This morning, I was lying in bed, trying to fall back asleep after Jeremiah left for work, and I heard the sound of last nights bed-stand water being poured down the drain. I smiled as I recognized that familiar sound. It originated from a struggle with me at the the age of 5 or so. Every night Dad would come in to tuck me in and say prayers. In an attempt to avoid bed-time as long as possible I began to always request a drink of water. If it didn’t happen during prayer time, then I was sure to yell down the hall of my horrendous thirst a few minutes later. So, Dad got smart and began making his nightly rounds from one little girl room to the next, carrying a glass of water. As the number of little girls grew, so did the size of the glass, and soon Dad was carrying around what affectionately became known as “The Jug.” I believe that it was during these night-time rounds that my ability to talk openly with Dad really began. Some nights we JUST said prayers, but some nights there were worries on my little heart that always found a ready vent in him.
Maybe the sound of that water jug being poured out this morning aroused my old need for talk or maybe God just knew what I was needing today. Either way, I eagerly scampered out of bed in search of a listening ear. (Mom and Dad came up late last night to be here for Mom’s 8 o’clock treatment this morning.) Dad and I had one of those precious father-daughter times, when he has his coffee and his wisdom and I have my questions and my emotions. There seems to be a mutual respect in our dynamic, and he somehow made me feel that even when I was 6 or 7. He always took the time to listen, really listen, to me. I, in return, was always willing to truly listen to, and follow, his advice. Edith Schaeffer, in her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking, says (to paraphrase), how can we expect our teenagers to talk to us if we don’t take the time to talk to them when they are growing into teenagers? If you pat your grade-schooler on the head and wish them goodnight, but never truly talk to them like they are the young adults that they are, how do you expect them to suddenly want to talk to you when they grow older?
I think that both of my parents did a very good job talking to us. In mom, I had a best girlfriend, an ally in every new dress I “needed” or boy I dreamed of dating, an ear to listen to the minutia of every date and every slight. In Dad, I had a safe-harbor, a confidant, and boundaries. Some of my favorite memories from childhood are of Dad waking me up before sunrise on our yearly beach trip to take me to Thomas Doughnuts. There, I was allowed the special privilege of picking out any doughnuts I wanted–even the ones with the silly sprinkles–and whole milk in a little carton with a straw. Then, we would walk across the street to the beach and I would collect the days foremost crop of sea-shells while walking, watching the sunrise, and just talking. I can’t imagine what was serious to my 6, 7, 8… year-old mind, but I remember that he pushed me to set high goals, probed me to discover the things about life that excited me, encouraged me that I had the ability to be WHATEVER I wanted to be, and made me feel like a beautiful and valid companion.
My family has its faults… I don’t talk regularly to my sisters like I wish I did. We can fight on a level of drama and tears that many of you could not even fathom. We are honest, if not occasionally brutally honest. However, no matter the time or the major events that have passed, we can always talk. We love to know each other’s hearts, and there is no time better spent than sitting still and taking the time to truly interact with one another. As I’ve grown, I’ve realized that everybody doesn’t do that. Everybody doesn’t take the time to sit still long enough to listen. I believe talking–more than that–connecting, is a great gift that my parents gave to us, and a gift that has steered me through countless battles.