My parents have been married 42 years and raised four kids, naturally, I am one of them. Growing up wasn’t perfect– why do we even say that? Like that is a criteria that can be met. God doesn’t even use the term perfect for creation. He says, “It is good.” And that is how I grew up. It was good. We moved several times and I always had built in playmates. We were creators, dreamers, explorers. Sticks, and rocks, and balls, and rope were the brushes that painted our adventures. More than once my siblings hung from trees by their feet, sledded down our backyard on trashcan lids and car hoods, designed and built castles, survived b-b-gun wars, swam with alligators, and created new sports. It was good.
All of us discovered our personalities and gifts in the safety and stability of a good home. I’m lucky. I told my parents that I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, an FBI agent, and a pastor. They always said the same thing, “Great. Work hard.” They came to ball games, concerts, plays, took us to church, vacations, camping, art exhibitions, school projects, I grew up good. I know this is trite, but I never wondered about my family. I never questioned my parents’ love. Stability and safety do that.
So it didn’t surprise me when my dad called a year after Tiffanni was diagnosed with Huntington’s. He was matter-of-fact. He needed to be, I was living in a fog (and still do a lot). “You know things aren’t going to get better right?” he asked me. “Your mom and I have decided to quit our jobs and come help you with Tiff and the kids. The kids need stability and safety. We’ll help you with that.” And that was it.
Huntington’s is ugly. It’s slow, and long, and painful to watch, I can only imagine that it’s worse to experience. It affects movement, mood, and cognition. I’ve noticed over the last four and a half years that every 6-12 months, Tiff takes a step back. It was eating at first. She couldn’t hold her fork. So we ate things she could hold like chicken fingers and sandwiches and corndogs and cookies- boy, does she love cookies. But then she couldn’t bring the food to her mouth. Her hands wouldn’t cooperate. Then it was bathing. Lately it’s walking. She struggles to do the routine. So we help- all of us.
My dad and I just finished building a house a few months ago that suits our family and lifestyle well. We’ve worked on other stuff for the outside lately. By we, I mean my dad. He just finished building a bee hive- I guess it’s not the actual hive, he’s not God, but it’s a bee hive house. He finished a chicken coup this weekend for our 10 Rhode Island Reds. Apparently they lay the best eggs and are the easiest to keep up with- who knows, I’m not a farmer. Next week he’ll plant the garden. It’s a natural transition for my dad after tilling the soil of souls for over twenty years. A couple of weeks ago he came home with pecan trees in the back of the truck. About 6’ tall and maybe an inch in circumference.
“What are these,” I asked, shovel in hand.
“Yeah, that’s great! I love pecan pies.”
“You get that from me.” He got down on his knees and broke the dirt around the roots that were trapped in a pot- simple tributaries that would grow into strong rivers. “It doesn’t hurt that your mom makes the best.”
“So, how long until we get to make pecan pies with our pecans?” I asked.
“Oh, about 10-15 years,” he said, like that wasn’t a lifetime.
He laughed. “You going anywhere?”
“I like pecan pies, so I guess not.”
“Well, Me neither.”