THE BEST PART of my recent decade-turning birthday was having most of my kids together in the same place for the weekend. Managing to get three of four adults together at the same time—plus two spouses and three grandchildren? A major success, given their busy schedules.
I was touched that they all made the effort to travel hundreds of miles to be with the old man. And by their great combined gift: a fine turntable on which to play some of those aging LPs I have toted around the world on various moves. It’s spinning an old seventies favorite, Renaissance’s Ashes Are Burning, as I type.
With its wistful lyrics about remembering and regret, it’s a coincidental but somewhat fitting choice; the weekend featured a wonderful bonfire and lots of reminiscing. There was much storytelling and leg-pulling. I got to spend a few minutes alone with each of my children and tell them how special they are, and about that place in my heart that is always and forever theirs only.
Only too well aware of (at least some of) my faults and failings as a parent, it was heart-warming to hear them say some nice things about me too. One of them even came up with a list of things they loved about me, with an entry for every year. Needless to say, quite a feat.
Some of the items made me chuckle. Some were incidents I remembered. Some were incidents I’d prefer to forget. One moved me to tears:
Never being afraid if you were near.
I’m not sure what touched me so deeply about that sentiment. Maybe it was the thought that there were times when they had been fearful, but for whatever reason not wanted or felt able to tell me, and I had never known. They’d carried it alone.
Maybe it was because they had seen me as stronger and more solid than I saw myself, more like the man I wanted to be than I thought I was.
Either way, it made me realize what we can miss, even with our best efforts. It left me wanting to try to be more tuned in to others and what they need from me, even if they feel they can’t voice it. To listen more carefully to what is said—and unsaid.
And it left me wanting to be more intentional about voicing the good things that I see in others, knowing it may affirm something good and true in them that they may doubt, to be more deliberate about speaking encouragingly.