To borrow a 90’s phrase, my parents are totally rad. I don’t write about them much, mostly because they loom so large in my life that it’s hard to do them justice on paper. Tonight I’m thinking about them because this is the big week when they celebrate their anniversary and their birthdays. I already did the good daughter thing and sent them a little something in the mail, but I think a blog post might be a better gift. (And I bet mom will cry when she reads this.)
You may not know them, but here are some of the reasons why my parents are so great…
- Mom is playful and funny. This woman’s got wit and a well-developed sense of humor — and a great cackle to go along with them. She kept us laughing when we were kids with what I can only call antics. My mom is a dignified woman but she’s not afraid to be goofy. More than anyone else, she can make me laugh so hard that I cry and gasp for breath. As I was growing up, she was a favorite with my friends. “Momma G” was often requested as a chaperone for school trips and I didn’t mind when she came along. That says a lot.
- My parents are generous. They probably won’t like me telling you this, but when our family had more money than we needed, they gave away the extra. They have always supported great charities and non-profits, not only with money but with their time. They’ve served on more boards and committees, and volunteered at more events, than anyone I know. Every Christmas Eve they hosted our pastors and their families for a bountiful dinner. Whenever there was a spare bedroom in our home, it was filled with missionaries on furlough, poor college students, or people in transition.
- Dad is a great confidante. He has always been someone I could tell anything to without fearing quick judgment or dismissal. Even when Dad and I disagree on a point or a decision, we can share our opinions and have a safe and helpful conversation. The way my father listens makes me feel valuable.
- Kim and Pam define encouragement. I don’t have childhood issues to work through due to unrealistic parental expectations. When I got a low grade on a test or assignment, they’d ask if I was prepared, if I gave it my best effort, and then they’d tell me that they believed in me and move on. They never made me feel guilty or indicated that I’d disappointed them. In fact, my parents often gently urged me to loosen my perfectionist tendencies and have more fun. The only time they ever gave me an ultimatum was when I was giving all of my time to extracurriculars and was neglecting my spiritual life. They told me that changes had to be made because nothing was more important than my relationship with God. Their own lives have proved that point.
- Mom models faithfulness to commitments. Pam has taught pre-school Sunday school classes almost my entire life. Of course there were challenging kids, flaky helpers, and days when she just wanted to skip church and sleep in, but my mother never backed out of a commitment just because her feelings changed. She knew people were counting on her — both the kids, other teachers, and the pastor — so she showed up. Every time. How many people do you know like that anymore?
- My parents gave me an awesome musical education. Music was always playing in our home and in our cars. My parents’ musical taste is so eclectic that I can sing along to Cat Stevens; The Beach Boys; Luciano Pavarotti; Joni Mitchell; Simon and Garfunkel; Etta James; James Taylor; any of the Jackson clan; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Frank Sinatra; The Four Tops and many more. I know Broadway musicals and can tell the difference between Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven. Like many parents, Kim and Pam forced me to learn piano. That torture is one of the greatest gifts they ever gave me. The ability to read music is a dying art, but since I learned how to read music, I’ve had some of the most exhilarating moments of my life making music with other singers.
- My dad is a storyteller. The grandkids always ask for Papa to tuck them in so he can tell them a story. He’s been weaving intricate stories about Chief Red Cloud for decades. (It’s probably the Ojibwe blood in him.) Dad’s gift lives on in my brother Brandon who spins great stories and makes up these spontaneous, rhyming songs for his daughters. I think dad’s love for story is probably why I love reading, acting, and public speaking of all kinds. There are few simple pleasures like telling a good story well.
- They’re still together. My parents don’t have a dazzling love story. (In fact, they way mom tells it, dad proposed in the middle of a casual conversation with something like, “So, do you think we should get married?”) But they do have stable love story, which might just be the best kind. If their marriage were a book, these would be some of the chapters:
- Loyalty to one’s spouse is like being a Buckeyes fan
- Parenting is cheerleading without the uniforms
- The life-long friendship of doubles tennis and euchre table-talk
- Adventure: sell insurance, travel far, drink wine, and find your husband conducting a band
- Forgiveness: a kiss after another home project gone sour
- Embrace your in-laws — Don’t bring up politics
- Faith is obeying the call of God even when it leads to a desert and loss
- Aging Well: Let her read. Let him play golf. Hold hands during the movie.
My parents are not perfect people, nor were they perfect parents, but they are easy to compliment. They know how much I love them and now you might too.
Happy anniversary and happy birthday Mom and Dad! May you have many more years together.