The house is quiet, a rare moment. What am I thinking about? My eldest son Broderic will marry his sweetheart Kristen in a month. The heart aches a bit with distance. Four of our eight kids at the moment are in North America, our arrows flung half way around the world. When we moved here with the six kids, this stage was the furthest from our minds. We were packed in suitcases, shipping containers and freshly nervous in our new context. Every day was a date with uncertainty, surprises and a lot of adjustment. Broderic was just 11 or 12 when we moved here (Deb’s not here for me to yell, “How old was Broderic when we moved here?). He was a fine first born, eager to please, always a helper, and wanting to be a good example for his siblings.
The first few years are really quite a blur in Ukraine. Such formative years. We were happy to give our kids a uniquely non-western experience. Although we were rather incubated with other missionaries and friends in that early stage, the changes were real, and looking back, our family was undergoing some extreme reshaping. The kids, as most do, took it stride, adapting with the new routines, or lack thereof. The adults, well, I’m not sure if we’ve every adjusted totally. Broderic made a couple close friends, and as a parent trying to maintain some stability in the home you are happy if a kid is happy, and move to the areas of life that are crying out for attention. Newsletters to write, a company I was still overseeing in the US, local church relations and responsibilities, a language you are struggling to learn, things like your marriage and your connection with your kids can be put on the side burner for ‘later’. Later arrives as today, and you wish you could go back in time, turn off the world and sit with your son a bit.
As a father, I’m not suggesting the background music of, “cats in the cradle”, but there’s some truth to the flurry of time, the regrets of dis-proportioned allotments to things that never really mattered like we thought they did at the time. Now I have Cher, “If I could turn back time” echoing in my mind. Yes, a time machine. Someone wrote about the vanity of youth having all the vigor and energy but wasting it on foolish things, then we age, and get to spend our time more wisely but with hardly any energy left to spend!
I love Broderic, and we’ve enjoyed watching him navigate his life over in Florida. He’s discovering, and I believe making good connections. The soon to be lifelong partner in Kristen is one of his best choices. She’s sweet, and adores him. They will make a fine family, and people will enjoy being around them. Broderic as a first born really put a lot of pressure on himself, pressure to perform, pressure to keep the family ‘in line’, he would have been a good sheep dog in another life. Yet, I wish I could have spent more time channeling those personally set expectations towards mercy, grace, and embodied that more myself as well. If I could sit for a moment with my younger dad self, I would speak of the need to be present with my kids, to not just hear their words but listen, and tend to the deeper things in their hearts. My younger dad self was busy building what I thought was a life ‘for them’, when in fact, it was ‘for me’, and now that they are gone, or going, I see it for what it was.
When life seasons change, there’s a letting go, before there is a grabbing hold. The two actions are inseparable, its the nature of change. I am now watching my kids get married, new chapter. Yet, I’m not fully embracing this new reality if I’m being honest. I’m recognizing the things I did wrong, I wish I could do over. I’m learning in life, and I think that’s the goal. Learning to move into doubt and regret, to process it and grow so history doesn’t repeat. I can’t go back and spend time with oldest kids as a 30 year old, but I can learn to connect with them as a soon to be 46 year old. I can become a better listener, and embody more mercy. I can ensure they know they are deeply loved and always welcome.
We will fly over, Lord willing, to Florida for the wedding in September. We will meet our new extended family, greet some incoming family that aren’t intimidated by the covid narrative, and watch Broderic and Kristin wed. Our family has a lot of fun when re-united, and I will be present, embracing the moment, and letting go, to grab hold of this new chapter.