Tag Archives: parents

Dad

Dad and Jacqueline warm up by the stove on Feb. 8th, 2016. (c) 1inawesomewonder

Dad and Jacqueline warm up by the stove on Feb. 8th, 2016. (c) 1inawesomewonder

 

This morning I woke up for the very first time in 48 plus years, without a Dad. Well, without my Dad living here on this earth. My Dad, John R. Beal, passed away yesterday morning, April 14, 2016. I can honestly say that my initial thoughts and feelings of pain and finality, were followed quickly by the sense of relief that my Dad suffered here no more. Although the former thoughts and feelings will stay close to me for some time, I know complete peace as Dad made his way to his eternal home yesterday around 8am.

Last night I worried with my wife as I told her the kind of things that I (and possibly others) expected from myself as it relates to writing about such things, these tributes and remembrances. We talked about how I had already written two or three of these things for my Dad before he ever passed, as I knew this day was coming. Honestly, I don’t know that I like what I have written previously, so here we are together on the edge of this new precipice I face this morning. I asked her where or how I should begin. Then I told her what I planned on doing to even start the writing process. I told her a few of the steps I would take to nudge myself up to this electronic writing pad, and how I see it playing out in my mind. Then she said to me, that’s your intro, just write what you told me, and go from there.

After an exhaustion induced sleep I woke before sunrise. I stepped right into the places I’d rather not trod because I knew that is where I needed to go. First, I signed-in and looked at my electronic edition of today’s New Hampshire Union Leader to find the Obituary written for my Dad. I noticed that just like we learn to arrange ourselves over the course of our entire lives, Dad was named in a list. Just a list of names, people who also found themselves named in obituaries this date. I looked through all of the names, some that I knew, and others I did not. I went back to the list somehow wishing there was a different way to share these people with the world. Imagine all the years, all of the moments, and the history each of these folks carried with them, leaving such a void in someone’s world. Just a list, get in line, because that’s how we keep order. I opened the link to my father’s obituary and I read it. My chest heaved violently as I expelled emotion and sorrow laden breath after breath as fast as my body would allow. Tears streamed from my eyes and I had to clear them several times just to read the words on the screen, even though I already knew what they said. I stopped and whispered a silent prayer hoping there were people somewhere eagerly looking for their loved ones brief story for each person on this list. Not much would seem worse to me than a life story lived right in front of us that no one wanted to read.

So, I have already used more than 500 words to get to my, quote, unquote, start. The steps I told to my wife last night, start with the playing of some old country/folk style music. I opened up my Spotify app and went to the playlist entitled, Old School Country, and I hit the “ShufflePlay” button. My dad enjoyed this music thoroughly and this playlist wouldn’t even exist were it not for him and the time I enjoyed trying to make a painful day for him pass just a little easier over the last few years. Just last Thursday, I sat with him, he in his wheelchair, me in a vinyl, beastly looking contraption that looked and felt like it could withstand the World Wars. We sat facing each other, next to his nursing home bed. He didn’t say very much that day, as had become more and more the norm these last few months. But I noticed that his face and his eyes looked more alive than I had seen in months. I took joy in that smile whether it’s effect reached the rest of his face or not, because the eyes gave it away. We sat, just he and I, for 90 minutes, listening to this playlist. I knew he thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent, as did I. His 87-year-old roommate, Ken, and Ken’s wife Arline, both came back to this little concrete square in a mostly forgotten wing of some old nursing home that most would rather hurry past than to deal with the scene found inside. There was Dad with his grinning eyes, his oldest son just trying to make some piece of this existence better, if even for just 90 minutes, an 87-year-old former engineer, and his wife, all sitting around together, humming tunes, singing some words, and making the otherwise drab and pending finish line a little more tolerable. A couple of aides came in to work with Dad’s roommate for a few minutes and they were smiling and repeating words to some of these old songs by the time they left. I was just happy to be there. I was happy to see Dad, happy.

That visit with Dad in the nursing home was the last time I would see my Dad alive. Really alive. I was with him most of the day, in the hospital on Wednesday the 13th, but he wasn’t really alive. He had vital signs and they were good. But he was completely unresponsive and never opened his eyes. Our family was there all day, and Mom spent the night in a chair (similar to the one I described in the nursing home) next to Dad.

Yesterday morning, early on, messages started coming in from Mom and my brother, and I knew the end was closing in. By the time I rushed from my home, leaving the twins to their care, Dad was already gone. Before I left, I had received a message that took my breath away, and I started to cry. Theodore, who will be 6 years old next week, was up early with me, while his twin sister Jacqueline was still sleeping. Theodore saw me cry, and he already knew that Grampy was not well. Teddy told me, “Daddy please don’t cry. Daddy don’t cry. It’s going to be okay.” And he came over to me to give me a hug and a kiss. I pulled myself together quickly and we talked quickly of Grampy. I told him we could pray, as we had been doing quite often for days, weeks, and months. Theodore walked around the family room praying out loud for Grampy, and praying to himself, as I had told him some time ago that God heard those prayers too. He turned to me and said, “Dad I said some special prayers, and I really think they are going to work for Grampy.” I assured him they would and I prayed too. Minutes later I would piece together, that it was right at that time that Dad’s time here had expired.

Dad and I, four years ago today. (c) 1inawesomewonder

Dad and I, Father’s Day, 2014. (c) 1inawesomewonder

After a long, long day I couldn’t wait to return home and talk to my wife and kids about those prayers. Because they did work. We prayed for direction. We prayed for Dad to feel better. We had prayed that Dad could again, come home. At the same time my Mom sat bedside with my Dad and prayed the same. Then at 8am, on Thursday, April 14, 2016, God answered. God raised my Dad up for just a second in Mom’s arms, and as Dad breathed his last breath here, our Heavenly Father took him home. Prayers answered. Thank you Lord.

I drove down our driveway knowing Dad was already gone. I was in a hurry to get to the hospital, but not really. I turned onto the country road that connects to our driveway. Cars came and went. People moved about. Down an old country road visible on my drive, I noticed several turkeys doing their morning thing. I thought about the huge hole that now existed in my world, but also noticed how many folks I passed, who were in no way affected. The world still turned, and the noise of daily life pressed on, but my world had just forever changed. I made my way to the hospital, not holding anything against any of the folks I saw for not having been affected by the sonic boom that had just gone off in my own life. I won’t get into the room, the family, and the scenes that unfolded among ourselves. But we were there, all of us together. Dad was still in the bed, and I kind of wished I didn’t have to see him there. Because that was just a body, Dad was gone, and this vessel that housed his soul and all of who he was, was just empty, used, and no longer containing my Dad. I can’t say that Dad left that body better than he found it, but I know he got absolutely everything he could, out of it. “…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

See, Dad was born in 1941. Had he been born during the last two decades it’s likely he would have been tagged, or somehow otherwise labeled, as having a learning disorder or disability. But, as God and His perfect timeline would have it, Dad was born in July 1941. I am certain he suffered in some ways from the forcible learning/teaching habits taught from some book, that until recently, nobody thought to re-write, that incorporated the will to push all pegs, even in their asymmetrical diversity, through the same hole. Dad was different for sure. Thank God. These battles, many of which, maybe not another soul knows of, but I am certain they happened; Turned into a drive and determination that Dad displayed in areas where most of us wouldn’t apply. His resiliency was more between his ears, than anywhere, because that’s where the battles were fought, and where the weakness resided. I am saying that his methods, comprehension, and responses were questioned as a matter of the brain he was wired with. He was sound. He just had limitations in the physical aspects of his brain. God created him that way, and for 74+ years he worked with the equipment he had. He did what he had to, and he got by. Nowadays maybe he would have been labeled, separated, and led away from the pack, stunting growth, killing creativity, and who knows how that would have gone.

God knew what He was doing though. Dad was one of the best preachers I ever heard. Dad could mix humor into any sermon, illustration, or story without ever being silly. Greater still, you knew exactly what he meant, and his relatability was second to none. God gave him words, thought patterns, and a perspective to pull things together in a light that changed lives, touched hearts, and led to the eternal saving of souls. Honestly, what greater purpose could a man be called to? That was my Dad and he was great at it.

Listen, I just lost my Dad, and maybe I am gushing a bit, but he wasn’t any more perfect than any of us are. But I choose to hold him in regard to the greatest attributes of his life. He wasn’t terribly hands-on as a father once I got a little bit older. He loved and he led, but he did so at arm’s length. He was proud of us, and he loved nothing more than to watch his kids compete or perform. He taught us right from wrong. He did play with us, he was there. I don’t have a list of things he taught me or things he always said. See when you have every dinner together and spend so much time together as a family, all six of us, in those moments there are countless lessons, examples, and quotable spoken contribution. It was on us to pay attention, and we did. He didn’t come out and say this is how to be a man, this is how to do this or that, but his commitment to the Word of God, the teachings found there, and the scriptures was a lesson anyone could benefit from. He was a family man. We were a family that was together a lot. We gathered on holidays with extended family, and Dad would have it no other way. As a matter of fact, Dad never let on that we all were anything but family, even with his in-laws, the Peterson’s. The Beal’s and the Peterson’s, we all carried on as one family and we have for more than 50 years. That was a credit to my Dad and my Mom. The greatest gift he left me was the way to heaven. There is but one way. “…I am the way, the truth, and the life…”.

Dad did enjoy an occasional treat. (c) !inawesomewonder 2016

Dad did enjoy an occasional treat. (c) 1inawesomewonder 2016

It would be hard for me not to recognize something that hits way too close to home. I am my father’s oldest son. In many ways, I think that I am more like him than any of my siblings, but that’s just what I think. Throughout my lifetime there have been pictures of me that compare closely to those of my Dad at the same age. But resemblance isn’t everything, his blood runs through me. This apple landed right next to the tree. My sense of humor runs in the family, actually in both my Moms’ and Dads’ families alike, but there’s no question that Dad raised mine, ours, to a new level. Family dinners and get-togethers were among the funniest and most creative humor any of us have ever witnessed. Truly, brilliant at times, and just plain hilarious at other times. Thank you Dad. I also challenge those who really know me to examine how I have handled or treated you and yours, not for my sake, but because I am my father’s son. If I were fortunate enough to score a positive vote in your records, please know that my Dad would score ten times that. If I scored negatively, then that is on me, and you saw a version of me that should not have surfaced. Please forgive me. See, me, and my generation, we hope to be measured one day in the same breath as the great people of the generation before us. In that generation the simplicity of life lived was the stunning portrayal choreographed by the depth found in the intricacies of magnificent minds with the perceived time to approach extraordinary. I am just a man, my Dad was a great man, a great man of God. His new place in heaven ensures what should always be, that I’ll look up to him. I do, and I will.

Dad didn’t want to leave this world but he did want to go home. We found out after the fact that he had shared with nursing home personnel on Tuesday that “he was ready to go home.” To his heavenly home. You know it’s kind of interesting to think about the state of the world we live in today, is the same world we cling to at the end. In our infinite mortality, we fight to stay here just a little longer, as those gathered long for the suffering not to leave this place. Two points that I choose to notice, one, that it’s the people not the place, we long to stay with; two, our heavenly home that awaits is so much better than anything we can comprehend here.

For the last five years or so, I have spent a lot more time with my Dad than I had previously as an adult. I heard a lot of stories over and over, and other simple things that are neither here nor there. But really, I learned a lot about Dad, and gained another level of respect for him, especially as a man of God. One thing that was always very present with Dad, and that I have seen present in many others over the years, were his smiling eyes. Or as I might dare say, a saved person’s eyes, or Christian eyes. In those eyes, the whites are white, and the light shines a little more bright. These windows to the soul are clear, and they sparkle, for in the depths of those saved souls, fear does not dwell. Even through these difficult months, Dad’s eyes rarely dimmed. And in those eyes, I saw so much love.

In the end of Dad’s time here on earth he suffered. He fended off so many attacks on his brain over the last 11 years. Much to all of our dismay, and opposite of our best wishes and prayers, Dad never regained the elevation in steps that he had previously climbed to once a medical event had happened. He got close. He often times maintained, which is still susceptible to the aging process we all face. Though he battled, he never could advance against the damage done to his command center. He lived on. He loved on. He smiled often. He welcomed all whether we knew it or not. In his fashion simple things continued to be his most revered things in life. Right up to the hands that held his while he grabbed at his last breath.

Today, April 14th, as I sit in the bedroom I grew up in, I write these words with tears running down my face. Finality has a way of messing with our minds and our emotions. This too shall pass. And I smile when I write triumphantly that today, Dad is home. Dad is happy. Dad is healthy. And although you folks reading this or hearing it, may have known him as John, Pastor Beal, Uncle John, brother, brother-in-law, Reverend John Beal, or Mr. Beal; I am happy to have always known him as Dad.

Someday, From This Debt, I Hope I’m Never Free

Are you a parent? Did you have parents? Did someone ever give of themselves toward your betterment in such a way as to change your life? Do you owe anyone for the piece of them they gave, just for you? Have you even thought about this? Should you do something about it? Do you need a push in the right direction?

Well this is what I have come up with, so far.

As time rolls on, the memories start to fade, with their edges frayed, the vibrant colors wash out some, and the family unit bends but doesn’t break. Time removes me from the places where we once went about our daily life knowing only what was there, sheltered in our little world. Distance puts time in between us, even if we want otherwise. What was once just down the hall, now requires a plan, accounting for all. The sweet, trusted security only separated by a flight of stairs, is somewhere in the past, or at least not so easily found, or fast. The supported now strain to support, and one longs for it all, again to be the other way around. Examples ran across our view whether we watched or not, and it seems so many times now, the lesson I forgot. I recall the good, and the things I suppose I want to see, and how much love did it take for it, that way, to be. Then the age added up but the character never changed, just the love and lessons somehow rearranged. No one kept track, as it should be, but from this debt, I hope I never feel free.

We live. Hopefully we love. We wander but never lose center. We look back, I hope, more than we look down. We look ahead, I hope, never disconnected from the past. We help, I hope, remembering from where we came. We make time, I hope, because minutes are fleeting. We linger, I hope, how much has been vested in us. We leave, better than we found, I hope, for that’s how we were taught.

I think on this matter a lot. I wonder at times how much is left in the well. When I take stock I am always astounded at how much more there is to give. It is then that I know how it once felt for those who have come before me. Then if there’s a push I need, a shove I crave; I play this song (Kayla Reeves, TSO) and listen to the emotion that is impossible to keep from spilling over all within earshot. I stir in the message shared amid the words that roll into my own personal movie playing just behind the portals I use to see. And I am reminded that, from this debt, I hope never to be free.

SOMEDAY

He won the war, in a foreign land
That was no hero, that was my old man
And he came back home, where he met his wife
And he raised his kids, while he made a life
Now he never preached, though he always knew
And we watched him close, just to pick up clues
And sometimes late, in the dead of night
I can see him there, in the pale moon light
I am trying
And I don’t know how
And I don’t know when
But I’ll have to tell him someday

And as for this woman, my father wed
We knew we were loved, with the words unsaid
And when we were young she taught us all to read
And then one by one, she would watch us leave
Never saw her cry, for she hid her tears
As one by one, we would disappear
But of course we’d write, and of course we’d call
Just to hear her voice, whenever we would fall

I am trying
And I don’t know how
And I don’t know when
But I’ll have to tell her someday

So I wrote these words, and I hope they last
For the years have come, and the years have passed
Think of all they gave, think of all the debt
But can’t find a way, to repay them yet
For the days still come, and the debt still mount
And do words unsaid, ever really count
But sometimes still, in the dead of night
I can see them there, in the pale moon light

I am trying
And I don’t know how
And I don’t know when
But I’ll have to tell them someday

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Kayla Reeves with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Boston 2015

Thanks #1 (Parents)

#1 I’m so thankful for my parents. I’m so glad they did, and still do care. When I feel like so many parents are asleep at the wheel these days, I’m so happy that my parents were present and participating in my life.

 

Memories of the back yard

Yesterday I made my weekly visit to my parents’ house. I always bring the twins with me and we visit. I love the time with my parents. I want the twins to know their grandparents, not to count on someone else’s memory of them. They love to go to Grammy and Grampy’s house. They get excited when I mention it even before we leave our house.

It’s just over 20 minutes to get to my parents’ house from my home. The house I grew up in. We moved there when I was just five years old. My two youngest siblings were born after we moved there. It’ll always be our homestead. I love going back there to see the place, the yard, mostly my parents.

Inevitably every time, and I mean every time, I am there, memories flood my mind. Every inch of the property prompts a memory of something it seems. So yesterday, the twins were playing with their four-year old cousin in the yard. It was a beautiful November day, 68 degrees or so, with a mix of sun and high clouds. Little to no breeze, and it was just right for being outside. We had fun in the fresh air.

The twins wandered through the side and back yards. Kicking leaves and picking up leaves as they roamed. They found an open barrel, half filled with rain water, and decided it would be fun to fill it with leaves, while stirring the “disgusting stew” (quote from my 4 yr old niece) with sticks they found in the yard. It was pretty funny to see the three of them crowding this container, and stirring like mad.

It reminded me of the times I was on that same patch of grass, playing in the leaves, or imagining I was on my ranch riding my horse through the leaves. I remembered a red, long sleeve shirt I wore all the time as a kid, and how it had a single front pocket. I remembered one time that a hornet got stuck in my pocket while I was playing in the leaves, and I was stung a few times. I remembered standing in that very spot, wearing my mom or dad’s deer skin gloves, and pretending I was over looking my vast ranch. I wanted to be a cowboy or even an indian. And my mind raced back to days that seem like the yesterday I spent with the twins …

… The grass was still green, but the leaves had fallen off the trees. The wind was cold now, but it would be weeks before the velocity really kicked up from the north and west. Even so, the cold breeze curled gently around me as a reminder of the cold that comes each winter. The air temperature was mild enough so that the breeze was enjoyable as long as I kept moving. I was in the saddle, riding slowly over the grassy, relatively open slopes on the edge of the seemingly endless forest. My horse was a brown and white mustang that had once roamed the Great Plains, wild and free. The mustang was good enough for the Comanche Indians, the natives who rode best, so the mustang was good enough for me.

Just then I looked up to see a red-tailed hawk leaves its perch from a single stalk remaining on a dead pine tree. As the hawk climbed to its soaring altitude high above me, my eyes returned to the forest in front me. As I lost my focus on the grand shadows of green and gray that stood in front of me like some sort of wall, I noticed in the breeze, single snowflakes blowing from left to right on the shoulders of the increasing breeze. I pulled my cowboy hat down a little tighter, I flipped the collar of my wool coat up as to cover more of my neck, I wrestled the deerskin gloves a little further up my wrists, and tried not to rock in the saddle as the breeze immediately let me know how cold it was where I wasn’t resting my weight. I turned towards the northwest and took in a breath of the cold, fresh air. It filled my lungs in an instant and cooled me to the core in half that time. As a smile pursed my lips, I thought, it’s great to be alive, what a beautiful place, and I let the wind whip a few more flakes at my face, while I closed my eyes; one with it all…

… then I returned to the present. Watching my kids on the same grass where I used to tie my imaginary horse. The same spot where the adventure so often began. One day I was an indian riding bareback, a tremendous rider, a marksman with my bow, a silent and stealth hunter of sustenance. The next day I was a cowboy with thousands of acres or maybe on the unexplored frontier, walking from my barn with my horse before riding into the unknown. Then another day I was just a kid playing in the leaves. Feeling the textures of leaf, stem, and grass. Hearing the rustle up close. Then I could be a football player playing before tens of thousands of adoring fans, as I jumped into the pile of leaves like Walter Payton over a goal line defense.

I watched the kids play. I listened to their sounds. I noticed their intensity. I reflected their joy. And I felt their pain when I told them it was time to come in for lunch. As I walked in with my daughter, whom I had to pull away from the barrel, I remembered the feeling. I held her close and whispered to her while I carried her in the house while I, for the moment,  I shut out my memories of the back yard.