My Dad (reprise)

I first wrote this post on Father’s Day 2008. It didn’t appear on Beetles in the Bush, but rather my other blog, the now largely defunct Bikes Bugs and Bones.  My dad is my hero, my confidant, and my best friend.  It’s hard watching him age, but it would be even harder not to.  I repost on this day in his honor and urge everyone to honor their own father is some small way.  Happy Father’s Day!

Me and my dad | Pickle Springs Natural Area, St. Genevieve Co., Missouri, Dec. 2007

My dad had knee replacement surgery a couple days ago. The surgery went off without a hitch, and he’s doing very well. All signs are that he will bounce back quickly and suffer few, if any, complications. I’ve spent much of the past three days here at the hospital—sometimes providing support and encouragement, other times just keeping him company. He should be released tomorrow, and I’ll spend the rest of the week with him at his house—hopefully he’ll be able to get around okay by then.

Some thirty years ago, my dad got an infection that settled in his left hip. By the time doctors found it and figured out what was going on, his left hip socket had degenerated badly, and the only medical option after cleaning up the infection was a year in a full body cast that resulted in fusion of the socket with the femoral head. This left him with a left leg two inches shorter than his right, a bad limp, and a lifetime of pain medications. His right leg became his ‘good leg’ and his left became the ‘bad.’ Decades of walking with a cane and favoring his bad leg put a lot of pressure on his good leg, and at age 73 his right leg had had enough. Now, his good leg is his bad leg, and his bad leg is, well, still his bad leg. This will add a wrinkle to his recovery, since he won’t have a healthy leg to carry the load while his good leg recovers. But I will be there to help, if needed, and in a few weeks his good leg should be good as new.

My dad is not only my dad, but also my best friend. We have a relationship that is based on mutual love and respect, and I don’t know which of us appreciates more what we have with each other. It wasn’t always this way—my dad and I were estranged for 25 years starting when I was 10 years old. My parents married far too young, and each had their own issues—they were but children themselves. Having first me, then my brother and sister, only delayed but could not prevent the inevitable break up that resulted in my fathers absence. I paid a heavy price by not having a father during those crucial, formative years as I finished growing up, but I seem to have turned out okay regardless. It would take many years before I would be ready for something so bold as reconciliation, but maturity and the support of a loving wife eventually made it possible. There were difficult questions to answer, but through it I realized that my father had paid a heavy price as well. Not the selfish irresponsible man I had been taught about, instead I saw a sensitive, deeply introspective man who had lived a life of hard knocks, suffered the consequences, learned from his mistakes and turned his life around.

My dad loves to ride bikes. I do too, but I did not learn the love of cycling from him. My dad is simple yet elegant, with an understated class that people adore. I, too, try to show respect and modesty, but I did not learn these things from my father. We both love classical music (he can live without the metal), listen to NPR, and enjoy humor with more than a touch of irreverence—tastes acquired by each of us before we knew each other. What I have learned from my father during these past 15 years is why I am me—a gift I didn’t know I lacked. I don’t mourn the loss of those 25 years spent without my father, rather I rejoice at the very special relationship that we now have—perhaps possible only because of our separate pasts. My father describes that year in a body cast as the darkest period of his life. I did not know him then, so I could not be there to help him through it. While his recovery from knee replacement will not be near that ordeal, neither will it be easy. But I am here with him, and I know in my heart that whatever difficulties he faces during his recovery, he will look back on this as a small part of the best time of his life.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2008

The 12 Years of Christmas

This post first appeared on Beetles in the Bush on Christmas Day 2008. Two years have passed, but the sentiment remains stronger than ever. I reprint it here as BitB‘s single evergreen post. Merry Christmas!

p1020457_2

Merry Christmas - from our backyard to yours!

They came from completely different backgrounds. She had grown up in a middle class family, her father an educated professional, her mother a professional homemaker – “Ward and June”, as their now-grown children jokingly call them. He grew up on welfare, the family breaking up while he was still in elementary school. She was a popular student – cheerleader, debate team, gymnastics. He was the introverted science nerd, invisible to the popular, living quietly with his books. Religion was an important part of her life, growing up Catholic and remaining devoted to the church. He grew up Catholic but knew even as a child that religion would not provide the answers he was looking for, eventually finding a private spirituality in the Creation itself.

Despite these separate paths they found each other and fell in love, and despite their different lives they both wanted the same thing – a family. Such a simple desire, however, would prove to be difficult to achieve. When fertility drugs didn’t work, they turned to adoption. The first match failed. So did the second. They understood completely how the birth mothers could change their minds, but that didn’t ease their pain or calm their fears. Ultimately, they looked to Russia, a new democracy with old attitudes about orphans. In the fall of their 6th year of marriage, they learned that little Anastasia was waiting for them. They traveled to Russia before Christmas and became a family after New Years. In between, they visited little Anastasia every day – one hour at a time – and experienced the joy of being a parent, a feeling they had feared would ever elude them. On Christmas Day, they could not see little Anastasia, but in a small, gray apartment on the outskirts of Moscow, they celebrated her coming with their gracious host family. Ten days later, their family was born, and twelve months later they celebrated their first Christmas together at home.

Christmas meant little to me for much of my life. Yes, it was a time to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends, and the presents were nice. But my own approach to spirituality has little in common with traditional reflections of the season. Tonight, as I watched 12-year old Mollie Anastasia laughing with her cousins, hugging her nanny and papa, and teasing her uncle and his partner, I thought back to those cold, snowy days in Russia when my heart became warm for the first time. I recalled our second trip to Russia six years later, when she and little Madison Irina each met their sister for the first time. On this Christmas Day, as I have done for 12 years now, I thought about how lucky we are to have these two beautiful little girls that are unquestionably our own. Christmas means a lot to me now, and that is a gift that not even five golden rings could beat.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

The 12 Years of Christmas

This post first appeared on Beetles in the Bush on Christmas Day last year.  One year has passed, but the sentiment remains stronger than ever.  I reprint it here as BitB‘s first evergreen post. Merry Christmas!

p1020457_2

Merry Christmas - from our backyard to yours!

They came from completely different backgrounds. She had grown up in a middle class family, her father an educated professional, her mother a professional homemaker – “Ward and June”, as their now-grown children jokingly call them. He grew up on welfare, the family breaking up while he was still in elementary school. She was a popular student – cheerleader, debate team, gymnastics. He was the introverted science nerd, invisible to the popular, living quietly with his books. Religion was an important part of her life, growing up Catholic and remaining devoted to the church. He grew up Catholic but knew even as a child that religion would not provide the answers he was looking for, eventually finding a private spirituality in the Creation itself.

Despite these separate paths they found each other and fell in love, and despite their different lives they both wanted the same thing – a family. Such a simple desire, however, would prove to be difficult to achieve. When fertility drugs didn’t work, they turned to adoption. The first match failed. So did the second. They understood completely how the birth mothers could change their minds, but that didn’t ease their pain or calm their fears. Ultimately, they looked to Russia, a new democracy with old attitudes about orphans. In the fall of their 6th year of marriage, they learned that little Anastasia was waiting for them. They traveled to Russia before Christmas and became a family after New Years. In between, they visited little Anastasia every day – one hour at a time – and experienced the joy of being a parent, a feeling they had feared would ever elude them. On Christmas Day, they could not see little Anastasia, but in a small, gray apartment on the outskirts of Moscow, they celebrated her coming with their gracious host family. Ten days later, their family was born, and twelve months later they celebrated their first Christmas together at home.

Christmas meant little to me for much of my life. Yes, it was a time to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends, and the presents were nice. But my own approach to spirituality has little in common with traditional reflections of the season. Tonight, as I watched 12-year old Mollie Anastasia laughing with her cousins, hugging her nanny and papa, and teasing her uncle and his partner, I thought back to those cold, snowy days in Russia when my heart became warm for the first time. I recalled our second trip to Russia six years later, when she and little Madison Irina each met their sister for the first time. On this Christmas Day, as I have done for 12 years now, I thought about how lucky we are to have these two beautiful little girls that are unquestionably our own. Christmas means a lot to me now, and that is a gift that not even five golden rings could beat.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

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Thanksgiving

As one of the few American holidays that hasn’t been completely usurped by religious or commercial interests (the traditional Day-After-Thanksgiving-Shopping-Mêlée notwithstanding), Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and contemplation.  The feast I will enjoy, surrounded by those whose love and friendship I treasure most, is but a proxy for reminding myself not only how much I enjoy life and all it has to offer, but also how extraordinarily fortunate I find my circumstances and the opportunities presented to me.  As we go through our daily hustles, it is easy to lose sight of the basic tenants of a good life—loving family, close friends, employment that not only provides for the body but also nutures the mind, and the overwhelming beauty of nature and its intricacies.  Thanksgiving means something unique for each of us, but I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks for the things we have and rededicating ourselves to helping, without judgment, the many people in our country and across the world who find themselves in less fortunate positions.  In the meantime, please enjoy this beautifully glowing rendition of George Winston’s “Thanksgiving” as it evokes the essence of the season and its sumptuous landscapes.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

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The 12 Years of Christmas

p1020457_2

Merry Christmas - from our backyard to yours!

They came from completely different backgrounds.  She had grown up in a middle class family, her father an educated professional, her mother a professional homemaker – “Ward and June”, as their now-grown children jokingly call them.  He grew up on welfare, the family breaking up while he was still in elementary school.  She was a popular student – cheerleader, debate team, gymnastics.  He was the introverted science nerd, invisible to the popular, living quietly with his books.  Religion was an important part of her life, growing up Catholic and remaining devoted to the church.  He grew up Catholic but knew even as a child that religion would not provide the answers he was looking for, eventually finding a private spirituality in the creation itself.

Despite these separate paths they found each other and fell in love, and despite their different lives they both wanted the same thing – a family.  Such a simple desire, however, would prove to be difficult to achieve.  When fertility drugs didn’t work, they turned to adoption.  The first match failed.  So did the second.  They understood completely how the birth mothers could change their minds, but that didn’t ease their pain or calm their fears.  Ultimately, they looked to Russia, a new democracy with old attitudes about orphans.  In the fall of their 6th year of marriage, they learned that little Anastasia was waiting for them.  They traveled to Russia before Christmas and became a family after New Years.  In between, they visited little Anastasia every day – one hour at a time – and experienced the joy of being a parent, a feeling they had feared would ever elude them.  On Christmas Day, they could not see little Anastasia, but in a small, gray apartment on the outskirts of Moscow, they celebrated her coming with their gracious host family.  Ten days later, their family was born, and twelve months later they celebrated their first Christmas together at home.

Christmas meant little to me for much of my life.  Yes, it was a time to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends, and the presents were nice.  But my own approach to spirituality has little in common with traditional reflections of the season.  Tonight, as I watched 12-year old Mollie Anastasia laughing with her cousins, hugging her nanny and papa, and teasing her uncle and his partner, I thought back to those cold, snowy days in Russia when my heart became warm for the first time.  I recalled our second trip to Russia six years later, when she and little Madison Irina each met their sister for the first time.  On this Christmas Day, as I have done for 12 years now, I thought about how lucky we are to have these two beautiful little girls that are unquestionably our own.  Christmas means a lot to me now, and that is a gift that not even five golden rings could beat.