Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lessons from growing up – if I ever do …

I was a little boy before I grew up. I know that sounds absurd, but let me do this intro thing. Little boys are not perfect, just ignorant, full of energy with a bit of innocence added. Little boys can teach grown-ups a lot of stuff if grown-ups have the wisdom to look back before it’s too late. Looking back is a discipline that has to be guarded so that it doesn’t become a preoccupation, but it can come in handy at times. One time I heard a sportscaster on the radio say “Hindsight is the only pure science.” One sees what was really there and what really happened –- like instant replay on Fox Sports. What really happened -- unless it really didn’t happen? If a person believes something happened but it really didn’t, then I think they have drugs for that.

As a boy I loved climbing trees. It made me feel big and adventurous, and even big boys like to accomplish something. Little kids like to invent fantasies about being someone they think is a hero or something. Someone they are not and likely will never become. That’s a problem for adults too. It’s called living outside of one’s self and it’s dangerous to the soul -- more on that later.

I loved the water, especially the river. We used to go to the park and swim out to the Big Rock in the Spokane River. We would jump off and get caught in the current and spun around like being in a wash machine for about ten seconds before we came up for air. I heard that several kids died in the river each year for doing stupid stuff like that, but we did it anyway. Jumping off the Big Rock taught me that danger and adventure most often go together, and that the risk was usually worth the trip.

I liked BBQs, Pepsi Cola, and watermelon, especially on the Fourth of July when my dad’s side of the family would gather in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for a parade and a feast together in celebration of our Independence. My uncle would grill the biggest hamburgers I ever saw –- they aren’t as big now that I’m grown up -- the kind that when you stacked all the lettuce, tomatoes, unions, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard on it, it was too big for average mouth. Then my dad, my uncles and my brothers would sit around and eat watermelon and spit the seeds in the lawn until we felt like puffer fish swimming in a sea of red water –- but I don’t think puffer fish like watermelon. Then we had to go to the bathroom a lot. I always wondered why my uncle never had watermelon growing in his yard. I learned a lot about memories then, how easily they come and how far away they get as you get older.

I loved baseball, but I wasn’t very good at the game. I could catch the ball okay, and bat pretty well, but my dad and mom were very busy and we never got to play much on the city leagues. That was okay -- my life is none the worse for missing out. We did play pop fly exchange a lot in our backyard. I won sometimes. I lost sometimes. I learned that winning was great, but that just being able to play was really most important. Some kids would have loved to play but didn’t have anyone to play with. I learned that it was really great to be in the group. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s not so good.

I loved my dad’s ’64 Malibu Coupe before I knew the horsepower to weight ratio. I know that ratio now and I wish I had a few of those cars. My dad wishes he never had to sell it. I’ve had a lot of problems involving cars. Cars are status symbols in the United States. That’s pretty shallow.

I loved my dog too, as young boys often do. He was just an average dog. His name was Benny. He was nothing special as dogs go, light brown with a white scarf and white feet, about 30 pounds. He looked rough when he was protecting my brother and me. He sure was loyal. I think he would have given his life for us. Dogs are a great invention of God. They seem to be made to take care of kids and protect people. Some dogs tip over garbage cans and chase cats, but back then I just thought those dogs were the ones without families. Everyone should have a family. Family dogs just seem to know what to do if things get messy. Family dogs always listen when you talk to them too. They probably just hear us say, “Blah, Blah, Blah” but it makes a kid think someone always listens and doesn’t talk back. That’s just cool. Kids need to be listened to.

I had a great family, not wealthy by any means, but I always had a house and a bed and a real bathroom. And I never missed a meal. If I did, I don’t remember missing one. My dad worked real hard and my mom could make our food go farther than a helium balloon that lost its owner. I had two brothers and a sister. We always went to church and were taught the importance of knowing God and reading the Bible and obeying. My parents loved me, but as I said, I was ignorant. I didn’t know how much they loved me until I had my own children. Having children is when lessons on love begin to seem very important. Having my own kids made me wish I had paid more attention when I was growing up. There was much more for me to learn about love and that’s what this blog is really about.

Back to my dog.

Benny was just a mutt of the lower-middle-class-American-kind –- like a garage sale, when everybody brings their unwanted crap to sell and nothing matches. But that dog loved me and I loved him. I don’t know why I loved him exactly. It wasn’t because he was good looking or overly intelligent, nor the toughest dog on the block. The toughest dog on the block usually got in the most fights. That sounds like adults too. Anyway, he protected us by barking when he thought we were threatened, and he chased after the bad guys. I don’t think Benny chased cars or cats or tipped over garbage cans. He was loyal and slept on the foot of my bed. In hindsight I think I loved that dog because he loved me first. I still remember the day he never came back. My dad said he found him in the road. He’d run off for a little adventure. I guess it was kind of like jumping off the Big Rock and never coming up again. He got in a fight with a boulevard full of cars on Sprague Avenue and he lost. I learned that in life you lose lots of things that you love.

The world is not a very nice place for kids. Even in a part of the world that is pretty nice. Come to think about it, it’s not a very nice place for adults either. Even in a lower-middle class American family, with a house, a fast, red sedan and a good dog. That’s why we need to know about love; the real kind of love, the love that doesn’t care if your dog is the biggest, the fastest, or the meanest. You just love that dog because he’s yours or you’re his –- however that really works. The real kind of love doesn’t care if you have a fast, red car or came from a great family that took you to church and made sure you had food to eat and clothes to wear. Real love isn’t about that. Real love is much more important. It’s what really matters.