Monday, April 22, 2013

Step 9...Making Amends....FOLLOW UP...

So I guess it is time for an update on my trip to Friona to try to make things right with my 93 year old grandmother. I loaded up the car on October 27, 2012 to make the 7 hour drive to the middle of nowhere Texas. It had been years since I made that drive but not much had changed other than the wind turbines that clutter the caprock these days. I stayed with my uncle on Friday night. It was a great visit. He is a good guy and great host. We talked about Hannah and how things were going with her. He told me he had no idea how she would react to seeing me but was glad I was there to try. I finally went to bed early Saturday morning knowing that in a few hours I would be heading to the hospital.  I woke up after a few hours of restless sleep and got dressed and headed out. I stopped at the Sonic on the main drag to give myself more time to chicken out but I didn't. I parked in front of the hospital and just sat there. I started to cry and wondered why I was even there. What if she hated me? What if she didn't even know who I was? I pulled myself together and headed inside. The door to her room was open and she was asleep. What I saw was simply a shell of the feisty woman I grew up knowing as Nenaw. She looked old and frail. I took a deep breath and walked in her room.

"So how are you feeling today Hannah?" I said in a matter of fact tone. "Well, my back still hurts but not as nauseous today..." was her response. She thought I was one of her doctors. "Do you even know who I am Hannah?" This question made her do a double take and then the moment of truth. "Jeff??? Is that you???" I answered with a simple "Yes ma'am." She looked shocked and outstretched her arms and started crying and told me to come to her. We embraced and she kept repeating "I am so sorry..." over and over. I apologized as well. It was such a relief to hear those words.

I sat with her for hours just talking about old times and catching her up on my life and family. I gave her a picture of the kids and she held it in her hands for hours. We laughed, cried, smiled, hugged and talked. I could tell she was emotionally drained and needed some rest so I told her I would let her nap and be back by before I headed home. A few hours later I hugged her for the last time and told her that I loved her. Amends had been made. I left Friona knowing I would probably never see her smile again.

On March 10th I received a text from my mom asking me to call her. Not sure why but I knew what her news would be. Hannah was gone. Her old body had finally given up and she wasn't in pain anymore. I made arrangements and drove to Friona again. On March 14th, along with her other grandsons, I carried her to her final resting place. I am thankful for that cold Saturday in late October when I got the opportunity to make things right. I am thankful for the last hug I got from my Nenaw. I smile knowing the last thing we said to each other after years of anger was "I love you." Don't wait until it's too late. Swallow your pride and say you are sorry. Family is family. Love them while you have a chance. Life is short. Keep coming works if you work it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I posted this a couple of years ago on Facebook but figured I would post it here as well. Being the dad of a daughter is gift.
A dear friend of mine, John Franklin, inspired this idea...he was the first one at the hospital when Chloe was born...the first outside of my immediate family to hold her...he told me about doing this with his daughter. Told me to cherish every moment I had with her because you never knew how long you had...he was right. He died in a hunting accident on December 30, 2010 at the young age of 40. Thank you John for inspiring me to enjoy every precious second I have with my family. Miss you bro...
Every day when Chloe and I get home, we walk from the garage to the mailbox...holding hands...I ask her how her day was and we talk....she has no idea that I do it to practice walking her down the aisle someday...that will be the hardest walk I ever I am going to need years of practice...
I will enjoy those walks with her as long as you will take them with me...and then on her wedding day, I will remind her of our walks to the mailbox and I will tell her that I have been practicing all her life for this moment...and it is still hard...


Monday, October 22, 2012

Step 9 - Making Amends...Not Just For Alcoholics Anymore

Step 9 - Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

This Friday, Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise (one of my grandmother's many sayings), I will be driving from Houston to a little town in the panhandle of Texas called Friona. If you blink you miss it. There is not much up there but cattle and crude oil...the smell of money as my Pawpaw used to say. It is not exactly a thriving metropolis. Although it is a popular destination spot for the occasional tornado. So why make this 10 hour drive? I only have one reason and that is to say I am sorry. Let me explain...

Every summer as a child I spent time in Friona. This is where my Nenaw and Pawpaw lived. I loved my Nenaw and loved spending time there with her. I would shoot BB guns, climb trees, snap peas, eat peaches right off the tree, and we would dig a fire pit and roast hot dogs and marshmallows. I have so many good memories made in Friona. We were always so close. I called her my crazy Grandma. This was not an insult but a compliment that she embraced because she was so different from my other conservative and reserved grandmother. We stayed close as I got older. When I graduated Marine Corps boot camp she flew out with my parents for the ceremony. I never thought anything could happen to change our relationship but it did.

In 2004 we had a falling out. Why is not important. She hurt me and I hurt her. She was no longer my Nenaw. I stopped calling her that and talked about her using her name. It was easier for me to deal with if I separated Nenaw from this person who was now my grandmother. My Nenaw was the one I shared so many good memories with that I didn't want to lose or have tarnished. This person she had become was not my Nenaw. Both of us are extremely stubborn and never reached back out to the other. She has met my son because he was born before the falling out but she has never met my daughter and probably never will.

Eight years have passed since we have spoken to each other. She is 93 years old now and not in good health. She probably will never leave the hospital again.  She is frail and only a shell of what she used to be. Although my mom says she is still as feisty. I need to see her again. I need to say I am sorry for my part in our falling out. I need her to hear me say that. I have no idea what kind of reaction my presence will cause. She may be happy to see me or she may cuss me out. I don't know. All I know is I need to make amends. And I do this with no expectations that she will apologize for her part of our falling out. And honestly I don't care. She is 93 and set in her ways. But I am not. I am striving everyday to be better than I was the day before. Sometimes I slip and lose ground but I still try. This is a very necessary trip in my journey to be who I want to be.

I don't say any of this to say how wonderful I am or to draw attention to myself. If I was going to do that I should have taken this step years ago. Better late than never though. So wish me luck and send positive thoughts my way. This is going to be a very tough drive and a very emotional trip. If it goes well, who knows, maybe I will work on my next older brother. Keep coming works if you work it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Choosing to be Happy

I have no magic words to say on this topic. Do I really think it is as easy as just "choosing" to be happy? Yes and no. Coming to the realization that you can't MAKE someone else be "happy" is hard. Understanding that you may be able to lift their spirits with a smile, brighten their day with a hug, but you are not responsible for their overall happiness is hard. Watching and supporting someone you love who seems unable to find happy and yet not allowing that negativity to consume you and steal your happiness is hard. Knowing that your kids look to you and mirror your happiness or lack thereof is hard. Actually making the decision to do whatever it takes to get "happy" is hard. Losing people you love along the way that aren't willing or aren't capable of supporting your journey is hard. Not letting trials and tribulations extinguish your happiness is hard. Feeling the burden of misery being lifted off your shoulders is wonderful. Seeing the world in color again is incredible. Seeing your kids feed off your happiness and smile and laugh is priceless. Being happy is a choice. It is no one's responsibility but your own. You can't blame anyone but yourself if you lose it. It is nobody else's fault if you can't find it. I promise it is there. It may be buried under years of shit...but it is there. Find it, polish it up, be proud and show it off. You haven't lost your smile. It's right there under your nose. You just forgot it was there. Maybe you will inspire someone else to do the same. But that is up to them. Keep coming works if you work it.    

Monday, October 1, 2012

Teaching my son to think...

Let me start off by saying I hate politics. It has become a dividing subject in my family. My family dynamic breaks down like this: My mom - fiscal conservative, social liberal. My dad - well...he is surely not leaning right. My baby brother - he is gay so he avoids the right. My older brother - die-hard southern baptist that doesn't have a left bone in his body. Then there is me...former student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, extreme right leaning youth minister type that has completely changed my views on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If defined I lean left, but I prefer the "leave me the hell alone" stance.

In a past life, also known as marriage number one, I became a father to an awesome little boy. That little boy is now 12 and has begun discovering his identity. This is a pretty cool thing to observe as a dad. However, it troubles me when I see things happening to him that happened to me. Growing up southern baptist I was taught to regurgitate the company line in regards to politics and religion. I was taught to never question and that the democrats were HORRIBLE people. But my views and opinions have changed. I now ask questions and get the facts before I draw a conclusion and anything. My son's mom is still stuck in the grasp of the conservative and narrow-minded rhetoric. This poses a problem and internal struggle for my son.

We were sitting in the living room and an Obama for President commercial came on. He says "Oh geez...not Obama. He is so stupid." My ears perked up. I am not necessarily an Obama supporter but it intrigued my why a 12 year old would think our President is stupid. I asked him that question and his answer was "I don't know." So why would he say that? Because that is what his mom says. I asked if he had asked her why and he said no. So we had a talk about politics. We discussed the platform of each party and basic beliefs. I told him that he needs to form his own views and opinions about the world we live in and not just adopt someone else's. I told him that his mom and dad have differing views and opinions on politics and religion and I wasn't going to tell him which is right and which is wrong. I want him to be able to use the intellect he possesses, ask questions, and make his own decisions and draw his own conclusions. I want him to think. Keep coming works if you work it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Life is a funny thing...

I will never understand this life and I guess that is ok. Sometimes things happen that really have no explanation. The fundy will tell you that it is the hand of God on your life...others will say God is testing you or putting you thru the "refiner's fire." I am of the mindset that shit happens. We all make choices in life. Those choices have consequences, some good some bad. But there are times when shit just happens. My life has been a interesting journey...full of ups and downs...full of good and bad choices and plenty of good and bad consequences. And yes...plenty of shit. I try to live with no regrets. I did what I did because I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20. I am not perfect and there is a period or two of my life that I wish I had made different decisions or better decisions...but I made those decisions with the knowledge I had at the time. I have learned over time to examine the facts more closely and do my due diligence more carefully...but even still I mess up. Life is funny like that. I grew up hearing "the road to hell is paved with good intentions"...if that is the case...which road is paved with bad intentions? Keep coming works if you work it...

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Dad isn't perfect...

I don't have a lot of memories of my dad playing catch with me or running around outside with me or playing games. He was a coach in junior high for a time but he never coached my little league teams. He never took me fishing because he just doesn't fish. My Dad worked a lot. He was a school teacher. But that wasn't his only job. During baseball season my Dad sold tickets at Ranger Stadium. 1st base side...gate 7 or 8 I think. This meant he wasn't home a lot. But sometimes I got to tag along and run around the ballpark before it opened to the fans and get autographs. I remember when George W owned the Rangers and Dad pointed him out to me. At the time he was the Vice President's son...but all I knew or cared was that he was my Dad's boss so he had to be important. His autograph sits on my mantle still today. My Dad worked 2 jobs sometimes 3 or 4 for us. His family was the most important thing in his life. He did whatever he had to do to make sure we had everything we needed no matter how many hours he had to work. A good part of summers were spent at camps or at my grandparent's house. I wasn't home much. Dad was usually working. Sprinkler company one summer, working for an electrician another. He never stopped. But he still found time to be the house enforcer, the fix-it man, the "oh crap I forgot I have a major project due in the morning and I need to build a working volcano!" helper. He even burned his hand putting out a fire in our neighbor's house because that is the kind of man that he is. Always putting others before himself.

My most special childhood memory was the summer of 1988. My rite of passage trip. Dad took me to Big Bend National Park. Just me. We left the world behind and drove. And yes, I got to drive. As a 12 year old! It was awesome. Getting to spend that week alone with my Dad meant more to me than he will ever know. My son turns 13 next summer and I get to carry on that tradition with him. Hopefully it will mean as much to him as it did to me.

My Dad will be 67 in a few months and he is still working full time. Why? Because he never stops giving. All of his boys have crashed and burned at some point and needed him. Some of us more than others. Every time that happens he picks us up, brushes us off, helps point us in the right direction and walks with us until we are again strong enough to walk on our own.

Was or is my Dad perfect? No. Does my Dad strive everyday to be a better man than he was yesterday? Yes. Do I wish I could now take care of my Dad like he has taken care of me? Yes. I would love nothing more than to provide for him and my mom so they could retire and relax. They deserve it. I live 4 hours away but visit every chance I get because I know we are all getting older and life is getting shorter. As I have gotten older I have become more and more like my Dad, and that is perfectly ok by me. I look like him, talk like him, and think like him. If you asked him if he wished he did some things different he could probably give you a list. I would contend that he shouldn't change a thing. He made me the man and the father I am today. My Dad truly is my hero. Not because he changed the world or accomplished some incredible feat that will be talked about for centuries, but because he is my Dad. I love you Dad. Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart.