Welcome to My Autobiography

 

 

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

 

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

††††††††††† I think God allows life to be hard, so when it comes time to die, youíll be glad to do it.

 

The Hard Way

 

††††††††††† The greatest challenge of my life came into the world screaming and didnít stop for six months. Lindi says it was only two months, but it seemed like six. He started out life demanding our attention and letting us know he didnít like being here.

††††††††††† He was born about three weeks early, which got a few people busy on their calculators, and because his lungs werenít developed completely, he was a dark purple color. The doctors didnít seem too concerned, but they did watch him.

††††††††††† I wanted to name him Eric the Purple, but Lindi was just too straight to go for such a cool name. It was better than some of the names his grandfathers had come up with. Lindiís dad had suggested Hyram, while my stepfather, came up with the name Tator-Head, but he said we could just call him Tator for short. It was a misunderstanding, when I told him my aunt had suggested the name Taylor. Ken thought she said Tator, and he called him that sometimes just to stir things up. By the way, Eric is the name we agreed on.

††††††††††† He didnít stay purple and he didnít sleep very much, and when he wasnít sleeping, he was crying and/or screaming. His lungs were fine. The only way we seemed to be able to get him to stop crying was to take him riding in the car. We did a lot of driving those first six months (Lindi says two). Fortunately, gas wasnít as expensive as it is now. Today we would just have to let him scream, and we do.

††††††††††† We had to pray a lot during those first six months (Lindi says two). It was very frustrating. I can remember holding him and rocking him in my arms trying to get him to just stop. I remember at times of great frustration, understanding how a parent might lose control and hurt their child. I felt that I got close to that line many times during those first six months (Lindi says two).

††††††††††† I remember the first time he slept the entire night without waking up and crying. Lindi and I woke up, looked at each other without a word, jumped out of bed and ran for his room. We thought he was dead. But when we shook him, he woke up screaming and our lives were as normal as they were ever going to be again.

††††††††††† One day the constant crying stopped and laughter took its place. He became the first great joy of our lives together. And I swore my son was not going to grow up the way I did. He was going to have two loving parents, living together and loving him. And he did. But that not a guarantee.

††††††††††† I have to admit, he was much easier to love when the crying stopped and the laughter began. Now we had a new problem. He was so friendly we had to watch him every second. He would talk to strangers as readily as any friend or family member. He even wanted someone to talk to him when he was sitting on the toilet. Lindi would be in the grocery store, taking a second to read a label, and he would be gone. She would drop everything and run in a panic, only to find him on the next aisle, telling a lady about some cartoon character.

††††††††††† But Eric got, at least, one of my character traits. He had to learn everything the hard way. When he was four, watching me drill a hole through brick with a masonry bit, I told him the bit was hot and not to touch it. The words were barely out of my mouth, before he reached out and grilled the end of his finger.Of course, he ran screaming into the house telling his mother I did it. It seems I did a lot of explaining about Eric during those first few years, and they only seemed to get me another day older and deeper in debt.

††††††††††† After he turned three we couldnít have birthday parties in the yard anymore. We had to have them in amusement parks, usually at one called Pennywhistle Park in Dallas. At one of those parties I was reaching out to grab him as he tried to run from me and as I did, the camera around my neck swung toward him as I pulled him to me. The cameral hit him in the eye.

††††††††††† The next morning as we were walking into church someone said, ďEric, what happened to your eye?Ē to which he replied, ďMy daddy hit me.Ē It seemed, no matter how I tried to explain what happened, nobody was buying it. Even I was finding it hard to believe. ďYou know, it really was an accident.Ē People just gave a half-hearted smiled and nodded their heads.

 

These Things Too Shall Pass

†††††††††††

Lindi had quit her teaching job at Dallas ISD, so she could be a stay-at-home mom for at least a couple of years. She did substitute teaching for the Land of the Gar ISD hoping to get on full time at some point.

††††††††††† In the mean time, mother and Ken moved to a small town several miles north of Dallas. They were basically in the country. I think mother wanted to get closer to family, especially her new grandson.

††††††††††† By the spring of í84, with mother living less than an hour away, getting to know her daughter-in-law and grandson, she and I were getting along better than we ever had. But these things, too, shall pass.

††††††††††† Daddy called. He had gotten our phone number from Mommy. He had divorced his second wife and became a Christian, then remarried. Iím not sure how all that is connected. We invited him and his new wife over and had a nice visit, but then came the hard part. Do we tell mother?

††††††††††† Lindi believed we should, but she didnít know the hatred that had been harbored for thirty years. After discussing it, we decided that surely the years had softened that animosity. So together, Lindi and I told her.

††††††††††† Within a few months, mother and Ken packed up and moved back to New Mexico, where they lived and worked at the Ice Caves for about a year, before moving back to Texas. This time they lived in a duplex in the Land of the Gar and we never mentioned daddy again. They stayed in Texas this time, but they moved from one apartment to another over the next ten years.

††††††††††† I was beginning to see where my nomadic spirit came from. I had lived in four different places during just one year in New Mexico. And four more places during the two years after I came back to Texas. Until the move to New Mexico, I had lived in over twenty different places, not counting every time I moved back in with Mommy and Papa and, not counting each of the places I stayed during all my travels. It was like, suddenly I sat down and I didnít want to get back up again. Lindi and I would live in the house in the Land of the Gar for seventeen years. The nomadic spirit had been exorcised.

 

Speed Doesnít Kill - Itís the Sudden Stop

 

††††††††††† 1984 turned out to be a great year for us, financially. After two years, Lindi gave up on GISD giving her a permanent position, and went back to work full-time for DISD. She went back to the same elementary school where she had been before, which was about twenty miles from home.

††††††††††† I had been watching the salespeople where I worked, and the good ones were making a lot of money going out and demonstrating the vacuum cleaners in peopleís homes. I thought maybe I would give that a try. After all, I did know all about the product after working on it for almost ten years.

††††††††††† So, after doing my regular service job during the day, I would go on appointments at night. I usually didnít get home until after 10:00 pm if all the appointments held up. This was Monday through Friday, and most of the day on Saturday, with an occasional Saturday night or Sunday afternoon appointment. I went into it full force like everything else I got into, but just like everything else, after a while, I just had to stop.

††††††††††† During the time I was in it, I made a lot of money. I bought a new Ford Bronco II to carry vacuum cleaners in. We took trade-ins, so I left the store loaded with new machines and came back with old ones.

††††††††††† I was running and going after I left the house at 8:30 am and not returning home to my family until 10:00 pm or later. I was gone for about 100 hours a week. I would see my wife and son for a few moments for a quick prayer in the morning, and I would see my wife for a few moments at night, before I fell asleep. My son was growing up without a father.

Since he was only three, I decided I could put a stop to this now, before it got out of hand. But we had gotten used to the extra money coming in and I didnít want that to stop. So I decided to open my own vacuum cleaner sales office and hire and train salespeople to work for me, then I would have more time for my family.

So in the summer of 1985, I leased office space in Duncanville, a small town south of Dallas. I was now driving about eighty miles to and from work each day. Lindi was driving about forty mile to and from work, and four year old Eric was staying all day in a daycare. I was spending more time with my family?

On Friday I would call the newspaper and give them my ad to run on Monday, when I would take calls and set appointments for interviews all day. Between the blind ad and my vagueness on the phone, the people coming in had no idea what the job was. There was a fear that if you told them they would be going door-to-door trying to sell vacuum cleaners sixteen hours a day, they might not come in for the interview. Huh.

Once they were in the office there was a propaganda video supplied by the company that made them think they would be making over a $1,000.00 a week with just a little hard work. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didnít.

If it worked, they came in Tuesday morning and started their training program. The company suggested I take them to lunch, so they donít get a chance to leave and not come back.

Friday, I checked out expensive equipment to them with a set of rules for the weekend. They had to show the machine several times to friends and family and call in from every appointment so I could browbeat their friends and family into buying.

Then Monday morning start all over, while trying to find the people from the week before to get your equipment back. And with all this, I still had to run my own appointments, because I wasnít making any money until something was sold.

I was still working long hours, but now I didnít have the security of my regular paycheck for doing repairs, and I was now putting, at least, a hundred and fifty miles a day on my new vehicle. Plus I had to put up with salespeople. If they were bad at sales, they usually didnít stay. If they were good, they would stay, but then I had to put up with their obnoxious attitudes.

One thing I learned about door-to-door salespeople and their victims... I mean customers. Salespeople will usually lie, even when the truth sounds better. But thatís okay, because most people will believe a lie, even when the truth sounds better. Itís the same deductive reasoning that makes people want to believe Paul is dead and Elvis is alive.

Believe the most outrageous lie, but dismiss the most, simple truth. It seems Iíve been on this subject before.

 

Burned Plum Out

 

In October í85 I bought an established vacuum cleaner repair shop just down the street from my sales office. A repairman, working there, stayed on, while I continued my sales business, which I was beginning to get real tired of.

I was taking Eric to daycare every morning on my way to work, just so I could have a little time with him. There were weeks I would not run an ad so I could take Eric to work with me and just hang around the office and play and watch cartoons, then go home early, together.

By January í86, I was so burned out with sales, I shut down the office and took over the repair shop. I had to let the repairman go. He wasnít too happy about it, but I was the boss. I did need a helper, though, so I took Eric out of daycare and he went to work with me everyday. I changed the store hours to: Tuesday-Saturday, with only a half-day on Saturday. We took Monday off and went to the park or fishing or just anything together.

Eric couldnít play by himself. He always had to be doing something with somebody, so he and I literally played together all morning. I made a swing out of old vacuum cleaner cords and old parts. The cords tended to break sometimes, and after a while, Eric became leery of swinging from them. We had toy guns and legos and GI joes and a TV for cartoons, which didnít come on until afternoon. So our routine became; play all morning with lots of wrestling (Ericís favorite thing), eat lunch, then lay down and he would, hopefully, take a nap.

Many times customers had to wake me up, so I could do my repairs in the afternoon, while Eric slept for a couple of hours and then watched cartoons until time to go home.

We have many stories that came from those times together, but my favorite was the time, while I was waiting on a customer, Eric hooked one end of a carrying strap to a six-foot tall metal shelf, full of vacuum cleaner parts, and the other end to my belt loop, all unbeknownst to me. When I started walking around the counter to show the customer something, she got to see more than she expected. I felt a tug that pulled me back and as I turned to see what it was, I saw that shelf of parts coming toward me. I watched in total shock as the shelf hit the floor and a thousand tiny screws and bearings and gaskets and other parts went a thousand different directions.

I can still see little Eric standing across the room, this pile of twisted metal between us. His eyes were the size of a goosed owlís. This was not what he had anticipated, from the look on his face. The only thing that saved his life that day was I couldnít get to him. The wreckage was, mercifully, separating us. Also, there was a customer watching the whole thing. I would have had to kill her, too.

I was so angry at the time it happened, I scared myself, but I cooled down quickly. The shelves needed cleaning, anyway. I donít think I ever punished him for it. Now, itís our funniest story to tell and we had a lot of them.

The most important thing, Eric and I were together and we came home after 5:00 everyday to be with Lindi. We were the family that played together and stayed together.

But our church family was falling apart.

 

Follow the Bouncing Boobies

 

Somebody was passing around a petition to remove the pastor. I had never heard of such a thing. In fact, I didnít even know Christians would want to get rid of their pastor. I always thought if you didnít like the pastor you went to another church where you did like the pastor.

I had nothing against our pastor. He married Lindi and I, baptized me and he dedicated our baby. But I let people convince me to sign the petition and the pastor left. I know my one signature didnít make him leave, but I have always felt bad about signing.

Then we went through a process of trying out new pastors, checking out their earned run averages. Somehow the church decided to vote on a man who didnít seem right to me at all. In retrospect I believe that feeling was prompted by God. Only two people voted against him (the pastor, not God), and I was one of them. How could the majority be wrong? Was God only talking to two people? Were only two people listening? I donít even think I knew what the word discernment meant. I was perspicacious and didnít even know it.

But things began to happen in that church that bothered me. Women began to dance in the aisles, and I felt some old ways starting to surface as I watched breast bounce seductively. When youíre in the choir loft, itís hard not to watch the congregation. I talked to the pastor and he told me, I had the problem, not the dancing church.

Now I have to tell you, as a family, we had been in every church service, bible study, Sunday school classes, and we sang in the choir. I was striving to be spiritual. I even tried fasting, did it wrong, got sick, but at least, I was striving. I was only listening to Christian radio, either preaching or music. It was my addictive personality. I was in this thing all the way. I was a bit of a fanatic, I have to admit. I even went through my record collection and got rid of the ones I knew were displeasing to God (Probably should have gotten rid of them all). But even the ones I did keep, I couldnít listen to, because of the memories they indulged.I had to sever myself from every hint of that old life.

If you want to quit something thatís hard to quit, you have to let go of everything thatís associated with that particular thing. And sometimes that may even mean old friends. I only had two good friends (one of them being Ryk, my best friend) that I really hung out with, and they probably thought the reason they werenít hearing from me, was because I was married. When I did, eventually, hear from them, I very awkwardly tried to explain the hope and joy I had living for Christ. I didnít think I was very convincing. It would have been easier to witness to strangers. Although, one day Ryk called me at work and wanted to know how to get what I had. I prayed with him on the phone that day.

I was trying to live a Godly life, while the world outside was luring me back. And now I was being tempted by dancing girls, while in church, while singing in the choir. You know I could close my eyes and pretend I was worshiping God, but in reality I was seeing my old life behind my eyelids. A little inkling of lust of rearing her beautifully, ugly head.

 

Little Church Ė Big Faith

 

Within a year Lindi and I found a new church. It was small with less than fifty people on Easter Sunday, but I felt that God had led us there, and He really used us. No lust here. Everybody was old and ugly. At the time we changed churches, I felt that I was living a good Christian life, doing everything the way the bible told me to. But with this change, came a new perspective.

This little church was in the middle of a neighborhood where children played in front yards where old cars were parked on dead lawns with weeds growing up around flat tires. Curtains hung outside screen-less windows. In fact, it was very reminiscent of the Rock Courts, perhaps one step up. If the Rock Courts were lower class, this neighborhood was lower/middle class.

Some of these neighborhood children came to services on Wednesday nights. These services were especially geared toward children. When we got to the church, a seventy-year old man was working with the kids. Some of them were teenagers. His heart was in the right place, but he just wasnít relating with the younger generation. He could barely relate to me.

The church didnít have a choir, so we were immediately thrust into youth ministry. Lindi was working with the girls and I was working with the boys. It was something new, but it was a blessing. Some of the kids were more receptive than others, but we never had any mean, bully types, which may have been a real challenge to me, but God never gave me more than I could handle.

Several men from the church (and me) would take the boys on camping and fishing trips. On one of these trips there was a seven year old boy who was just constantly doing something that I had to call him down on. He and his nine-year old brother lived with their grandparents, and they rarely saw their mother, and Iím not even sure they knew their father, or if they even had the same father. But I rode this little wart-warrior like Roy rode Trigger. And by the end of that weekend, I was thinking that kid probably hated me. He might even want to quit coming to church.

As we were packing up our gear, he came over to me and put his arms around my waist. It startled me so I almost pushed him away, before he said, ďI wish you were my daddy.Ē I just stood there and half-heartedly patted him on the shoulder. I was in shock. I think I smiled as he ran off to play five more minutes with the other boys, before we left.

I looked at one of the other men who had seen and heard what he said. ďI sure didnít expect that,Ē I told my fellow chaperone.

ďYou gave him attention,Ē he replied.

ďYea,Ē I said, ďBad attention.Ē

ďBut he probably doesnít get any attention, good or bad.Ē

I never forgot that little boy. I always wondered how he turned out, good, or bad?

 

Having Fun and Living to Tell About It

Our daughter, Casey, was born in April ď87, and Lindi took a leave of absence for the rest of that school year. Eric and I did a lot of grocery shopping together. On one of those trips, I let him sit on the rack underneath the shopping cart. Hey, I was a daddy. I didnít know where all the domestic dangers lurked.

He was real quiet as I went up and down the aisles. I should have known something was wrong, right then, as he was never quiet that long. His mother would have known. Of course, his mother wouldnít have let him ride down there. At some point he looked up at me sheepishly as he held up a bloody finger and said, ďI learned something the hard way.Ē

We both learned something, the hard way, that day. Moving wheels and a curious child is a dangerous combination. Especially for the daddy, who has to go back home and explain to the mother.

While Lindi stayed home with the baby, Eric and I got into a lot of things together. Most of it was his idea. No, really. He was the one who wanted to see some mountains. So, on Memorial Day weekend, he and I took off for Big Bend, down on the Mexican border. I pulled off the road and let him climb up the side of a snake and tarantula infested rockslide waiting-to-happen. I also let him eat so much peanut butter he got sick and threw up a solid brick of peanut butter. It hit the side of the commode and stuck there. (His mother doesnít know this part. So, donít tell her.)

We got to see buzzards eating a javelina pig that had been hit by a car, and lots of other cool things. All in all, we had a great time together and, most important, we got back alive.

 

Euphemism or Just a Little Church?

 

By the end of the summer of í87, I was getting frustrated with the little church. Over half the congregation was over seventy and it seemed to me, they didnít really want the church to grow. They had their ways that things were done and they didnít need any up-starts trying to change things. I guess we thought we could get a lot of young people going there, who werenít going to church anywhere else, and maybe even have a revival. But after about a year and a half I realized there wasnít going to be any revival. In fact, the church began to lose people, young people. And we were among them. So, I thought about it long and hard, and we prayed about it, because I didnít want us to become like those people who just move from one church to another.

While we were still thinking and praying, we heard half of our old church was looking for another pastor.

Apparently, several other families had left after we did, and those who stayed seemed split on the way the dancing pastor was running things. He finally danced out the door with half the congregation and started his own church. Many of those who stayed were old friends, mostly to Lindi. If it wasnít for her, I donít think I would have any friends. Iím not loveable like her. Sheís definitely my better half. We decided to go back and be part of the healing and rebuilding process. There were a few who were mad that we left and there were a few who seemed mad that we came back. But cooler heads soon prevailed, sort of.

 

Writing Ė What a Concept

 

During the summer of 1986, while we were still at the little church, Eric stayed home with Lindi and the store was rather quiet. I had my routine of doing repairs in the afternoon, so I started taking my guitar to work and I began practicing, because the little church had wanted me to sing special songs in some services. That gives you an idea of how low the talent pool was in that church. But the kids did seem to like my music better than old Mrs. Something-or-otherís cowboy hymns on the organ.

While I was at work playing my guitar I began to write songs again. I took some of my old stuff and rewrote them with Christian lyrics. It was fun getting to actually sing my songs in front of people. Some of the old people even liked them. Iím not sure if that was a good thing.

††††††††† I was reading a lot more, and one day, after reading another book, in which the characters didnít do what I wanted them to I decided I was going to write my own book. And I did. Over the next two years, I wrote a western novel, and all the characters did exactly what I wanted them to. The good guy should never throw down his gun because the bad guy told him to.

††††††††† I thought it was pretty good, so I wrote another one. I was kind of digging this writing thing. That unknown celebrity was knocking on the door again, this time in the form of an author.

 

And Then There Were Two

 

††††††††††† Remember, when youíre with your children, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be used against you.

††††††††††† Eric and I went fishing a lot, after he was about five, and I was teaching him to cast with a rod and reel. He got pretty good at it, but sometimes in more overgrown areas he might throw his lure into a tree. One time he did just that, right after I had just told him not to. Before I thought, I blurted out the d word. God immediately quickened my spirit and my temper was quelled. In hopes that he hadnít noticed, I quickly and quietly began to get his line out of the tree and we started walking around the little pond to a less congested area. He hadnít said a word since I got angry.

Nothing gets past children, and mine was no exception. Halfway around the pond, he nonchalantly asked, ďWhy did you say a bad word back there?Ē

††††††††††† I probably shouldnít have said what I did, but I told him, I used to use bad language, but I stopped, because God wanted me to.Unfortunately, the bad words are still in my head. And the problem with losing your temper is things slip out that should have stayed in. He was probably too young to have the slightest idea what I was talking about. I think my answer was too long, because he was chasing a lizard before I was through. He always did get tired of my long-winded answers.

††††††††††† Another mistake I made was letting Eric watch a PG-13 movie on TV when he was still only five. There was one short scene, about fifteen seconds long, where French dancing girls came on a stage, topless. I just sat there with a thousand thoughts going through my brain at one time. Then it was over before I could react. So, like the bad word incident, I didnít say anything. I didnít even look at him as several long minutes passed. And just when I was sure it was over, ďDaddy, why were those women showing their things like motherís got?Ē I donít remember my answer, but just like the bad word incident, Iím sure it was inadequate and entirely too long.

††††††††††† Why do adults tend to just ignore an uncomfortable situation, hoping it will go away, like flatulence on an elevator? While adults just stare at the doors or the changing floor numbers, acting like nothing happened, a child will blurt out, ďMommy, somebody tooted.Ē

††††††††††† The honesty of children will not let you off the hook, and now we had two, trying to keep us in line.

††††††††††† When Casey was born she was almost as tall as her brother. Eric was short and stocky like his maternal grandfather. Eric was always a head shorter than most of his classmates, and Casey was always a head taller than most of hers.

††††††††††† Itís amazing to me how two children raised in the same home, by the same two parents can be so different from each other. While Eric always had to have somebody to play with, Casey never seemed have a problem playing alone. And unfortunately, we probably took advantage of that, while we spent most of our time entertaining Eric. If any sibling ever had a right to be jealous, it was Casey. Iím afraid Eric got all the attention when they were children. You know what they say about that squeaky wheel. Eric was constantly squeaking.

††††††††††† I remember, just before Casey was born, somebody asked Eric if he wanted a brother or a sister. He said he wanted a little sister, because a little brother would always be getting into his stuff. Nobody ever bothered to tell him any different. It wouldnít have done any good, anyway. Eric was just going to have to learn the hard way. Children; you try to raise them up right, but they still turn out just like you.

††††††††††† Casey was into Ericís stuff from the moment she started crawling. One time she unfastened her seat belt to reach up and hit Eric. Unfortunately for Lindi, there was a policeman behind her, who immediately pulled her over and gave her a ticket for not having her child restrained. She wanted to ask him if he had children, but she kept her mouth shut. The fine was $25.00 and didnít affect our insurance, so I paid it and kept my mouth shut, too.

††††††††††† We became a family who argued, especially on Sundays. Satan must really save his best for Sunday, too. It seems like we were at each other from the moment we got up until we got the kids in bed at night. My most memorable argument was on the way home from church one Sunday afternoon.

††††††††††† I heard Eric saying, ďStop touching me.Ē Had he been alone in the backseat, I would have been concerned, but he was buckled in beside his sister, who, of course, was continuing to touch her brother, now that she knew it was bugging him.

††††††††††† After several minutes of this, I told Eric (Casey was only two or three), ďThere will come a day when you will want your sister near and she wonít be around. She might marry and move far away, or you might.Ē Anyway, I tried to work on his emotions. Everything was real quiet for several minutes then I heard Eric saying, ďTouch me,Ē and grabbing his sisterís arm and pulling her toward him. Of course, she didnít want to touch him, now that he wanted her to.

††††††††††† It seemed like every Sunday we would leave church full of the spirit of God, and by the time we got home I felt like we were full of the devil. I would be convicted by the Spirit, then lose my temper a half hour later. It got to where I was afraid to leave the church, because I knew I would fall down when I got outside.

††††††††††† When I lost my temper, I would say hurtful things, and I felt like two different people. The bad James was spewing venom, while the good James was trapped inside trying to shut him up. But he would just keep going, cutting deeper and deeper.

††††††††††† And one of the hardest things for me to do is to say Iím sorry, because that would be admitting Iím wrong. Even when I know I am, I donít want to admit it. Good old stubborn pride. I should have waited until I was perfect to get married and have children.

††††††††††† I swore none of my children would ever be raised like I was, or go through what I did. You know, you should never swear. Theyíre not going to do what you say. Theyíre going to do what you do. Theyíre not going to be what you want them to be. Theyíre going to be what you are.

 

Christmas with Children and Papa

††††††††††† The most joyful times of my life were when my children were little, especially at Christmas. I enjoyed every aspect of it, even the shopping. There was only one thing wrong. From Christmas of 1979 to Christmas of 1987, Papa lay in a bed and never said a word. He had never recovered from the stroke he had when I was in New Mexico.

His greatest joy in life was talking. His second greatest joy in life was talking at Christmas. Both of those were gone, and no matter how hard I tried to pretend everything was the same, as I went to his bed and talked to him just like nothing was different, sometimes I just had to get by myself and cry. My wife and my children would never know the real Papa and that was a real shame.

††††††††††† I know it had to be so humiliating for him to be fed and cleaned by my grandmother and a woman they had hired to help her. Being old and helpless is only made worse when youíre in front of your family on Christmas Eve and theyíre trying to act like you havenít changed. Our intentions were good, but it was all pretend.

Now, I told you Christmas was a joy then I got all melancholy on you. Except for Papaís condition, Christmas with my children was a joy. We had fun with it, wrapping Ericís gifts in red paper and Caseyís in green, or vice versa. We usually got to bed after 2:00 am and the kids had us up between 5:00 and 6:00.

††††††††††† Lindi made stockings for everyone, including one with Jesusí name on it that always hung with the others. One year Casey asked me why Jesusí stocking never had anything in it. I explained to her that when we buy gifts for angel tree, or the kids at the state mental hospital, weíre giving to Jesus (Matt. 25:35-45). If your own conscience doesnít keep you in line, your children will. You better have a good reason for everything you do. If you donít, theyíll hang you out to dry. And they may or may not bring you in and fold you.

††††††††††† Have you ever noticed how you start trying to teach the first child to walk when they are six weeks old, but you donít care if the second child ever walks? Well, Lindi wanted Eric in organized sports, it seemed like from the time he could walk. She enrolled him in soccer when he was five. I canít stand soccer, even when it was my own child running up and down the field. Fortunately, most of his games were on Saturday morning when I had to work. That was my excuse for missing most of his games, although he just knew I wasnít there.†††††††

††††††††††† He played two seasons then I talked Lindi into putting him in YMCA baseball instead. I love baseball. I found out when he was eighteen that he didnít even like sports. And that was after all those years of playing soccer and baseball and football, and taking him to Texas Ranger games, Dallas Cowboy games, and even Dallas Starsí hockey. He never said a thing, until one night at a Texas Rangerís games, when he was a senior in high school he took a book and read it during the game. Iím kind of dense, at times, but even I couldnít miss that hint.

††††††††††† Casey played softball and basketball from the age of five. Her height seemed to help her and she enjoyed playing. Of course, we thought Eric was enjoying it, too. But even now, she is the biggest hockey fanatic I have ever known. And she still loves baseball, too. (Sheís not too big on basketball, though) When she was in high school she watched the sports channels about as much as she watched Sponge Bob.

††††††††††† We only went to Disney World once, but we had season passes to Six Flags and Wet and Wild for two or three years. We were constantly going and doing with our kids. I wanted our children to have fun and enjoy life. I even drove all the way to Colorado and back over a three-day weekend just so they could see something they had never seen in their short lives; snow.

 

Your Children are always Watching You Ė Scary Huh?

 

††††††††††† We went fishing a lot. We were at a park of some kind every weekend. I even took up in-line skating so they wouldnít have to skate alone. There were always kids at our house on the weekends or our kids were at some other kidís house, but never with any of the kids in our neighborhood.

††††††††††† Maybe I was wrong, but I even took our kids to elementary and middle schools in better neighborhoods. Maybe God put me in that neighborhood as a witness, but I failed.

I used to believe we were safe in that neighborhood, because all the criminals lived there and went elsewhere to commit their crimes. I believed that, until October of í89 when my 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlas Calais (with the Hurst shifter) was stolen out of my driveway one Saturday night. That sure put a damper on our trip to the State Fair one Sunday morning. I guess we should have been in church.

I donít want to remember how many times I missed God, or worse, I didnít miss Him, but I chose to look the other way. I honestly believe we were led to that house, which means we were led to that neighborhood. I professed to be a Christian and the Christianís handbook mentions vaguely about loving your neighbor (Lev. 19:18, Matt. 5:43, 19:19,22:39, Mk. 12:31 & 33, Luke 10:27, Rom. 13:9, Gal. 5:14, James 2:8). Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29) The one who had mercy. (Luke 10:37)

We had a rent house next door to us that was constantly changing occupants. It seemed the lovable neighbors didnít stay very long and the unlovable ones seemed to stay forever. I didnít have a problem loving my neighbors if they were lovable. We had a very nice Mormon family for about six months. They were friendly. I was friendly. There was a very affable African-American family there for about a year. They were friendly. I was friendly.

There was single mom with a teenage boy who played loud music in the driveway while he worked on his motorcycle, living across the street. Next door to them was the bigoted old lady with the lesbian daughter. There was the Hispanic family, the atheist, and even the family who parked all their cars in the front yard. They were all friendly. I was friendly.

But what about the family with the dad who worked two jobs and the mother who sat in the car and talked to herself while their three boys dug their own swimming pool in the backyard? They lived next door to us for over two years and the closest I came to being sociable with them, was when the oldest boy got on the roof and started tearing off the shingles and throwing them like Frisbees at the younger boys on the ground. I called the owner of the house and told on them. I never once went over there to see if I could help in anyway. They werenít lovable (Luke 10:31-32).

I wouldnít let my children play with any of the other children in the neighborhood, especially those boys next door. I wouldnít even let my children ride their bikes in the neighborhood. We would load up their bikes and go to the park to ride.

I never once asked, ďLord, why did you lead us to this neighborhood? What can we do to make a difference?Ē This is my confession. Can you cast the first the stone? I know I deserve it, but only the one without sin has the right to cast it. (John 8:7)

 

Everything I did, whether right or wrong, was out of love for my children. I wanted them to live in one house for more than a couple of years with the same two parents doing things with them, and especially taking them to church. I wanted to be perfect, but I fell way short. But I gave it my best human shot.

We went and we did, even when I didnít want to went or did. We played when I wanted to sit. We went outside when I wanted to stay inside. But I was always having fun when I was with my children, even when I wanted to be doing something else.

I always told my children, I would back whatever they wanted to do, as long as it was legal. And I have stood by that all these years. I also told my kids, if I promised them something, they would get it, even if it was a whipping. And Iíve never broken a promise. There were times they tried to convince me I had promised something, when I hadnít. They kept me on my toes, when I should have been on theirs.

Both of my children are very smart. They have their motherís genes. They both memorized a lot of bible when they were young. Casey memorized chapter 13 of I Corinthians and Eric memorized most of the book of John when he was in bible quiz. Iíve got a whole room full of ribbons and trophies to remember their many accomplishments

I remember some adult asking, six year old Eric, ďWhich came first, the chicken or the egg?Ē To which Eric immediately replied, ďThe chicken. God created all animals full grown.Ē He didnít learn that from me. He even knew the meaning of life, way back then, when he was young. ďGod created us for fellowship with Him.Ē

Children are paying attention, even when you think theyíre not.

My children have caused me to laugh

More than I have ever laughed before.

My children have caused me to cry

More than I have ever cried before.

My children have caused me to pray

More than I have ever prayed before.

 

 

 

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