Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A good family bonding experience

My mom and dad arranged a family retreat weekend for them, me, and my siblings. (Minus Lucinda; the autistic one who wouldn't be all that interested.) They are looking at the future and trying to make sure that she is cared for after they die. They also wanted to try to keep us kids in contact with each other and try to pass on a legacy. So to accomplish this they started a family council that will meet yearly and oversee Lucinda's trust. It will be up to us four kids to make sure the fifth kid always has a roof over her head and a kind care giver, and gets family interaction for the rest of her life. It reminds me of the inherent value that people of diminished capacity have. While many people excuse abortion and euthanasia because the burden these people bring on those around them would be too great, I see that the burden is exactly what is needed in people's lives. We are so programmed to love only those that love us back, that the experience of caring for an 'unwanted' baby, or Alzheimer sufferer, or autistic sister shows us a depth of love that God wants us to see. A burden is precisely what can cause us to grow and mature. To see outside of our own selfish wants and needs. A society that shuns all human burdens, rejects life that falls outside of their definition of satisfactory, and kills rather than sacrifices of themselves is destined for destruction.

Anyway, my story -before I got off on that ranting tangent- was that we had a family get-together. Part of the proceedings involved us kids talking about how we were raised and memories and such. This was kind of sad for me for two reasons. First, it made me think about how little I was involved in the lives of my brothers and sisters. I married so young and lived so far away for a good deal of their childhoods. (My youngest brother just graduated High School.) Besides that, my wife hated my family and really poisoned my attitude towards them for a long time, so we didn't visit as much as I would have liked; and when we did there was so much tension where I felt like I needed to placate her and as a result was very rude to my parents. So that lack of time spent with my siblings resulted in very little bonding. We just aren't close. And that's sad to me. They are all adults now, and our time together will probably never increase, so I don't see how we can become any closer.

Another thing that made me sad was how little they had to say about how they were raised. Of course, I wasn't there for most of their childhood, and things may have been somewhat different for them. Especially for my brother and sister who were adopted. Since they have different genetic inclinations, and racial identities they probably perceived a lot of things differently than I. But one thing that disappointed me is that they don't see how amazing my parents are, or how blessed they have been in the way they were raised. I thought about that for a bit and realized that I didn't gain this understanding until relatively recently. And I think that is largely because I have kids and they don't. When you have a child you are forced to think about what you are passing onto them. And that naturally brings you to an analysis of your parent's parenting style. What attitudes, opinions, and philosophy they gave you as you grew up. And what parts of that you do, and don't, want to pass on to your kids. Most people I've talked to about parenting have made numerous statements along the lines of: "I'll never do what my parents did to me!", and: "My child will never have to feel the way my parents made me feel." The simple fact that my statements are more along the lines of: "I hope I can do as good a job teaching my kids what my parents taught me." shows a LOT.

Another part of our get-together was a story time, where my mom and dad just talked about their lives together. It was an amazing and moving testimony of how God brought them through some very, very difficult situations. Things like having an autistic daughter, being diagnosed with lupus, and losing their savings time and time again. I'm very proud of my heritage that my parents gave me. The thing that stirred me the most about their story was the blessing my father was as a stable, obedient man of God. I'm proud of my mom too, but as a man, looking to be married again soon, it's my father's steadfastness that resonates with me right now. My mom mentioned that the divorce rate of parents of autistic children is 80 or 90 percent. My dad's simple comment on that was that he just never thought about it. Divorce never entered his mind. As I look back over my former marriage, I realized that he passed that on to me. Through all the deception and other stuff I won't talk about, I never considered divorce. It just wasn't an option for me. (Until I had to do it to protect the kids.) That's when it clicked for me. I realized that this is a legacy that has been handed down to me. And that's what I want to give to my children. (And bless my wife with.) It's a generational blessing. I will do all I can, given the authority that God gave me as a father, to imbue my children with that blessing. It's the stability that comes with being grounded on the rock of the Word. The strength of having a firm foundation. It's the strength that is necessary to whether the rains and wind and waves that our culture assaults families with. Those cultural waves destroyed my family because I was 'unequally yoked' to a person whose foundation was not the same as mine. But now God has given me a wonderfully grounded woman!

But back to the family retreat… After we had established the family council and bestowed official offices to each of the kids it was off to the beach! So all six of us piled in the freshly cleaned and detailed minivan and headed out west to the Oregon coast. About 45 minutes later we were climbing out of the wreckage of the freshly decimated and destroyed minivan. Apparently someone who was headed east decided to be original and pass the person in front of them on the right. This was a particularly daring idea since most of the shoulder of the highway is gravel and there was a 20-foot-drop off. Well they ended up spinning out of control and into our lane, smashing into the side of our van at 60 mph. This sent us spinning 1 or 2 and a half times into oncoming traffic where we were promptly smashed again, this time in the rear. That last crash saved us from going off the 20 foot embankment. After I could breath again, (I got the wind knocked out of me) I said, "Praise the Lord, we're still alive." I don't think most full-speed highway collisions end that well. My mom and dad were in the front so they got faces full of airbag, but miraculously were unhurt save for some residual soreness. My sister and brother on the right side of the van are sore. Me and my youngest brother got the brunt of the hit. He has a badly bruised ankle, and my left side hurts when I breathe in too much.

Had my dad been driving a mile an hour slower it would have been a head on collision and my parents would have been dead, and likely all of us in the back as well. I was asleep when we were hit. The impact and screeching tires and screaming sister woke me up. While we spun around and around I didn't think about life or death. I was just annoyed that I couldn't breath and that my sister was screaming really loudly. No wait, I did think we might die when I looked behind us and saw more oncoming traffic. But apparently it didn't frighten me at all. That's nice to know. It's like that crazy tattooed guy wearing the fez said to Indiana Jones as they were about to both be chopped up by the boat propeller: "My soul is prepared! How's yours?" Oh, another nice thing about this crash is that I just happened to have propped a sleeping bag up between my head and the window that exploded. I'll bet that helped.

So I'm glad we crashed instead of another trip to the beach. I won't speculate on God's reasoning for it, but I will say that it will cement this family council thing in all of our memories forever. And it brought us together as a family. And it taught me and my girlfriend an important lesson in intercessory prayer. She had been getting feelings of fear concerning my death 2 days earlier. She knew that fear is a tool the enemy uses to attack us, and get us away from God's will, so she rebuked the fear. But now we know to let our feelings push us to pray for the subject of fear when it arises. Like judo, where you use the force of your enemy against him.

So I'm praying that our family will become closer, and stay close through the coming years. Having a yearly council is a good way to facilitate that. And having a sister that needs our help for the rest of her life is good as well.

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