Mar 192010

My father’s name is Jimmy Elmer Adams. Every great once in a while, he will meet someone in a formal setting who will call him James, assuming it is his given name. But the name on his birth certificate is Jimmy. My mother calls him either JE or Jim, but she still has a Texas accent, so it sounds more like JEE-yim. He is a wonderful man. I absolutely adore him.

My dad has a gift for revering his past while still enjoying his present. He doesn’t tell his stories with a hint of sadness, just appreciation for his life experiences. He calls himself the luckiest man on earth. He’s also the best storyteller I’ve ever met. My dad has been repeating the same stories over and over again his whole life, but they still make people laugh. Even if someone (me) interrupts him with a polite chuckle and says, “Yah…heard that one already…” he will finish the story anyway, for the 500th time, with the same verve that he told it the first time.

My favorite part of his storytelling is when he stops to laugh at himself. He will get himself so tickled that he turns red in the face, throws his head back, closes his eyes, opens his mouth as wide as possible, and roars with laughter that sounds like machine gun fire. If the people around him are not laughing at the story itself, they are laughing at how tickled he is. Our neighbors used to tell us they could always tell when the Adams family was having dinner on the deck because bursts of laughter would echo through our woodsy neighborhood.

When my brother and I were teenagers, we used to joke that our friends liked our parents more than they liked us. Our friends were at our house all the time, and our parents liked having all of us around. It seems there was always at least one stray friend at our dinner table. My mother likes to think it is because her cooking was delicious (it was), but I am fairly certain it’s because a meal with my dad guaranteed you at least one or two hard belly laughs.

In 1994, I received my all-time favorite Christmas present from my folks. On the outside, it looked like a nondescript blue binder filled with a big stack of white paper. The first page read,

Book of Memories

Compiled in 1994

Dedicated to Future Generations of My Family

The binder was filled with my parents’ personal histories. The first half was written by my dad, and the second half by my mom. (Actually, my dad dictated his portion to my mother while she typed it for him. That woman can type like nobody’s business.) The chapters had titles like, It All Started When, Early Childhood, Junior High and Adolescence, Special Days & Family Events, etc. The subtitles included everything from Early Playmates to First Full-Time Job. My parents wrote all they could remember about their lives.

Today, I’ll tell you about my dad’s half of the binder.

My dad was born in 1939. He had a happy childhood and a very close-knit family. His stories have a sweetness that makes me feel nostalgic for an era that I didn’t experience…those soda fountain, pie-on-the-windowsill days that seem long-gone now. I feel like a lot of senior citizens treat today’s modern life like an assault on the simpler times from when they were kids. But my dad doesn’t do that. His stories seem to be just a pick-me-up to remind him of good times, good friends, and why it’s great to be alive.

Below are my favorite excerpts from my father’s history. Some make me sigh, some make me laugh, and some make me cry. They all make me proud to be his daughter.

All the years I lived in Crane, it was actually a very good place to grow up. Crane was a small town…completely isolated—the nearest town was something like 20 miles away. My friends and I spent all our time playing ball and camping out. The world was a little different then: kids had a lot more freedom because parents didn’t have to worry about as many things as they do now. In many ways, it was idyllic for a young boy.

There was another area about 10 miles from Crane that we referred to as the sand hills. The sand dunes were constantly shifting, due to the wind blowing, and you could find Indian arrowheads and pieces of Indian pottery. It was a wonderful place to camp out. The atmosphere was so devoid of any pollution that at night you could look up and see a blanket of stars that were so bright and clear.

We lived in two other three other houses in Crane. The most memorable one was one which my father built. My father was not an accomplished carpenter, and one corner of the roof drooped down; it almost looked as if he did it on purpose, but I can assure you he didn’t.

We suffered extreme economic hardship, but that never really affected the family relationships. In a way, I’m not sure that the collective struggle to deal with the financial hardships didn’t bring us all closer together. I think somehow dealing with a common adversity is a cathartic event that molds a stronger family.

The Cokers lived directly across the street from us when we lived in the shotgun house. The Cokers were unusual people. I remember sitting on the front porch and watching Mr. and Mrs. Coker fight with their relatives, and I mean literally. They would fight up and down the street with much yelling and swearing and the Coker kids running around screaming and crying. It was grand.

Growing up in Southwest Texas in a little town that was a million miles from anywhere, we didn’t have television even after it was commonplace elsewhere. Family entertainment consisted largely of listening to the radio. Some of my fondest memories are of the family sitting around the kitchen table on cold, winter evenings working jigsaw puzzles and listening to the radio. The programs that I remember most were Fibber McGee and Molly, Lux Radio Theater, Suspense, Mr. District Attorney, The Thin Man, The Shadow, Amos and Andy, The Great Gildersleeve, Sky King, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, The Green Hornet, and Stella Dallas. The list could go on and on.

We would go out into the oilfields where a lot of well drilling had been done, and there was scrap cable lying around in the sand. We would find this cable, and I would pull it out from the sand and load it on this trailer. When we had the trailer full, we could take it to McCamey to sell it to a scrap metal dealer. Those kinds of endeavors when you are working just to stay alive, when you come through that, your relationship tends to be very, very strong.

In the hot summer, everybody would go to the swimming pool to swim; we had a community pool. The thing to do was to walk by the ice house on the way and get a scrap piece of ice to suck while you walked to the pool. We’d also walk to the movies, and on the way, we’d stop by the grocery store in town. In the summer, they had sugar cane, and you could buy a joint of sugar cane for a nickel.

I got my driver’s license when I was 14, and I was so excited. I got to take the car to the movies shortly after I got my license, and after the movie was over, I was talking with my friends and walked home and left the car at the movies. My father was thoroughly disgusted.

I’ll never forget the first day I had my convertible. It was a white convertible with a black and white interior. I had a date that night, so I dressed in black and white two-tone shoes, black trousers, a black and white shirt, and, of course, sunglasses. Altogether quite a natty fellow. As I was driving along on the way to get my date with the top down on my new convertible, a bird shat and splattered black and white bird droppings on my black and white shirt.

There is a story that my wife, when she was younger, dated a very handsome but a very poor young man. She had also dated a very wealthy but very ugly young man. She always said that if she ever found a happy medium between the two, she would marry him. And sure enough, she married the poorest, ugliest man on campus.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Mar 192010

Dearest Laura,

Thank you for driving all the way to my home yesterday just to bring my Lymie family a homemade casserole. What a wonderful thing to do for a friend you haven’t seen for over a year.

More Importantly:

Thank you for refusing to bat an eye when Tish, Amma, and I greeted you at the door in a tutu, diaper, and a pajama top and torn jeans, respectively.

Thank you for gracefully stepping over the 40 million matchbox cars and plastic animals scattered all over the family floor.

Thank you for pretending that Tish was not stomping her feet and wailing and slamming doors because SHE WANTED A COOKIE NOW RIGHT NOW NOW NOW NOW.

Thank you for laughing when Amma came out of the bathroom with an entire roll of dental floss wrapped around her hands.

Thank you for continuing your story without missing a beat when my little angels started pummeling each other like WWF wrestlers over a plastic elephant.

Thank you for “not noticing” when I let Amma eat her spilled snack, one cheeto at a time, off of our dirty kitchen floor.

Thanks for refusing to raise an eyebrow when I let the girls run relay races in the kitchen…or when Amma ran full speed into the oven with her head. And thanks for pretending not to see the resulting welt on her forehead.

Thank you for not pointing out the fact that I was sweating and twitching throughout our entire visit. And for repeating yourself when I got distracted. I wasn’t listening to you, Laura. Because I was mentally rehearsing telling Craig that I may have misheard God, that perhaps He wanted us to adopt out instead of in.

Thank you for saying things like, “Hey. I have a three year old, too. I know how it goes.” And not saying things like, “WOW. So you write a PARENTING blog, huh? And people READ it?”

Laura, what I’d really like to say to you is this:

“Oh my gosh, Laura, it was such a WEIRD day! The girls were SO tired. They missed their naps, you know. They’re not USUALLY LIKE THAT.”

But I can’t, Laura, because a long time ago I made a very shortsighted promise to myself that I wouldn’t lie on this blog.

One last thing, Laura.

Thank you, especially, for writing “TAKE OFF PLASTIC COVER” as the first direction on the casserole.

I woulda cooked it with that lid on, Laura. You know I would have.

Laura, I think this might be the re-beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Thanks, girl.

Love, Glennon

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Mar 182010

Wasn’t I Supposed to have Perfect Children?

I know this is an unrealistic question, but I have asked myself this so many times. I had a tough adolescence and young adulthood. My life was very dark and confusing for many years due to my own choices. When I finally turned my life around I met Prince Charming. I had prayed for him and God delivered an amazing husband who loved God, and who loved me, despite my colorful past. Life was finally perfect. So naturally it was time to add some perfect children to the mix. Caroline was born 2 ½ years into our marriage and oh was she perfect. So beautiful, so sweet, so absolutely perfect. A delight to parent, a little jewel. Like all children she has her moments, but her moments are my moments and I totally get her. We click.

Two years later Max was born. I was not expecting a boy, I wanted another girl. I wanted to dress them up in matching clothes and hair ribbons. I wanted to make other people envious with the cuteness that I would unleash on the world. But that did not happen, I was given my Max. At 6 weeks old I began to have a funny feeling Max was “not perfect.” I could not put my finger on it, but I just felt it. The first year was a blur of adjusting to being a parent of two, so I didn’t have much time to dwell on my funny feeling.

The second year was better, I was getting used to things and Max was adorable and full of smiles. However, it was during that year that I began to notice he was not hitting his milestones. He was a little late with crawling, walking, talking, pointing and waving. This didn’t seem to be too big a deal. I heard that second children can be slower with things, so I rolled with it. What began to concern me though were the looks. I would take him to a mommy and me music class and he would enjoy himself and then cry hysterically every time the song changed. At first I thought, “OK, he is a boy, right, these things happen.” However, I didn’t get the “I have been there looks”. I was getting the “oh, he is special, poor you” looks from other parents. This really undid me and I would leave the class in tears. I swore off classes for a while and then I thought I would try again, I picked a tumbling class. What little boy would not love to run around a gym and flop on mats? He screamed, he hated it, he wouldn’t participate and he wanted back in his stroller. I sat in the car in the parking lot and called my mom in tears.

This is where it began, the journey of denial, education, love, heartache, amazing friendships and worry beyond what I though possible. An Early Intervention team came to look at him. (this runs through the county school system). He was deemed delayed in play, speech, gross motor, fine motor and self help skills. Before they came I had convinced myself it was all a mistake and I was just a neurotic parent. They were going to tell me he was just like his daddy, an inside boy, a junior engineer, that was all. But they didn’t, they pointed out things like the fact that he could only bend at his waist and could not squat at all. We knew he had a funny run, but they told us technically it was not even a run, since both feet never left the floor at the same time. They told us that playing the piano for 45 minutes at a time was a bad sign in a 22 month old, and that the three electronic toys he played with over and over, was not “just like Daddy” but a sign of delayed social skills.

We started therapy right away, Speech, Occupational and Physical. He was referred down to the Denver Children’s Hospital for tests for Muscular Dystrophy, Fragile X, Thyroid issues and Chromosome deletions. Every test was a roller coaster filled with fear. I was sure with each test it would come back positive and I would grieve it. Then we would get the negative results I would shout to the world, see my son is normal. Then they would order another test, I would grieve again, and then again shout SEEEEE!

But I knew something was wrong, he could not go up and down stairs, he still crawled a lot, and he had big transition problems. We were encouraged as we watched his speech improve quickly, but with his new found speech we noticed a new problem. He would get stuck and repeat the same thing over and over again. He was unable to turn his thoughts off. This was a tough one. I felt I could handle physical issues, but mental? That seemed scarier somehow.

I felt so alone. From the beginning there were SO many well meaning friends and family who would say, “he will be fine, he is just a boy, don’t worry he will grow out of it, he is a late bloomer.” Part of me wanted to believe them but most of me wanted to scream at them since they didn’t get it. I pushed people out of my life, I struggled with close family members who were only trying to help, but it felt like no one was helping. I wanted support, but I didn’t want to face things fully. No one was going to be able to say the right thing to me.

My husband was by my side encouraging me. His engineer brain accepted right away that something was wrong and we would just be logical about it and help Max. He was not swinging from one side to another like I was. He listened and comforted at every step. I met a woman through an Ebay transaction. Such a random way to meet someone, but we clicked and we shared. She had walked in my shoes with her own son with special needs. She was amazing, she helped me SO much on this journey. When I would be mad, sad, confused or all of the above she would email me letting me know she heard me, that it was OK to feel those feelings. Then she would gently ask me where I was on accepting things. Fine, just fine I would report. After all I was driving him to Denver for tests, he was just enrolled in a therapy preschool, what could I not be accepting?

But she knew my heart, and my heart was breaking over and over. We would have a good day and I would convince myself it is all a mistake and that my son was totally normal. Then our usual life would return and I would be devastated all over again. I felt like on the good days the blinders had been ripped from my eyes. I saw how NORMAL people got to live. I would be overcome with anger and even rage at my lot in life, where was my perfect?

After swinging from good to bad for 18 months I hit an emotional wall and a car door….one day Max had spent over an hour obsessing, saying the same sentence over and over. I tried every trick I knew, nothing worked. I was spent, sad and scared. What was happening to my son? I went to load some things in the car for preschool and in my distraction I opened the door right into my forehead – hard. I saw stars. I came back into the house sobbing. That moment changed everything. The hit on the head woke me up. It woke me up to the fact that that I needed help too. I could not keep going on this roller coaster. I had to get off and accept our life.

It has been said that when you hit bottom the only way left to go is up. That has been true for me. I stood up, and with the help of friends, my doctor and my family, I am now climbing up out of self pity and my longing for perfection. I am healthy enough now to make changes for Max that are showing some great results for him mentally. His stuck thoughts seem to be less and less and when he does get stuck he doesn’t stay that way very long. This has brought us great joy and hope. I have also gained enough strength to handle his recent physical set backs, which although very concerning are laced with peace. He recently spent 10 days limping with 2 days not being able to walk at all. We have no idea why, but I know what ever it is, more medical tests are on order, we can handle it.

I struggle to even put into words the changes that have happened in me. I see Max so differently now. I feel hope. I didn’t realize how much I was missing that. I feel that we are apart of something bigger. I can now see so many blessings and beautiful things that are happening, where before I could only see our pain. I am humbled by this journey and I realize it has only just begun. We still have both good and bad days. I am slowly learning to love the good days, to be thankful and to cherish them for the rest and blessing that they are. When the bad days arrive, I have more energy for them now, I have more hope stored up.

God gave this child to me. It is very obvious to me that he was not given to me due to my amazing ability to parent him. I see how he was given to me so I can grow. I am profoundly thankful for this opportunity…I need it. I have a new definition of perfect now. Perfect is a child who helps you grow closer to God. Max does this, through his trials and his successes I feel us moving closer. And it is just perfect.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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