I am a bit of a cynic, so I don’t have many heroes. Like everybody else, I have been disappointed, hurt, and dissed by people. Sometimes I think about those people, but not very often, because I choose to focus on that which builds, rather than that (those) who would pull me down. Lately, I keep asking myself who are my heroes. I don’t why. Maybe, it is because I want to see what it is they bring to my life and try to emulate it.
I have noticed how people are weirdly uncomfortable giving and receiving sincere complements. So, I hope that my words of homage are not embarrassing to anyone. This post is reserved for family.
Grandpa Berning was straight-standing, six-foot tall, elderly German who had lived a hard life marked by health issues as he and Grandma raised three children. You would never know that he was ill a day in his life. He exuded nothing but quiet, kind strength to me. He told great stories about WWI and the old days and I could never get enough of it as we sat in the cool evening shade in metal lawn chairs in the yard of the old rural home that holds so many memories for me. I loved fishing with him; actually, I loved doing anything with him. He made time for me.
Uncle Romey is another of the favorites of The Greatest Generation. Even though he has lost two wonderful wives and sadly, a son, who was several years younger than me, he still has a sparkle in his eye. He is an excellent storyteller with a memory for detail that far exceeds mine. Our whole family loves his stories of WWII and how he intentionally boarded the wrong ship to Europe to be with his friend. Since they had no assignment on board, they were eventually found out. I think he wound up on KP. These days, in his mid-80’s he has limited mobility and uses an electric-powered scooter chair, which he drives in an unsafe fashion. Somehow, he still works on restoring old car’s of which he has many in various states of functionality. He loves life, loves people, and always finds the humor in things.
Norval Spalding was my father-in-law. He has been deceased for about twenty-five years now. A short bald man with the famous Spalding grin that made you think he was up to something. He probably was. He was a mischievous man who used to play practical jokes on my wife as she was growing up. He was just very comfortable and reassuring for me to be around. He was full of wisdom. He always prefaced his wisest words by, “I might be wrong, but…” He never was. His “solution” to most any situation was to take us out to The Sizzler or bring home sandwiches from Miller’s Grill. An incredibly kind man, he gave us thousands of dollars a little bit at a time in those early years of our marriage. He, too, had time for me and would do anything to help me. I had this childhood picture of him handy. You can see the little grin started early on.
Patty and I were married when I was twenty and she was eighteen, so we grew up together. (I am not sure I ever did grow up.) She is a living testimony of grace, forgiveness, and acceptance because she has lived with me for thirty-seven years. Seriously! (I know!) She is generally quiet, unassuming, always serving and ready to set aside her wants in life. She has a spunky side, too and if she gets it in her mind to do something, it will be done. She is an awesome cook, excels at being a Grandma, and loves dogs more than anyone have ever known. She is my saving grace.
Nathan is my 30-year-old son who is married and lives nearby. He is a human Twinkie, a little crusty on the outside with a cream-filled center. Like his sister, he somehow survived parents who were too obsessed with their professions and preoccupied with the expectations imposed upon a pastor’s family. Many years ago, he chose the non-conformist route and still doesn’t fit some peoples’ conventional expectations. He grew, and kept, long hair in a Christian school where it was a serious infraction to do so. Then he took a time-out to do his own thing and find his own values. It’s funny, because he wound up being a cynical, politically aware, and ultra conservative. He could have his own radio show of political commentary, cynicism and humor. Seriously. When it comes to a family crisis, like his sis, he is always there. This makes me proud. He taught me to love football, drink beer, and listen to metal. He has a friend who thinks that he has corrupted me. While he manifested his conservatism, I became more and more liberal, then apolitical, and now I am drifting a little more conservative again. He thinks he is having a good influence upon me. I love our beer-drinking, grilling, patio conversations. He is one of the most insightful people I know. He is solid on the things that really matter.
Michelle is like me. Everybody thinks that is why we butt heads occasionally. We are organized, focused people who know what we (and everyone else) should be doing. Her focused nature has helped her to excel in the academic world as a student and as a teacher. By everyone’s account, she and her hubby have done an amazing job as parents. Our grandson, Sam is living proof. She is as liberal as her brother is conservative, which fits, because they made a childhood career of fighting with each other. She would try to domineer Nathan, since she was older, but he was decidedly more crafty and would find insidious ways to keep the blood feud alive. She reminds me of the value of a focused life.