Book Idea: Chapter 4

I don’t know why I always seemed to take Dad’s side.  I mean, when I sit back and really think about it, Mom always seemed more grounded, to make more sense.

She craved stability.  It’s what her child needed in order to grow into a healthy, well-adjusted adult, she’d say.  “Routine and predictability produce loyalty and integrity,” was just one of her stability-supporting mantras.  It’s a very sensible approach to life in general, granted.

Dad, on the other hand, was a bit of a wild man.  He’d grown up in southern California on a small avocado orchard, skiing, surfing, motorcycling, hiking, and skinny dipping in his spare time.  And if these weren’t enough in their own right, he possessed a certain inherent riskiness, like when a poker player places a great deal of confidence in keeping a straight face—and it pays off more often than not!  Or like when a surfer takes out a board that he knows is slightly too small for the size of the day’s swell because it’s the only one at the ready—but he’d rather be in the water, where the real action is, than posing on the beach.

Now, if you were in a position of discipleship—as all children, students, and employees are wont to be—whom would you want leading you?  Someone determined, resolute, and stable, like my mom?  Or someone risky, even comfortable with a regular high level of chaos, like Dad?  For whatever reason, I prefer the latter.

Even so, all things considered Dad had a way about him that inevitably disarmed me.  Maybe that’s why I’ve always had the utmost sympathy for his causes, convictions, passions, whatever—even when I don’t get them very well.

But that’s just it: whenever I don’t get them, I want to!  But whenever I understood Mom’s schemata, on the other hand, which was most of the time, I actually didn’t want to!

What generosity I felt for Dad, then, well, invert it and that’s how I felt towards Mom.  She was more grounded.  But for me she was too even-keeled, too pragmatic, too practical.  I certainly regret this about myself—that I was never able to be more charitable to Mom.  But I’m wired that way, and you can’t change your wiring, can you?  You can’t change the past either, sadly.

The end result was that Mom often complained of being “the bad guy.”  But, I wish I could tell her now, it never was a competition, as if life was always Dad versus Mom.  Instead, we were always a team—a team, perhaps, that needed some conflict management at times; but a team nonetheless.

Anyway, “It’s called Sewanee,” Dad began.

“Swanny,” I asked, “like that old song?”

“Not ‘Swanny,’ but Se-wa-nee,” he enunciated, “three syllables.  And it’s perched on a foggy mountaintop, a true modern-day fairytale land.  Here, let me show you.”

And he took a folded glossy piece of paper from his back pocket, unfolded it, and set it before us on the coffee table, smoothing it until I was genuinely curious.

“Where’d you get that?” I asked.

“Diocesan library,” he smiled.

He pulled his hands away at last and what I saw impressed me.  A castle-like building built of stone and stained glass, a giant, rose-like window above two oaken doors, thick and solid.  What roof I could see was slate.  All at once I sensed history, mystery, and sacredness.  It almost overwhelmed me.

“They call it All Saints’ Chapel,” Dad explained, “and it’s the centerpiece of the whole town.”

“Damn!” I whispered.

The word exited my mouth almost without my awareness.  It certainly came as an automatic response.  But I was only seven years old, and seven year-olds weren’t supposed to say things like this.

Somewhere along the line, as I became increasingly aware of my gaffe and the awkwardness of the silence became stifling, I gave Dad a stealthy sideways glance only to catch him smiling a little.

But that’s just my point.  I slip up in front of Dad and he smiles.  Mom, on the other hand, would have verbally whipped me over such a slip, no doubt.  And then she’d turn on Dad, for it would somehow be his fault that they had raised such a trash-talking daughter.  Truth be told, I’d actually picked up the habit—for that’s what it was by now—from Haley, not Dad.

Anyway, Dad won the day.  Soon—after a good, long cry on my part—despite my sadness at leaving my two besties behind, probably forever, I was ready to face the adventure ahead.

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