Most of you know our family lives in Ferguson, Missouri … yes, that Ferguson, but that’s not the point of this little missive. But now that I’ve got your attention, can I just say, believe very little of what you see or read in the media. I’ve never been in a community where there were more warm and welcoming people of all colors, but that’s a blog for another day.
We have lived in two different houses during our 30 year stay in Ferguson. Both were built in 1890, both required a lot of rehab. Our first house was a charming two story with three bedrooms, a huge dining room and kitchen. Architecturally it was somewhere between Victorian and Foursquare. We scraped, painted, refinished and along the way built a swing set and pergola. We also planted a perennial garden and a selection of antique roses.
The house had one full bath. By that time there were three women in the family (my wife and two young daughters), plus dad. Did I mention it had just one full bathroom?
It was time to move.
During my stint on the Ferguson Landmarks Commission one of the houses we recognised as a “Century Home” was a five bedroom house with two full and two half-baths. It was owned by an elderly widow who lived alone. She was a delightful character who had been active in the St. Louis art scene and had once dated Grant Wood, the painter of “American Gothic.” She did not care much for his painting style or apparently himself, because she went on to marry a building contractor. This probably explains why the house was structurally sound, although it was in severe need of updating. This house eventually became our 2nd 1890’s home.
Almost everybody says they love old houses, but they love them from a distance. Old houses are wonderful. Old houses are horrible. I feel about old houses the same way I hope Susan feels about me, hopelessly flawed but with enough character to keep you interested.
During those renovation stages it was not unusual for me to come home, eat, then work late into the night on some project. I had a lot more energy back then, and Mr. Gore had not yet invented the internet so there were fewer things to distract me.
No matter the project, the noisy parts …the hammering, the sawing, the pounding had to end at our girl’s bedtime. I can scrape, sand, pry up multiple layers of old linoleum that have been glued on top of hardwood floors, but I can’t prepare two young girls for bed and the next day of school.
This was a logical time for me to take a break. This was a time I could sit back and relax. It was a time to quiet myself, a time before smart phones when you weren’t tempted every few minutes to check the news and the latest Facebook posts. But most of all, it was a time to listen. And this is what I heard.
I heard the sound of my family drifting from the upstairs bedrooms, down the staircase and flowing into the room where I sat. I heard the sounds of bath water being drawn, the faint clink of the ironing board as tomorrow’s outfits were pressed and the creak of 100 year-old wood floors. But it was the melody of voices from the people I loved more than life itself, that brought me pure joy. The tapestry of sounds made up of fussing, giggling, complaining and laughter. The banter, the questions, the conversations.
I may not have smelled the best at that point, I was probably covered in a thin layer of grime and sawdust, but I was content. This was my family, I was the dad, the father and now the grandfather. To this day, I cherish the role of protector and provider.
Was this how God felt? Do the distant voices of his children make him smile?
When I first heard the concept that as parents we will love our children more than they will ever love us, I was a little taken aback. I certainly loved my parents and surely my children loved me. But the more I thought about it, I believe it to be true. I also believe that it is not a bad thing. At a certain point I needed to establish my independence. The natural order of life lays down a pattern where the child leaves the parent and established their own life, their own family, their own children. Did I care about my parents? Of course, but I didn’t lose sleep worrying that they were going to make a bad decision or run off and join the merchant marine.
I’m a bit of a slow learner, but I finally figured out that once you are a parent, you’re a parent for the rest of your life. This was not in the manual. Being a parent doesn’t end when your child reaches a certain age. They get their driver’s license, you’re still a parent (In spades). They can vote, they reach 21, they get engaged, they get married, they stay single, they get divorced … you’re still a parent, and you still worry. It never ends.
If I, as an imperfect parent continually stays worried about the well-being of my children, how much more does our heavenly Father care about us?
My mother is now 100.
From what I understand, God is considerably older.
I am a child of both, they love me more than I love them, and they are constantly worried that I will turn out okay.