It didn’t match my style of parenting. And it wasn’t the kind of husband that I am. But at the end of this particular family conversation, the message was clear, “This conversation is over and my opinion is the only one that matters.”
I’ll circle back around to that, but I need to back up a few steps first.
Our family’s home currently has some unused bedrooms. We have two kids away at college and our oldest daughter is married and living a few hours away in the Knoxville area. When she came in to visit a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded that “her room” will always be “her room”.
There are personal touches there that I could simply never change. A sizable collection of track and cross-country medals hangs in a cluster on a uniquely painted wall with hundreds of handwritten Bible verses. The opposite wall displays a mural type picture of a tree that she painted as a teen with the inscription, “Rooted in Christ” at its center.
During her visit, she joined me in the living room after spending time in her room studying. “Look what I found in my room, Dad.” It was an older Kindle. Obviously not that old, but one that had been written off as lost a few years back, and also one that managed to make a dad feel a little nostalgic.
A leather-like case protected the Kindle. And the words scraped out on the case by a teenage Macy brought a warm smile to my face. Dream, lead, inspire, hope, soar, create, peace, joy, love, kindness, grace, loyalty, plus a few words that I can’t make out. She asked if I wanted it (because she uses an iPad now). Of course, I said yes.
Some days, I look at her words chiseled on the outside more than I read that Kindle that is stored inside. It’s a treasure to me. Another representation of what I know will always be remembered as the most amazing and wonderful years of life for her mother and me.
Inside the Kindle case was a single picture that I didn’t even know that Macy had.
A picture of my brother and I on family farmland that we owned briefly. Walking sticks in hand. Just like our dad. It took me back to my own childhood. To our old family home where I spent the first 10 years of life. So many memories of those few years in that old house. Backyard wiffle ball games, pickup basketball games, avocado green appliances, kick the can, catching crawldads in the creek, backyard campouts, accidents and stitches, and staying up til midnight on Saturdays to watch the only wrestling show on tv in those days.
I loved my childhood. And I loved that house and all the memories that draw me back to it. So many times over the years I’ve had the urge to simply go knock on the door and ask the current owners if I could just come in a walk through it one more time.
On the weekend of Macy’s visit, our partial family crew, piled into my truck and headed out on to watch a women’s college basketball game and grab a Saturday afternoon meal together. And the classic “gang up on dad” ensued. My wife and our 13 year-old son began to plead slightly different cases for selling our current home and moving into a smaller place closer to town (we live about 5 miles from the center of our small Kentucky town).
They brought up valid points. The wisdom of buying something smaller and cheaper now that the kids were getting older and moving out. The convenience of being closer to the activities they are involved in. The points of argument kept flying at me. Macy silently grinned in the passenger seat.
But I wouldn’t budge. Finally my son took his pleas a step too far and began to talk to me like I was an idiot. At this point, he lost his privilege of stating his case, and I responded forcefully but still patiently, “You’ve mad some good reasons, guys. But as long as I’m living, there’s no way I’m selling or leaving .” Case closed. End of discussion.
But why, Dad?
Because it’s the house that all four of our kids grew up in. It’s the home that three of our four kids came home to from the hospital. It’s a house where they all learned to walk and how to swim. It’s the home of bedtime stories, birthday celebrations, and first days of school. It’s the home of hi-chairs, Blues Clues, and Thomas the Tank Engine. It’s the home where our kids’ friends have showed up, and still do, thinking this is their second home. And it’s a home of every pet we’ve ever had (and buried) since the kids were small.
No, we’re not leaving it. Ever. That’s my final answer.
But that’s not how I answered. I took a different path.
“Because you’re gonna be 30 years old someday before you know it. And you’re gonna come visit for Christmas or Thanksgiving with your wife and family, and your brother and sisters will be here with theirs. And your gonna still have your own room and you’re going to share fond memories and stories with your mom, dad, siblings, and your own kids about what it was like growing up in our home. And when that day comes, you’re gonna remember this day, and this conversation and you’ll thank me for this day.”
Kal was silent. I don’t think his mother said anything either. The value she places on nostalgia isn’t nearly as great as mine. And then I glanced at Macy. Maybe it wasn’t a tear forming in the corner of her eye that I saw. But I’m certain that I saw a twinkle there.
Because she understands. She knows. The joy of coming home. The wonderful memories of family and childhood. And she knows that her old dad just might know what he’s talking about.
That’s what dads do sometimes. Think about things that nobody else is thinking about. And always be on the lookout for situations where the answer to “why” questions just might come in the form of “someday you’ll regret this” or “someday you’ll thank me for this.”