My daughter was living among San Francisco’s homeless population. Susan and I were beside ourselves with anguish over our daughter Charity. Again. It only takes a small bump in the road to throw such a delicate situation out of balance and this was like driving into a truck-sized sinkhole.
Out of whack
Susan and I continued to find equilibrium in our lives and figure out a division of labor. Allie was the mission, but every other part of our lives was out of balance, and every second of the day was filled with simply surviving from dawn ’til dusk. Both of us thought the other one wasn’t doing his or her fair share. Resentment toward one another began to fester and grow. Our affection for one another was evaporating. We couldn’t even touch each other. I noticed we both did whatever we could to not touch each other even accidentally.
We yelled at each other for minor infractions and were constantly critical of one another. I was embarrassed by my own behavior and lack of maturity but had little motivation to make any adjustments. Why? What good would it do other than cause me to give up more than I’ve already given up? I hated this new life. We both felt cornered by the monster that was now our life.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” I said one day. And then I quit speaking to her.
Allie’s other grandmother Ruth (I’ve changed her name to protect her privacy) came to stay with us for a week before we could conclude the conversation I started with that announcement.
Susan and I were polite to each other during the week Ruth was there, but we didn’t really speak. It was a week of not talking to each other, which is the longest time in our marriage that we went any length of time giving each other the silent treatment.
Maybe you should skedaddle
After a week of spending time with Allie and giving Susan a hand around the house, I took Ruth to the airport. When I got back home and walked into the house, Susan said, “If you’re going to leave, leave now so I can figure this out.”
This wasn’t the greeting I was expecting.
I never entertained the idea of leaving even though, admittedly, I fantasized about it. But when I let the scenario play all the way out in my mind, there was no way it could end well. Susan is tough. She would never beg or cry or make a deal with me to get me to come back if I walked out. She’d let me make my choice and let me live with it.
That’s exactly why I love her and could not imagine doing this with anyone else.
The Power of Encouragement
Encouragement turns the tide in a battle. Encouragement can change the course of a life. Encourage means to give courage. Some of the most encouraging words that ever gave me courage were from a friend of mine in Florida that I talk to often. Joyce has always been a motherly figure in my life. She was a co-worker at one time, and now she’s one of my closest friends. She’s a courageous lady that would never take any of the macho crap my co-workers and I would lay on her when we tried to get her to do our work for us. She stood up to us and made us do our jobs.
I felt very comfortable calling her and whining every so often. When I started uttering complaints with a “why me” theme, she simply said, “Why not you? Who better than you?” I never get any wiggle room when I talk to Joyce. But it’s exactly that kind of straight talk that energizes me. “You’ve been an outstanding father and godly example of how a man raises a family. Why wouldn’t God put Allie in your family?” Joyce continued. “I can’t think of anyone more emotionally equipped for this task than you. Take it on and try not to complain.” Everybody needs a Joyce in his life.
Ruth has been a friend and a bottomless well of encouragement to us, too. She tells us that she can see God by how we love Allie. Allie shrieks with delight when Ruth walks into the room. She goes nuts kicking her feet and yelling happily. Allie could be in the worst mood, but Ruth changes things instantly when she brings her classy brand of grace into the room.
Ruth never plays the blame game. While it’s not something she wallows in, she demonstrates a deep regret for what her son has done. She never defended him in our presence or tried to work on us to show him sympathy. She never made excuses for him. For our sakes, she buried her own emotions in order to maintain a relationship with us and be Allie’s favorite grandmother.
These two ladies — Joyce and Ruth — have been sent to us by God to give us the courage to be Allie’s parents. What I should say is that these three ladies, Susan, my charming and beautiful wife included, have given me the courage to be the father I need to be.
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