Monday, November 19, 2007

Of Giants

My dad was a giant. He smelled of grain, sweat, and diesel. When he came home we played “horse bite.” He would chase us around the living room on his knees and and grab us and squeeze our legs in a horse chomp. Unless we had done something really naughty, then he would punish us.

That was never a good thing.

Disciplining a child should be good.

I have tried to discipline my children without being angry. Perhaps it was a conscious reaction to my experiences as a child. I choose to be different than my father.

I think men like action.

My father is a man of action. Today he lives in Thailand. He has a girlfriend or two. He has a bar on some island where some twenty girls work. He says he’ll fly me there if I ever want to visit.

Growing up in his fleeting shadow was interesting. There was always an adventure.

There was the time my brothers and I were exploring the 5th floor of an old hotel in Los Angeles when a wrecking ball went swinging through a room just as we were entering it. One moment there was a musty, moldy room with decaying furniture and the next there was dust and splintered timbers and blue sky. We raced laughing and screaming down the stairs and out of the crumbling building.

There was the time I watched a boulder break free of a cliff side and roll clear through a house, just like a cartoon. The homeowner was very upset. My brothers and I tried to hide our glee at watching the boulder race clear through his home, crashing into the street and splitting in two. The open halves of the four foot wide rock revealed a fossil dolphin curled in its fetal position of eternal sleep. The sale of that industrious and precocious ex-aquatic mammal funded the construction of a very nice home for the relieved property owner.

There were the many times when Dad's caterpillar tractor moved around a two or three story building, breaking its exterior walls so it teetered on straining interior walls, setting it up as the instrument of one of our favorite games: “Riding the Roof.” He’d lower the bucket of the loader, we’d scramble in and ride to the building eaves. We’d brace ourselves at the summit of the trembling ediface, give him a thumb’s up, and he’d smack the eaves with his metallic dinosaur. The interior walls snapped. We’d holler and jump and laugh as the roof rumbled downward, debris squirting out of windows, doors, and broken walls beneath us, jumping clear of the occasional board spearing through the roof.

There was the time when we watched his friend cut the metal clamps holding a giant coiled spring circumventing a nuclear missile silo. When there were too few clamps to hold back the potential energy of that compressed serpentine ring of giant wire we watched open mouthed as huge chunks of concrete, and my dad’s friend, were thrown far into the sky.

There was the time when he lifted my brother and I, hanging from the loader’s teeth, high into the air and then over the cliff where we saw the dance of sea gulls on distant surf below our feet. He shook the loader’s bucket, the momentary dark act of a drunk man. My brother and I clung on through the falling dirt, clutching to the cold metal teeth of the growling metal dragon until it retreated and set us down on the edge of that bluff in San Clemente, California.

There were so many pranks and adventures during those years when we would visit him and scheme and plot and play and experience the joys of being boys in an environment where destruction and danger were the context for making a living.

My father was a drunken John Wayne who loomed large in my mind, in my heart. He was the tamer of metallic monsters, king of destruction, a clever jokester of falling buildings and torn up landscapes. He was a giant to a book-loving, timid boy.

Even today, as he is reluctantly dragged into his 70s, he continues to attempt world speed records, flies about the globe for new sights, new adventures, new women.

I never quite fit into that world of dirt and grease and debris. Not like my brothers Mike and David. I wasn’t as skilled at being a heavy equipment operator as they. I didn’t soak up the views, the talents, of my father as they did.

I suppose that is why I haven’t been the same sort of father as he.

But I haven’t been the sort of father I think I should have been either.

I’m no Ward Cleaver. I didn't play ball with them, or teach them the skills many fathers teach their chilldren.

Being a father should be about doing the very best to provide the experiences and instruction that brings out the best in one’s children.

I’ve tried. But, looking back over the last decade and a half, I see that my talents and interests have not been things my children can do. They are not able to read and think and create the way I do.

I suppose that it is no wonder we all have such conflicting views of God. The Ultimate Father is as much like human fathers as a real dolphin is like that mineral echo of the mammal I watched swim through a house.

As I walk through the last years of parenting my own children, all I can do is try my best to set aside the formative impressions of fatherhood I gained from Dad, and seek to understand the father who parented me while He was creating the universe.


I thought I'd toss some recent pictures here just for the heck of it.

Jeremiah went in last week to have his four wisdom teeth pulled. It was awful. His howls didn't sound human. They gave up after three were pulled. We were astonished at how large they are. Look at this comparison between his and Brenda's!

What a handsome dog!

Brenda and I have been shooting pool lately. Cheap way to get out and do something together!

Fall in Oregon


curious servant said...

I haven't been posting as much as I'd like to this blog. Those who are wondering, I have been writing quite a bit for the other blog (the private one open to those who have emailed me and asked to support my family through prayer).

But, here is one for public consumption!

ame said...

It's amazing that children grow up, isn't it. It's amazing you are still alive.

As I sat waiting in the health clinic this morning, I saw a few mom's and their sons ... we don't get to choose our parents; I don't think these "boys" would have chosen their moms. It broke my heart.

I remember sitting in my counselor's office and telling him, "But my parents were abused by their parents!" And he looked at me and said, "You don't abuse your children." He was right. We all have choices. My parents didn't have to choose to abuse me. I have chosen not to abuse my children. You have chosen not to abuse yours.

Amrita said...

Dangerous adventures with your Dad.close shaves i should say.
You are very patient and kind with your boys and you choose them, that is special in itself.

I grew up feeling unwanted by my parents.Suffered mnay problems due to that. Thank God I am over that.

Coco said...

Hope you and your family are having a restful and wonderful Thanksgiving week!!


Anonymous said...

you are always in my thoughts. hang in there. happy thanksgiving to you and your family, will. God bless!

Jada's Gigi said...

Happy ?Thanksgiving my brother..Youare the father God gave to your boys...youare the husband he gave to your wife..and youare a perfect fit for those jobs..somehow just what they need.
I liked your turnig to God post...:)

Fox's Mom said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I am thankful to know where your public blog is:)

Before he died my dad unflinchingly listened to my brother and me tell him the things that hurt us about his parenting.

Harold and I didn't fling bitterness at him, choosing the wry and slightly humourous way as you have here.

We too chose to parent differently.

As you may recall, my parenting style did not meet with my children's approval.

Now I wonder how many children grow up to approve one hundred percent of the parenting they received:)

Because you tried, you succeeded. One day your children may be able to tell you that, as I hope mine will too, one day.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving.


Felisol said...

Dear CS,
I've never stopped praying for you and your family.

When I'm feeling down and looking back at my lack of parenting skills,
I feel sad. In my heart I remember ugly mistakes..
I know I did the very best I was able too with my health and poor insight.
My focus was always on my daughter, my husband, my parents and elderly relatives and friends.
These still are my priorities.
I have the impressions yours are much the same, plus you have a demanding job as a teacher and you are an eager member of your church.
Honestly, what more can a man expect from himself??
I so wish you would give yourself some credit for having done your very best.
God bless you all, and give you peace
From Felisol

Squirrel said...

It's so great that you and Brenda are getting out and getting some alone adult time. Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!