(Photo by Melissa Millecam in New Orleans, LA, Jan, 17, 2009)
- By Mark Hendricks
(Written on the occasion of DeLynn's 18th birthday)
OK, DeLynn: You tell me – where the heck have the past 18 years gone?
When I wrote what was, until now, the last chapter of Father’s Forum back on July 18, 1984, you were only a few hours old.
We were all still afraid of the Soviet Union and tormented by the presence of the Berlin Wall.
We didn’t care about Saddam Hussein, and had never heard of Osama bin Laden. There were still Twin Towers in New York City.
We had cassettes and videotapes instead of CDs and DVDs.
Waylon was still with us, and I had no idea what he meant when he sang, “I look in the mirror in total surprise, at the hair on my shoulders and the age in my eyes.”
But I do now, durnit.
We still had Traveler, a good ol’ dog who took you into his heart the day you came home.
And we hadn’t even considered your brother, a kid who stole your heart the day he came home. Admit it, he did.
We still had Papa, and Grandmother, and Pappy and Gee-Gee, who all loved you very much.
Your Mom and I still had each other, and still thought we always would. Regardless of all that’s happened with that, because of you and Patrick, your Mom and I will always still have each other in some form or fashion. And that’s a good thing.
Some things change. You’ve learned that.
Some things don’t. You’ll learn that.
You will probably also learn that those things that change are the things that bring us joy, entertainment, sadness and heartache. They bring us ecstasy, and they bring us misery. We need all those things in life. If we’re lucky, we’ll get our share, and not too much more.
And you’ll probably also learn that those things that don’t change are the things that bring stability to our lives. They’re the things that guide us in the right direction, signposts that tell us we’re headed where we need to be going, or warn that we’re veering from the course. They allow us to become what we should be.
They are things like the love of a parent for a child. The knowledge that there is a God and a bigger picture. The certainty that we fit in that picture somewhere. The security of knowing that if we experience the change, but are guided by the unchanging, that we stand a chance of finding our fit in that picture before it’s too late.
Remember, DeLynn, that God gives us gifts. But also remember that a gift is not just something you get, it’s also something you give.
You were the first of the two great gifts in my life. (Yep, that brother of yours was the second.) Today, your 18th birthday, the law says you’re an adult. The law says it’s time for you to be responsible for yourself. Silly law, that one.
The law says it’s time for me to give back the gift I received 18 years ago.
It’s a funny thing about gifts, though. It’s something I’ve learned over the years, and something you’ll no doubt come to learn as well. The less consequential gifts in our lives, we can give and never see again. We never really miss them.
But the ones that really count, the ones hand-made by God, we can never completely give away. We give them, we share them, but regardless of silly man-made conventions like laws, we always get to keep them, too.
So today your Mom and I can give you one of the two neatest gifts we’ve ever received. And it’s also one of the neatest gifts we’ve ever given. Remember, though, that because it’s one of God’s gifts, we can never give it away completely. We get to keep it, too.
And it’s very precious. Please take care of it.
The child of a Marine Corps officer, Mark grew up on the move. A barefoot childhood on the beaches of Oahu, coming of age in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mark made his way through five universities before settling in as a Texas State University Bobcat. He was a news, crime and sports reporter as well as news editor for the Laredo News, and served time at the San Marcos Daily Record. After a decade or so in the newspaper business, he went into higher education communications, and has spent almost a quarter-century back at Texas State, where he is now the Director of the University News Service.