Remember records? My mom and dad had tons of vinyl. 33s and 45s. Meet me in Montana, Kenny Rogers, Ray Stevens, Jesus Christ Superstar, and, among other gospel albums, we had the Oak Ridge Boys. Then there came the cassette tapes. A lot of Saturdays growing up, we would load up in the Ford Escort and head south, just over the border to Gaffney, to visit Herman and Billie. Granddaddy and Granny. My dad’s folks. Herman was a preacher at Landmark (I think that was the name) in Gaffney for years. On the drives down when we weren’t listening to Magic 96.1, back when it was “oldies,” we would have a cassette tape in. Maybe it was the Born on the 4th of July soundtrack–my dad liked Edie Brickell. Could’ve been Superstar. But more often than not… the Oak Ridge Boys.
And my dad, he always wrote Pa when I was a kid–incidentally I was Dan’l. My kids call him Pop, so we’ll go with that name from here on. Pop spent a ton of time, ages, in his wood shop. Typically making something that my mom had found in a magazine, or that someone else had requested. And when completed and delivered to an always satisfied person, only begrudgingly taking any payment, and even then only for the cost of supplies. It was, as they say, a labor of love for him. Ha. Now I’m getting all misty eyed, and i haven’t even gotten to the good part. 🙂
But the years of sawdust, built up in mounds of labor and love, finally made its way into all of the nooks of his cassette player in his woodshop. We finally convinced him to switch over to CDs. He will take an arbitrary stand with the best of them, I get that trait honestly, and he didn’t want anything to do with those “plastic records.” But finally he relented. And he got one of the fancy multi disc changers. He put a few in, and let ‘em ride. Buffett, Kristofferson, Superstar probably, the Gaithers, and, of course, The Oaks!
Have you ever seen Ratatouille? The Pixar movie? If not, well, you should check it out. But there’s a scene at the end when the critic eats the Ratatoulle and it sweeps him up in a cascade of cherished memories that had been cultivated through a life and labor of love.
Yesterday, July 4, 2021, we spent the afternoon and evening up in Belwood at my sister’s place. She and her husband have a beautiful, wide open farm and lots of toys. Seeing Sydney ride on the 4 wheeler made me so glad. We had great food, lots of laughs, and a nice quiet–well except for the 5 young’ns around–time with the fam.
Pop rode out. He told stories. We talked college softball, and the Tour de France–gotta emphasize the DEEE in that to say it like him–,remembered little league, and talked about the grandkids growing up and living life. We talked about Gardner-Webb and the students returning this fall and the ways that Covid and vaccines will be handled. And what struck me, I mean leveled me, was how he still refers to Gardner-Webb as “we”. No matter what, GW is his people.
His arm hurts some now. And so after supper was over I drove Pop home in my car. We listened to that Oak Ridge Gospel Album. And we listened to the Lazarus song featured on the Gaithers. And the words hit deep. His laugh when recognizing the next song up, that he hasn’t heard in years probably, echoed down deep into my soul. The flood of familiarity, of family, of friendship. It seemed as if 43 years of being his boy swirled up in a Spirit that swept me into a realm of life and love that I didn’t know was out there. I knew, but now I know. And that Lazarus song. I don’t know if you like old time gospel sounding stuff, but that song will elevate you.
And then I watched him walk up the steps to his house, framed by the flag on the front porch. He’s a servant. He’s a teacher and a pastor. Or whatever you want to label him. But he’s a model of truly human being. Not perfect. But pressing on, despite, and perhaps because of his full awareness of his imperfections. Showing me the way to “we”. To the One.
That was what freedom meant to me this Fourth. I hope it is also with you.
Grace and Peace.