Pop Talk 081719

Pop Talk

My Pop was probably the happiest guy you’ve ever known; he could tell the same few jokes and make you laugh every time. They were usually triggered by something an unsuspecting friend would say to queue him up. So, the punchlines, without explanation.

And don’t call me Cecil.
Wild and crazy guys
Magic. Watch this. (Thumb trick)
And, in the most genius example of comedic timing: after already flatulating: “Pull my finger.”

But you may not have known how smart he was. And convincing. And earnest. Besides deep conversations about salvation through Christ ( which had become his favorite topic these last few years, even before he got sick), our debates ranged from the nature of God’s Trinity to immigration to insurance reform to the differences between WWE and WWF wrestling to how I should be nicer to my sisters (whom I love very much) to how work is subordinate to love.

As somebody who writes for a living, it should’ve bothered me that he never read or understood what I write about, but I know that the only book he ever actually read was the Bible (although, he claimed to have also read a book which I could never find in any library, “The yellow river”, by I.P Daily).  It was the Bible that informed his worldview more than any headline he saw on FACEBOOK, any Fox News tirade he watched, or any poem I ever wrote. I’m ok with that, if someone is going to read one book in their life, I’d say the Bible should be it.

Something you may not associate with my happy-go-lucky Pop is tears.

See, I’m a crier. I cry all the time. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m  sad. I cry on planes when I see military kids greeted by their families. I cry on the elliptical at the gym when I’m homesick. Lately, I cry  when I think about my father. Brad will tell you. I cry a lot.

 My father, on the other hand, was not a crier. Not around me.

He was a jokester, always smiling. Always joking. Always making other people happy. Which is why I can remember with such certainty and clarity the only three times that I saw my father cry. These three moments have become the touchstones of my life. The three best lessons he taught me without saying a word, when his words failed him.

The first time was when I was in high school: a spoiled brat. I announced to him and my mother that I was embarrassed by our family. I’m not even sure of the context of my 15 year olds tirade, I just remember his reaction.

That cut him harder than anything I could ever say. I will never forget watching him run into his bedroom and collapse on his bed in tears. Here is where I finally understood the power of words to hurt and bully.

The second time I saw him cry was at Memere’s funeral. The first woman He ever loved had left him. I watched it from the back of the room as he held Her hands in his hands as he wept. Here is where I finally understood love and loss and that even seemingly unemotional people love and feel loss even through feigned bravery.

The third time was a little over a year ago when he and I were talking about Edith’s cancer, and how unfair it was that he would have to live on this earth without her. Here is where I learned that God’s plan is not always the same as our own. Here is where I learned to appreciate every Moment with the people God has put in my life. Here is where I learned that God’s love is manifest in the love we have for others. I learned that love is the most important thing in the universe and that if we want to make Jesus’ love real to people we come in contact with, it’s through grace and not through preaching or works. Love, my dad’s tears taught me, is why god gave us Jesus and why Jesus gave us forgiveness, and why God put Edith in my Pop’s life.

I’m not saying that God’s going to give everybody an Edith to love or be loved by. Or a Memere like ours. Or a Brad like mine. But God has put love in this world and we can soak it up and give it out as copiously as we want. God’s love is enough and it is ours to spread.

And he gave each of us a Syl to love and laugh and learn from. And if that’s the best example of love we have on this earth, then it’s a pretty darn good one.

So, as we shed tears today, let them serve as reminders of my Pop’s tears, and of the lessons that they can share, wordlessly, from heaven:

One. Words are powerful and have the ability to hurt as well as build up. Use them carefully and wisely.

Two. Even the people who seem the happiest can be sad inside. Even those that seem the most fulfilled can feel loss and can use more love.

Three. God is love and gave us love and love is always part of the plan for us. Share God’s love as often and as freely as possible.

Shortly after Pop was diagnosed with cancer, I was amazed by his  grace. I was inspired by his and Edith’s love and their commingled love for God.  I wrote this poem:

Love Like That

I know love and I know you know love,
And the love that I know, I know through you,
And the love that I know, I know from you,
And the love that I know, I know because you
Know love
In a way that I can only aspire toward.

I know grace and I know you know grace,
And the grace that I know, I know through you,
And the grace that I know, I know from you,
And the grace that I know, I know because you
Know Grace
In a way that I can only aspire toward.

And you love love and the love that you love
Through despair, as if it’s a shared despair
Only for the overcoming.

And you share grace and the grace that you share
Through trials, as if it’s a shared trial
Only for the acquitting.

Through quibbles and quarrels,
Through riches and ruin,
Through cancers and remissions,
Through humanity’s means,
Through life’s ends:

I know God and I know you know God
And the God that I know, I know through you,
And the God that I know, I know from you,
And the God that I know, I know because you
Know God
In a way that I can only aspire toward.

Read the poem, as originally published, here. 

Read another poem about Syl, WHAT I’VE LEARNED, here.

And finally, I’ll leave you with the punchline of the best dad joke of them all, the one that I could only do at the very end of this talk.

Love you pop.

(Whoopie cushion)
Pull my finger.


Popular Posts