m supposed to be in the presence of the source of all things. It is something that will tell me who I am and what I am for. That spot is called “love” only because we haven’t words to describe the thing, no, the person, that makes us complete in a way that being a husband, or being a father, cannot do.
I used to think that I would be someone great. That I would leave a mark in the world. Now I know that billions of people have lived and died, struggled and achieved, struggled and failed, and their great grandchildren didn’t even remember their names. Their echoes faded away.
I’m not concerned about that anymore. And I’m not concerned if anyone is reading this blog. I like it of course. Just as I like being a husband, a father, a teacher.
But I am more concerned about what is supposed to be in that spot. I want to reach in there, like it is some hole into another dimension or something, and grasp the hand of my creator and have Him pull me through, to turn me inside out and have that hole become my skin, to cover me and not carry it on the inside, but spread it over all that I am and let it fulfill me.
I think the longing I feel, especially at this time of year when I prepare my heart for Easter, that empty spot throbs harder, louder.
I think that in my craving to love and be loved I am echoing the throbbing I hear when I listen closely to what is coming out of that void. I think my whole life, in trying make my children an echo of who I am, is all about trying to amplify that deep throb inside.
My failures in loving those around me as my Lord commands is really a failure to echo clearly the voice of God who is speaking into my own void of sin.
When I try to make a mark on my world, whether it is in doing what is right, such as raising my children, or doing what is wrong, such as being impatient with my wife, whether producing a cable tv show, or creating a video for my church, it is all about shouting who I am because I am having trouble hearing who He is.
How trivial will my efforts seem, my shouting to be heard, when that void is one day filled for all eternity.