My Broken Home

I was a grown man when I learned my parent’s were getting a divorce. One would assume I had plenty of life experience from which to draw on in order to cope with the sudden changes….but age does not always predict how well you will “manage” the unforeseen events in your life.
This past summer I was at a writing seminar in Minnesota, and we were working on complete metaphors — where your writing appears to be all about one thing, when it is really about something else. I found myself alone one night, writing about my experience with my parent’s divorce. I was sitting at a desk, crying uncontrollably as I wrote out in a story so much of what I have tried to hold back. It was a cathartic and freeing experience as I continued the process of understanding, reconnecting, and moving forward.
Whether good or bad, I rarely share personal struggles that cannot be wrapped up in 300 words – which would explain why my fingers have hovered over the “post” button for 20 minutes. I only pray it will be helpful to someone else just as it was helpful to me.

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” Apostle Paul

broken home

Our Chevy Malibu galloped up Interstate 65 through Indiana as the landscape rolled out into flat, open spaces. The hills faded away, leaving us with crops and fields and rows and barns. We were pressing toward the prize of this 14-hour trip – home, to Illinois, to my home. I was told my home was unfixable now – that years of neglect had left professionals with nothing to work with and it was time to find another home; I knew that to be impossible.

I had memorized every square inch of that house; I knew it’s story, it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses. I even knew the places that needed repair and reinforcements. This was not the sort of thing you paid much attention to as a child, but in retrospect you can see the signs of dysfunction just below the surface – a crack here, some mold there, left without attention anything is liable to decay and brokenness. But I could fix it, I just needed to walk around the old neighborhood, stand on the porch for a while, then I could see what needed to be fixed, explain what to do next, and save this house – save our house.

The next morning I slipped out of bed, meandered around my children asleep in piles of blankets on the floor, and drove off in my car alone.

I made my way toward Bel- Aire Subdivision – turning left on Kathy drive, right on Ardith, and then another left on to Anita. I decided to park down at the end of the street and double back to the house. I stepped out of the car and in to the cold, damp, heavy morning air. Before me an intrusive strip mall complete with nail salon and a dollar store, disfigured the field that played host to so many afternoon ball games. I walked the sidewalks, now broken by extreme temperatures, bleeding out weeds and dandelions. Houses looked small and lifeless; fences bowed; what once was the neighborhood you wanted to live in now became the neighborhood you drove through, to get to the neighborhood you wanted to live in.

Lost in the memories of a former life, picturing friends, remembering adventures, recalling neighbors long since departed, I stumbled upon 136 Anita Drive. I stopped frozen to the pavement, afraid to move any closer. This used to be the home I knew, but what stood before me was only a house – sagging and strained under the pressures of life. The grass and weeds conspired to take it over. The shutters hung loose and the roof had long since peeled its protective skin. The thoughts and questions in my head mixed with the cry of my heart and spilled out of my mouth. “With a little work this could’ve been saved” I informed God. “Why did no one fight for this house – it was worth fighting for!” Tears patiently repelled down the grooves of my face and on to my t-shirt. I knelt down to feel the grass one last time. I climbed the steps to the front porch and sat for a moment, fearing I was the last one to say goodbye, to walk away and to move on.

The cool wind picked up again, nudging me from my grief, and reminding me that my children would be awake soon. So I stepped down from the porch, followed the path of the sidewalk onto the driveway, where another sidewalk was waiting to show me the way back to my car, the way to move forward.

Arriving at the room, I kissed my children on the forehead and pulled the blankets back up over their tiny bodies. I slipped back under the covers, slid over to my wife’s side, wrapped my cold arm around her warm body, and held her close. She stirred briefly; I kissed her gently on the temple and whispered, “it’s worth fighting for” then slowly drifted off to sleep.

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Letters to my Children: It should come with a warning….

Evan, Adeline, and Malina,100_5419

It happened again the other day. I was at home after a full day of work. We were in the basement playing and you (Evan) started calling my name. I had no idea that you had called my name several times earlier and finally gave up. But you really wanted me to play so you tried again. I wish I could say I heard you the first time, or the second, or the third. It wasn’t until you yelled my name that I looked up from my phone.

I was in the room but nowhere near any of you.  I was around but not fully present. In that moment I surrendered and allowed myself to be controlled by a device I carry in my back pocket.

Your face was a mixture of frustration and confusion, wondering what I was reading that was more important than the Lego Ninjago you were trying to assemble and needed help with.  It wasn’t until I saw your face that I wondered the same thing.

The technology I have in my life right now is amazing. The technology you will have when you are my age is hard to imagine. I am saying all of this to you three because I believe that for your generation, one of the greatest challenges to following Jesus, living in community with others and engaging the world will be to be fully present  — to God, to one another, and to others you will encounter in your life.

The more technology develops the more it seems to implant itself in the fabric of daily life. This is not a bad thing, but it should come with a warning….be present, engage people fully, quiet yourself before God. Nothing will be more important than being completely in the moment, lost in a conversation or an experience or great beauty….without distraction.

When it comes to responding to you or responding to the flashing green light on my hand-held device….may you never have to wonder who will win.

Love,

Your Dad.