I’m not going to give you a history lesson on my childhood; that would be much more than what I want to write. But I do want to recap a highlighted pain and life-altering passion that I have encountered over the months while living away from home.
After graduating high school I headed to camp for some time in the summer. Nearing the end of the summer I was expecting to just work for the year because I hadn’t come across a school that interested me. As August approached, I made the quick decision to commit to one full year, working as a year-round instructor at camp. It was a choice I needed to make within days, and before we knew it I was back home packing my belongings to move in to my new home at camp. This was a sudden change for my parents. They were expecting me to stick around home for at least one more year, and before they even had time to take it all in, I was waving goodbye to them as they drove away, leaving their youngest to live alone. Now, if you know anything at all about the geography of where I live, you’ll know that my house is only about half an hour from the camp, not a big deal, but being my first big venture from home I was happy to be living on my own. There was plenty of excitement and things to do to keep me occupied, that I wasn’t even calling them once a week to catch up. Over the year I visited home maybe seven times including Christmas. I didn’t really notice much because I had already been away at camp for the summer before then, so it wasn’t as big of a deal to me. But imagine my parent’s position. I was the son who claimed he would never move out, and would live with his parents forever. They weren’t expecting this at all.
Before I knew it, the following summer was nearing its end and I was not planning to pursue school for a second year. I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I figured I would just work again for the year, but I wanted to live somewhere else. In no offense to my parents or the home they had for me, but I wanted to explore and challenge myself with new elements. I ended up deciding to move to Newcastle with a friend and his family whom I had never met. Now think of my parents, who still hadn’t fully coped with me being thirty minutes away for the first year, and now I was asking them to drive me and my belongings to what I call the city, only to be living now three hours away. If they thought I didn’t want to see them much while living at camp, how could they expect I would ever want to see them from the city? Through all the comments they left with me about how I would be missed, I never truly understood what they must have really been feeling.
…Until I thought about it for myself.
I was the funny guy in the family. I was the one who was almost always smiling. I could make them laugh; I brought excitement to the dinner table. And that was the first image in my mind. I was picturing my parents sitting at the dinner table without my sister or me there with them, and that image broke my heart. I may be exaggerating the situation, but I can only imagine them sitting like robots, eating their food in silence with no expression in their faces. No more joy, laughter, fun, love. Robots to ask how each others day was at the dim light of the candle in the center of the table, while the dog lay stiff on the floor at my fathers feet. This image just kills me.
The next picture in my mind was all the times my parents offered advice. I thought they were trying to make my life hell, binding me by chains of rules and guidelines. The words they chose to use with me, their attitudes, and their approaches were what I expected all parents to be like. But as I moved in with this new family, my eyes opened up to a new perspective of who my parents were. In no attack or comparison to the family I am presently living with, but I quickly learned that my parents were genuine, special, and meant the world to me because I meant the world to them… and that is why they treated me the way they did. I was learning that it was all in love that they put these rules up, spoke to me, joked with me, and raised me the way they did. They loved me so much, and I never understood the depth of that love until I was away from them completely. I believe that is how discovering Christ’s love for us is like. We may never truly understand it until we are put in a place where He seems to be nonexistent, and suddenly our perspective on how blessed we are to know God is altered. The phrase ‘you don’t realize what you have, until it’s gone’ began to have a whole new meaning for me. And this killed me too.
I have such a gut-wrenching pain inside of my heart at the thought of all the missed experiences, conversations, and friendships. What’s more than that, I feel I have left them down so much. I feel like I have hurt them so deep in not having the desire I should’ve had to be friends with them when I was younger. I wish I could’ve been a more obedient, loving son… as loving as his incredible parents were. I wish I could go back in time and say yes every time my dad asked me if I wanted to go under the car to fix something or build or fix a household item instead of telling him I was too busy and just watch TV. I wish I could go back and value the conversations around the dinner table the way I value them now. I wish I could go back and do everything I could to make them happy. I wish I could understand and trust them with all the rules they set before me, knowing that they were for my own good and because they loved me. I feel I’ve missed out on so much, I feel I’ve screwed up big time, and I wish I could just go back and live with them again… because now, who knows if I will ever be back home living with them, to learn from them.
I wrote in a letter to my dad, ‘I feel that I've missed out on so much, but at the same time I realize that I haven't missed out on anything because it's right here, it's inside of me, you've made it a part of me.’ And it’s so very true. I have the memories inside of me to remember, I can reflect on everything that they’ve done for me, and know that it was all in love. And the big thing is… they aren’t gone! I was realizing all these things and treating them as if my parents were gone, that I could no longer make contact with them. But that isn’t it at all. They are very much alive and a bigger part of my life than ever before. I can accept that my time living with them could’ve been much better had I understood what I know now, but I can move on, react to that and love them in return.
I now call home at least once every week. I have such a higher respect for my parents, and a stronger desire and eagerness to get to know them better. I wish I could change back time… and love them in return as a child as much as I do now, but instead I will look on to the future and how I cherish them that much more now.
I pray that you will find a safe haven in my words here, and that you too may take a few moments to reflect on your family. On the struggles, pains, and pleasures that you have endured and may you be able to understand an irreplaceable and unconditional love from your parents. It takes time to grow and learn and appreciate the people God has blessed us with.
With the last image of a beautiful tree blanketed with an array of vibrant and magnificent colors of red, orange and yellow leaves, standing tall on a mountain top, which first began as a tiny little seed planted by the sower, I tell you this:
A father can root himself so deep within His son, that it may not be truly appreciated until much growth has taken place.