big boys don't cry

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I’m fascinated by the events in a person’s life that helps determine who a person really is. The lumps along the path of life are common to all of us. It’s how we process the pain that eventually heals into a scar we get to carry forever that is the difference.

Up until I was in about 2nd or 3rd grade I had a speech impediment. Before the age of “Political Correctness,” I was fair game. Even adults back in those days made fun of me. Not fun for the kid who couldn’t pronounce “R’s.”

Around that same time in my life, my grandma on my dad’s side passed away after a long bout with cancer. We had some good times even during the process.

Kids weren’t allowed in hospital rooms in those days. My mom and dad told us, “You’re going to get to see Maw-Maw through the glass.” They said it over and over like it was extra special. I know it was, but the way they carried on about it, I thought “The Glass” was magical.

They gave us directions to go around the hospital, turn here, go over there. I didn’t pay too much attention to the details, I left the navigation up to my big brothers to lead us to “The Glass.”

We climbed up a small grassy hill and there was my Maw-Maw in bed, my mom and dad standing beside the bed waving. I thought to myself, “That’s It”! – “That’s, “The Glass”? “That’s just a big window”! I waved, pushed my sister and started running down the grassy hill in hopes of inducing a game of tag.

I remember my uncle Buck driving his truck into the middle of our front yard in the middle of the night. I vividly remember him pounding on our front door calling for his brother.

I could hear my uncle Buck telling my dad to get his boots so they could go get those “Sons-a-_itches.” I listened as my dad calmly said, “Buck, you know I don’t do that anymore.”

I was the only one of my siblings who wasn’t tall enough to see over the edge of the casket at my grandma’s funeral. My dad didn’t shed a tear at the funeral. My uncle Galen the youngest of the nine siblings cried like I’d never seen a grown man do before. My uncle Buck, the oldest of the surviving siblings didn’t cry either. I watched in wonder, learning the lessons of life without shedding a tear as well, just like my hero’s.

I’ve pondered the many events and the ultimate impact they might have on my life. These few incidents are just a thimble of water in the swimming pool of life, but for the few and total here’s what I’ve got so far.

I didn’t let my speech impediment damper my love of Halloween. Sometimes even while laughing at the way I said “Tlick-a-Tleet,” I scored double the candy. That speech impediment landed me in Special Ed. The kids in that pre-PC society fondly referred to the class as the place for M-R’s.

I received one on one teaching with a specialist. Once the speech therapist finished, I would come to speak plainly and read at a college level while in grade school.

My dad was the only person in the world to have some control over my uncle Buck. I learned of my dad’s quiet strength. I learned of his self-control, sacrifice, and love for his family. My dad’s priority was God and his family. I watched it in times of testing. He never failed.

I think God spared me the confrontation with death at an early age. I held up the line as long as I could on my tippy-toes trying to catch a glimpse over the edge of the casket at my Maw-Maw, before being gently moved along by my dad.

I wondered most of my life if I would be strong like my dad was in public. I wondered if I’d scream with nightmares in the middle of the night like he did after he lost his mom. I’m certain that everyone deals with death one way or the other. I just wasn’t sure how I would deal with it. It was something I was hoping to put off as long as possible. God did give me enough years to know how I would respond.

God used all the events in my life to bring me to a place of understanding. His will is perfect and everything that happens in our lives has a purpose. I thank God for the place He’s brought me to.

Just before God took my dad home, I told him how proud I was to be his son. I shared with him how honored God and his family were by “The good race he had run.” My dad cried… My mom, wife, and though big boys don’t cry, I myself joined them.

At my dad’s funeral, I cried again… I know for sure it won’t be the last time…