So after taking a brief hiatus to pursue my unsuccessful run at the Papacy, I need to tie up some loose ends that set a backdrop for our years in the ministry. Kudos to Frances for defeating me by what I am told is one of the closest races in the 266 nail-biters in search of a Pope.
Mom said, “Yes!” As someone whose life depended on this event, I am quite pleased with the outcome of her response. I remember it like yesterday when Dianne said, “Yes” to me. The joy in her eyes was just radiant, and my heart leaped out of my chest. Dad couldn’t get Mom to the altar fast enough. My maternal grandmother sewed the wedding gowns for all three of her daughters and all their attendants in the span of a year. They have monochrome pictures of a beautiful wedding. Mom had a friend who decorated the front of the church with an arrangement of gladiolus, and I have never seen a picture of them that looked sharper. The joy on their faces was an indication of the fifty-two years of happiness that would be their future.
Mom and Dad had a cute story from their engagement time. Dad has a rambling way of talking. One night after a date, Dad said, “Jean, there is something that I would like to do.” Mom said, “No!” Dad all of the sudden got to the point really quickly. Dad wanted Mom to help him write a song. After they were married a couple of months, Dad asked Mom where she thought he was going with the question. We had fun poking at Dad about his good save from an awkward question. Knowing Mom and Dad, and their real commitment to purity it is really a funny story.
Mom was a few credits short of her bachelor’s degree. Dad knew how to make things happen. He promised her that after their wedding he would make sure that she finished her degree. Within a year they moved back to Nashville, and Mom got her undergraduate degree. They were married December 20, 1958. I was born October 23, 1961. Go ahead and do the math, I am legitimate, you bunch of nosey jerks. My brother Tim was born June 12, 1963.
Mom had kids in the days when doctors were the professionals, and no one asked questions. Dads paced back and forth in the waiting room. I am amazed how little my mom knew about what was happening when I was born. She described the experience as the nurse giving her ether to sniff. Somehow on the other end babies were extracted someway. I came through like a greased bullet. Tim was not so easy. In the process Mom clamped down on him. Doctor T.C. Harper grabbed a set of forceps and yanked that slippery little sucker out, but that was the end of my mom’s child bearing years. Sometime after Tim, Mom had a hysterectomy. I don’t think I ever saw Mom able to go more than thirty minutes without a bathroom break my entire life. I am so glad my children were born in the 1990’s and not the 1960’s.
Dad and Mom taught Sunday-School during that time. Mom describes those years as not being able to sit next to Dad in church because Dad had a line of little kids that wanted to sit next to him. Dad was all-in in the ministry long before he ever formally went into the ministry.
Dad hated the Southern Baptist concept of tithing. Southern Baptist Churches often teach that if you give ten percent, God will make you rich. During that time they would often give stewardship banquets. Testimonies were something like, “I stopped tithing and my transmission broke and cost me what my tithe should have been. I started tithing and I received a contract that was ten times what my tithe should have been.” Most people struggle with the concept of actually giving ten percent. Dad struggled with the concept of only giving ten percent. His entire life was spent all-in with the Gospel, and ten percent was just way too little.
During that time, I did my two years in Kindergarten and the first grade. My memories of my time in Kindergarten were of the blue mats and the Civil Defense drills. I did a comedy routine that addresses these memories. You can visit this video here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dWGvjHFFkE. During First Grade, I shared a desk with a cute little brunette named Carolyn McBride. My dad used to say that he could never study sitting next to a cute little girl like that. My only personal memory is that one day I drew a line in pencil between my desk and hers, and drew a wavy border between my desk and hers. It is significant that your memory with a woman is your last argument with them. My grandma also remembers that one day I came home with the statement that I wanted to kill the Forest Service, because they were taking Carolyn’s families’ land. There has never been a good history between the Forest Service and Arizona ranchers.
In keeping with Dad’s all-in philosophy of the Gospel, my Dad had a friend named Thomas Kennedy who was a career missionary to Nigeria. Thomas always encouraged my dad that he would only be ultimately fulfilled if he went into the ministry. Dad wanted to do something for Thomas that would increase his effectiveness in the mission ministry. In 1967 Dad found a 1958 Diamond REO bus. Dad took it down to a paint shop and had it painted a bright turquoise green. When Dad tried to ship it to his missionary friend, Thomas found out that the import duty was too much to justify the expense of shipping the bus to Nigeria; God had other plans for that bus.
About this time an angel caused the plate holding the pneumatic parts in my Dad’s drill rig to shoot the parts down the bore hole of his last drilling job. That night in a Mom and Pop hotel in Winkleman, Arizona, my dad told my mom that he surrendered to go preach. They talked to their local pastor, Brother Marhler at Trinity Baptist Church in Globe, Arizona, and within six weeks of that time the turquoise bus was loaded to the ceiling with our life bound for the ministry. Green Frog, as we named the bus, was destined to wear out its tires, and die in my Dad’s ministry. Our lifelong family friend put our baby pictures looking out the window. Vicariously our pictures watched the entire trip from Arizona to our new life. Tune in next blog entry when we will explore Cajun Dreams.