Before we jump in, let it be known there is no photo more adorable than my dad standing in a sunflower field in O’ahu.
On July 30th, 2017, almost 2 years ago today, I captured a speech he gave at a local Toastmasters club. In honor of Father’s Day yesterday, I decided this is the appropriate time to publish it.
My dad, Barry, has an identical twin brother named Larry and a sister named Terri. He also has a brother named Ronnie - I don’t know what happened to the rhyming scheme. I need to ask for the story behind that one.
My dad has been through a great deal of physical pain and emotional pain, which he touches on in his story below, but you’d never be able to tell from the way he carries himself. He is one of the most levelheaded people I know, but finds humor in every situation. I hope you enjoy his story.
When I was nine or ten years old a friend invited me to attend a Baptist church with him and his family one Sunday. Since my parents weren’t regular church goers, I had only attended church a couple dozen times in my life. So I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into when at the end of the service I stood up to answer the call to be “saved.” I had to walk to the front of the church while asking myself, “What have I gotten myself into? What am I being saved from?" Luckily, there were others who answered the call that day so the spotlight was not on me alone.
As it turned out the experience wasn’t difficult or unpleasant in any way. Basically, all I had to do was listen to the words recited by a church official and say “I do” and then it was over. But it wasn’t really over. Even at only nine or ten years old, I knew I was changed that day and I recognized that the change was profound. From that day forward I knew that I would never be alone in a spiritual sense. That thought transformed me and this experience became the foundation of my Faith for the rest of my life. It made me an eternal optimist because I knew everything happened according to God’s plan.
Fast forward five or six years. At the age of sixteen, I climbed a tree because my grandfather had asked my twin brother and me to climb up and make sure it was safe for our younger cousins to build a treehouse. Turns out…it wasn’t safe. I made a rookie tree climbing mistake and leaned back against a rotten limb I hadn’t previously tested for strength and it gave way under my weight. I fell end over end.
On the way down I had time to contemplate a few things. In this order my thoughts were: 1) Oh, shit. 2) Well…that was a rookie tree climbing mistake, and 3) this could end very badly.
At some point, I went to sleep. I know I went to sleep because when I woke up there was a group of people looking down at me lying on the ground that wasn't under the tree before I went to sleep.
The damage was significant: a broken left wrist and shattered right hip. I had to undergo many hip surgeries and today I am on my third artificial hip with my last revision being about eight years ago. Like being Saved, this accident was transformative. I wouldn’t ever be a star athlete (which to be honest was pretty much off the table before I fell) or have an option to do any physical type of work to earn a living. I would have to go to college and earn a degree in a field that would let me push a pencil instead of a wheelbarrow. Which I did. Being an eternal optimist, I knew that I could thank God that I broke my wrist and my hip instead of my neck and my back.
Fast forward some more, and boom, I’m married to Laura, and now I know that I will never again be physically alone. Another huge day in the life.
A couple years later our son Justin is born, and a few years after that our daughter Emma. If you have children you know how huge this is. Having children puts the “G” in "grown-up". It’s only after you have children that you realize that your life before you had them was “less than” your life after. Now you start to learn the true meaning of words like "love" and "responsibility."
Four years after Justin was born, he contracted spinal meningitis and I faced the greatest test of my life and of my faith. Two weeks in Texas Children's Hospital seemed like two years. But we prayed for a full and complete recovery and God answered our prayers!
For at least fifteen years following I couldn’t even say words like “spinal tap” and “spinal meningitis” aloud and I wouldn’t say it now if I weren't challenging myself to tell my whole story.
This is the time in my life when I first felt like I understood miracles. I think of it like this: If you are walking down the street listening to music on your headphones and a $5 bill blows into your path and you pick it up and can’t find anyone to return it to then that’s “good luck.” But if you’re suffering and you pray to God for $5 and then that very same $5 bill blows into your path; that’s a miracle! The difference is faith. Everything is faith.
Since my Dad wrote the story, he and my mom, Laura, packed up their life and moved to O’ahu for one year, and have also since moved back.
The invisible stories people carry with them will never cease to amaze me. In another life, I’d look at this man and think “tourist” and nothing else. But as his daughter, I see a risk-taker, a creative, and the best dad anyone could ask for.
As always, thanks for sticking around.
That’s the #CremeDeLaEm,