History is a Present

 
 My dad dressed as Evil Geppetto. He always embraces our craziness! 

My dad dressed as Evil Geppetto. He always embraces our craziness! 

 Craig and Zak came to cheer for Ben’s team

Craig and Zak came to cheer for Ben’s team

 

We just finished a great hockey tournament weekend in Portland. The tournament was definitely an embracing of the joy and love of the game (this is our method of emotional coping when we lose every game except the last consolation game). We had a great time watching our beloved Capital Thunder team play passionately and work hard while learning the agony of defeat and that sometime the biggest growth comes from learning from losing.

Anyway, we got to have an amazing time visiting with our dear friends that live in Lake Oswego, The Simmons family. We love them so much and every time we get together with them is such a joy for me. You know those people that you just feel good around and that make you feel so wonderful just by being in the same room with them? This family is that for me. I just feel really good in my guts when we are with them. Their kids are real, they all treat each other so kindly, and what’s so special to me is that Craig and Mona let their children know how valuable they are as humans. Their children feel loved and in return, they like to hang out with their parents, which means that by default, we got to hang out with these really cool kids.

On this trip, my dad was able to drive up to Oregon with us for the tournament. It was so special for Ben that his Papa came all this way and took time out of his busy schedule to watch him play, and it was so special for me to listen to my Daddy telling our kids about his growing up time in Oregon. He would point things out along the drive through the state that were special to him, or that he had a memory of, or where his family lived.

The coolest thing about this trip for me though, was something that happened when Mona and Craig started telling us about their recent trip to Thailand, and their time in Vietnam was brought up. Mona found out that my dad had fought in The Vietnam War and began asking him questions. We talked for quite some time about my dad’s experience. This was very special for me because growing up, my dad didn’t talk a lot about his time there. I had alway assumed that there were just too many painful memories for him to talk about, but after this weekend, I think it was also maybe because I never really asked.

Yesterday, we girls were having such an enjoyable rainy Portland afternoon, talking over chai tea that Mia made for all of us (the best chai tea I’ve ever had, Mia Girl!) and Mona mentioned that it was such a shame that The Vietnam War and other important historical events are not taught in depth in American schools when there is so much personal, human information to be absorbed by our children today. She mentioned how lucky my children are to have first hand information in their lives from someone who experienced it. Wow. I had never, not once, thought about how amazing that is for our family. My dad is a strong, bold, affectionate, innovative, smart, kind leader. I have admired many things that he has done in his life, like how he and my mom rode their bicycles across the United States, or how he knew how to build a whiskey-barrel swivel chair and install it in our big, blue van without looking at directions, or how he could get our dumb dog, Noyo’s head unstuck from inside a big pickle jar without cutting him, but never have I realized the very real first hand access to American history that is stored inside my dad’s mind.

This realization that I have been missing a great opportunity to learn about these experiences from my dad, along with the changes that our family is currently experiencing in this season of my aging, has got me thinking about what things I should be embracing that I am not, for both my family and for my personal self. As Hannah is preparing to leave for college, my son is non-stop reminding me that he is a mere seven months from having his driver’s permit, my sister and brother-in-law and my precious nieces and nephews are preparing for a move to far-away San Antonio, Texas, and other changes that are not significant in distance or quantity but are still mighty in their value, I must ask myself what I can do to keep my eyes on the important things that I might otherwise be neglecting. Family, tradition, and collecting history from the loved ones that lived it are what I wish to embrace at this season in my life. I want to celebrate and embrace the changes that are happening, while cherishing the history of my family and loved ones. This is what our life is for; celebrating the people we love, learning from our past, cherishing our present moment, and embracing the future. I want to live that way everyday.

Jennifer Payne