Happy Birthday, Dad!

My father turns 60 today.

I, of course, have no sense of that. It’s largely inevitable, I think, that to some extent, your parents don’t age until they’ve truly grown old. My father was practically a child when I was born, 23 years old. When my youngest brother was born, he was my age, 36. When I was a toddler, when Matthew was born, I had no sense of how young those ages were. He was just a grown-up, mature and adult.

And, emotionally, that’s still how it seems, I suppose. There’s a certain logic to it, I suppose, since the difference between our ages remains constant as we both age — he’s always seemed the same amount more grown up because he’s always been the same amount more grown up.

And that’s the thing I respect most about my father.

I graduated from high school and began college two decades ago, when he was 40 years old. Again, at the time, that was old. Now, when 40 is rapidly coming into view, it seems much older. My youngest brother had just turned four when I left for Oxford.

At times, it amazes me the difference between my father and my brother’s father.

My father was a good man, and I’ve always respected him.

The man he is today is a much better man, and I respect him incredibly for that.

My father has very much become a role model to me, not so much for who he is, though one could do far worse that exemplifying that, but for who he continues to become.

There is not a year that has gone by that he has not become a better man, in so very many aspects of his life, and I hope, dearly hope, that when I’m his age, the same can be said about me. I hope that when I am his age, I am as much a better man than I am now than he has become during those years, and continues to become.

I hope that I, also, can be a man who, at any age, continues to grow in maturity and dignity and love and righteousness, who continues to be an ever better father and husband and boss and friend and grandfather and son and brother and follower of our mutual Father.

I’m not sure I’ve ever told him that I want to be like him, but I do.

I love you, dad. Happy birthday.

Carnival Time Again

I participated once again in the Rocket City Bloggers monthly blog carnival.

This time, the topic was family, and the carnival was hosted at Rocket City Mom.

Go check out the other great posts from local bloggers!

To Praise A Soul’s Returning To The Earth

And I swear I’ve tried to be worthy of
The name they gave me when I was young
But I ain’t that pretty; I ain’t that brave
My kids have seen me cry
They should have given her name to my sister Marie
And that don’t mean a thing to you
That don’t mean a thing to you but it does to me

— Lori McKenna, “Lorraine”

My mother looked at me Saturday under the shining sun, and said to me, “You know, you have as much gray hair as your dad.”

Later that day, my uncle called me over to the table where he and my aunt were sitting. “How old are you?” “36” “See, he was three when we got married.” I thought maybe they were just trying to figure out the timeline, perhaps. But, no, he then tells me, “We were just talking about how much gray hair you have.” Um, thanks?

But it’s a fair comment. I started getting gray hair a while back, and never stopped. As I like to say, I’ve earned every bit of it honestly.

My family got together this weekend to return my grandfather to the Earth.

His funeral was held over a month ago, and on Saturday we gathered together to scatter his ashes at Camp Sumatanga near Gadsden, a place that was dear to him.

That picture at the top? My hand is whitened from the ashes of my grandfather.

When he died, I wasn’t really in a place to blog about it, but instead posted a link to an article that had been written about him only a week before his death. About the only comment I did make was about the fact that I am William Hitt, son of William Hitt, son of William Hitt.

My father talked about that some Saturday. His were bigger shoes to fill. While I have always been called by my middle name, he and his father were both Bill Hitt. For my dad, going into Etowah County and introducing yourself as Bill Hitt was really saying something.

I’m blessed that it’s not the same for me. I’m not called by the name, so I’m not measured by it, either.

But, Saturday, I couldn’t help measuring myself by it.

And I don’t know how I stand up. It’s hard not to get discouraged during a time of unemployment, but, in general, I’ve felt like I’ve done OK by the name David Hitt.

But William? Have I carried it in a way that would make my predecessors proud? Or that I feel is worthy of them? I don’t know.

The funny thing is, my grandfather was a Methodist minister and, in his other job working with juvenile delinquents, a de facto social worker and counselor. I’m a writer by vocation. But as I get older, the more I focus avocationally on finding my ministry and on putting myself in a place to do counseling. It’s not been intentional, and I hadn’t even thought about it until this weekend. But perhaps the name does have some pull.

It didn’t, help, though, when the minister who performed the scattering ceremony, an old friend of my grandfather who also performed his funeral, talked about there being William Hitts there, and how the name would live on after my grandfather.

And that’s why I mentioned the gray hair at the beginning of the post. Right now, I’m the last. It’s not impossible that I could continue the name, but with every day it becomes more unlikely. It’s also possible that one of my brothers could pass it along, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like somewhat of a failure for the fact that I haven’t.  And it saddens me.

I wanted to end, however, by sharing two things, the minister, Watt Washington said that stuck with me, and that belied somewhat the things I was feeling.

“There’s no point in worry about what you could have done, make sure you’re doing what you can.”

“If there are words of assurance, it would simply be two words: Look forward.”

Nature, Nurture Or None Of The Above

To be fair, it’s happened before in good ways.

But Thursday morning before the launch, as Finn and I were facing off and I found myself entering terra incognita of child discipline with a mad, hurt, yet staunchly stubborn and defiant seven year old in front of me, the thought entered my head, “This child is so much like me.”

It’s a weird feeling.

By nature, he’s not like me at all. He’s not mine. He inherited nothing from me. Genetically, he doesn’t have my stubbornness any more than he’ll ever have my nose.

By nurture, yeah, he’s starting to be a little bit like me. You can definitely tell where I’m starting to rub off a little on both of the boys. The little things make me smile — like hearing them tell a “One-hundred-and-one” joke like we do in the improv shows. The big things make me really happy, though — you can tell there’s an increased love of narrative that I think is really cool. And, Heather says, they pray more, and more personally, because of me. And, yeah, that means a whole lot. A whole lot.

But then there’s another category, the none-of-the-above comparisons.

You become friends with someone because you find things you have in common. At the beginning of a dating relationship, you’re amazed at all the commonalities — “You like movies!? I like movies! And, hey, we’re both bipedal mammals! How amazing is that!? Clearly we were meant to be!”

But you share those things not because of any shared background, but because you both just happen to have taken different roads that ended up in the same place in those areas.

Caden and I have a few of those, but, to be honest, any commonalities with Caden are more with an idealized version of me than with the real me. I wish I were as free-spirited as he is, able to enjoy life the same way, as gifted at encouragement as he just naturally is. I tell him I’ll do something, and get around to it a few days later, and am greeted not with a “finally” type of response, but with “Good remembering, David!” I wish I could master that outlook.

Finn and I, on the other hand …

I saw him standing there in front of me last Thursday, and could put myself in his shoes, standing like that in front of my own dad. Stubborn, proud, desperately wanting to be as much in control as I could be. I wished I knew how to tell him that. It also made me put myself in the shoes of my dad a couple of decades ago. I have a few things in common with him, too.

I also see myself also in Finn’s cleverness. He’s competitive, but he loves figuring out how to work the system, to find the loopholes that give him an edge. Like me, he’s an odd blend of introvert and extrovert. He’ll not speak to a schoolmate in public because he doesn’t know what to say, but he’ll do a chicken dance in front of friends at a Havoc game.

It’s fun. I had no idea what it would be like having kids be a big part of my life, and that’s been one of the biggest surprises — that one of the most challenging and most rewarding parts of it has been discovering just who these two guys are as people. They have their own personalities, vastly different from each other, but each with so many things that warm my heart and probably more than a few things that try my patience. But they’re both just so wholly and fully and uniquely them.

It’s a cool thing where my commonality with their uniqueness gives me a perspective that Heather doesn’t have; it lets me feel like I actually contribute something.

And knowing that being around me has an impact on them; seeing how they are shaped because I’m in their life, is one of the most rewarding experiences and yet heaviest burdens I’ve had.

It’s In His Jeans

Caden and I at Oktoberfest on Redstone Arsenal

Caden and I at Oktoberfest on Redstone Arsenal. Photo by Heather.

So Heather said that it was a shame that I can’t write a daddy blog so that I could tell this story.

I, however, really feel like there’s as much call for good “childless set-in-his-ways guy figuring out dating a woman with kids” blogging as there is daddy blogging. I mean, this? This is challenging. Daddies have it all together, right? It’s us clueless guys that need the help.

Take, for example, Bunco night. Once a month, Heather goes and plays Bunco with some other women. Normally, this would be baby sitter night. Being nice (and wanting to save her babysitter money for some evenings we have planned together) I offer to watch the boys myself and work on the book manuscript while she’s gone.

For context, this is not terribly unusual. It’s not terribly uncommon for me to watch the boys for a while without her, either at the house, or taking one or both shopping or to a movie or something. Also for context, the events of this particular night were not completely atypical either.

For whatever reason, both boys were in fine form that night. They weren’t really being that bad, and we had an OK evening, but it was one of those nights that, for whatever reason, they wanted to see what they could get away with. (Answer: Not a whole lot.) The first time I kept them by myself, the entire time was a constant test. Since then, it’s gotten a lot better, but every once and a while they still feel the need to give me a follow-up proficiency exam.

So finally we’d made it through an evening of me helping Finn with his homework, the boys watching TV, me doing a little manuscript reading (keyword: “little”) and the three of us playing Beyblades.

And then it was bedtime.

Caden, the five year old, started out being good. Finn, the seven year old, started out trying me.

Caden got in bed, just like he was supposed to.

Finn is getting in bed, but I notice that he’s still wearing his jeans, and I’m pretty sure he’s not supposed to. And I’m pretty sure he knows he’s not supposed to.

“Finn, are you supposed to be wearing your jeans to bed?”

“Mommy lets me sometimes.”

“Are you sure?”


I’m dubious. “I’m going to send her a text and ask her.” This, we have to do sometimes. If I think you’re lying, I’ll ask. If you’re not, everything’s fine. If you’re not, there’s consequences for lying, either from me or mom. Usually that enough is enough to elicit the truth, but Finn says to check.  So I text her.

At this point, Caden, bless his soul, decides to come help. “Finn’s lying! Mommy doesn’t let us wear jeans! He’s lying!”

“Caden, this is between me and Finn. Go back to bed.”

“But he’s lying!”

“Go. To. Bed.”

“But Finn’s lying!”

“Caden, get in bed, or I’m putting your helmet up.” I don’t have a whole lot of disciplinary tools at my disposal, but this is a big part of my arsenal, along with loss of doing fun stuff while I’m there.

“But he’s lying!”

The helmet goes up. “If you keep it up, your BeyBlades are next.”

So Caden goes to bed. Briefly. But then he says he needs to go to the bathroom. “Fine, go.” I’m not really paying him any attention — this is a standard delaying tactic, but you can’t say no, and I’m more focused on Finn.

Finn at this point  starts laughing. “I’m going to stay up until 1 o’clock.” (Apparently, one of his friends got to do so over the weekend, and that was now officially the coolest. thing. ever.) He’s decided that if I’m asking mom, he’ll get to stay up longer. The joke’s on him; he’s already in bed, and even if she doesn’t answer, I know him well enough to know he can’t stay awake in bed in the dark for long.

I’m dealing with him, and noticing that Caden is taking a long time, and laughing. Why is he laughing? Nothing funny should be happening in there. So now I’m fighting on two fronts — “Finn, to bed. Caden, hurry up.”

Finally, Caden comes out of the bathroom.

Or, rather, bounds out. With a huge grin.

Wearing jeans.

This, then, is the last straw. Changing into jeans is just too much. He knows better. He knows.

The BeyBlades go up. “If it happens again, I’ll take … uh … something else away.” I’m running out of ideas.  Caden is told to change. Finn is told to change. Caden changes. Finn changes. Caden goes to bed. Finn goes to bed. The lights go out.

It’s over. The battle was long and hard, but I endured, and I won.

Heather comes home. I tell her the story.

The next morning, the boys tell her the story, and she comes to work and tells me the story.

“Did you realize that Caden was wearing jeans all day? He hadn’t changed.”


Lucky Just To Linger In Your Light

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Smiling.”

Something that makes me smile — serendepity.

I’d been looking forward to the last Reconstruction post I did, on the creation of the universe, for a while. But the next one just sort of loomed there. “Smiling”? Um, smiling is good. People should smile. I like to smile. What do you say about it.

But then right after I finished the last post in the series, this post showed up in my news reader. Go, read it. I’ll wait.

Smiling Comes Easy Here This month is going to be a hectic one. On the agenda, we have everything from homeschooling starting back up (for which I am only minimally prepared), to Girl Scout cookie sales, to my teaching at the pregnancy center again, with lots in between! I really dislike being a busy person, but with four kids, it’s not possible to avoid busyness. However, it is possible to be busy only with things that really matter. Things that tug the corners of my m … Read More

— “Smiling Comes Easy Here” via The Faery Inn

See what she did there? Better than anything I had in mind for the “smile” prompt, and that’s not even what she was trying to do.

But, ultimately, it gets back to what I wrote in my New Year’s post, about undiscovered treasure.  A lot of her post is about finding beauty in the mundane or the things we take for granted. How often to you smile about a friend’s rebuke or a seeing a pregnant woman or sitting at a school table. But there really is treasure everywhere.

I wrote my short version of her list a while back for a Plinky prompt, my catalog of everyday treasures, my raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

What about you? What are the magical mundanities of your life? Where is your every day treasure?

What makes you smile?

Happy Christmas 2010

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over,
And a new one just begun.

This is my public apology.

I wrote a post a year ago today titled Happy Christmas that dwelt on those lyrics and how they fit my life at that moment. And that’s fine.

Last year, it was easy to focus on the negative. There was a lot of negative to go around, in my life and in the lives of those close to me. There were things I’d been through in the past year that were painful.

I ended it saying, as one should, focusing on the positive, and saying that I was happy. I didn’t say why. But this is what I did say:

I was reading a book earlier this year that had a story about the phrase “This too shall pass.” You hear it a lot in bad times, as encouragement that things will get better. But it’s just as true during the good times, and just as good to remember — Enjoy the moment. Take nothing for granted. Live today. Love today.

And, so, yeah, sure, this, too, shall pass. But, today, I’m happy.

And it fit where I was a year ago. My happiness came from something that I had every reason to believe would be transitory, and rather than not being content with that, I settled. And I used those ancient words of wisdom to justify it. Make the most of today, because any happiness is transitory.

But it’s a lie.

There is truth in it, but it is not truth. Not everything passes. Not everything is ephemeral. And even the things that are transitory on the eternal scale can still last a lifetime, if we let them. But there are also things that are eternal. A mother’s child will always be her child, even in the next world after this one melts away. That shall not pass.

In sadness, mourn as if this too shall pass, as if there’s always hope that tomorrow is better. In happiness, rejoice like this too shall pass, never take a second of joy for granted, but enjoy each one as it comes.

But love like it’s eternal. Grab hold to it, and never let it go. Because it’s worth it. Fight like there’s an eternal, like we are capable of making a difference today that will resound in heaven, because we can. Treasure your parents and your children like they will always be your parents and your children, because they will. Live like you’re leaving a lasting legacy, and you will.

And do it today. Treasure what you have this holiday season. I’ve been through some Christmases in the last few years that were much happier than the year had made me think they would be, and I’ve been through some that, compared to my expectations for them, just downright sucked. My biggest regret is that the ones with hurt caused me to miss the things that I did have. The things that don’t pass.

May you and yours have a very, very happy Christmas.

Review (Kind Of): “Tron Legacy”

kevin and sam flynn in tron legacy

For the sake of full disclosure, I’m biased.

I’m biased in part because I was born at the right time to love the original Tron, and had conversations in college about how cool a sequel could be. (Answer: Not nearly as cool then as it could be now, given how movie-making has changed in the intervening years.) So I wanted to see a sequel to Tron, and I wanted to like it.

But I’m biased for another reason. I still have vague memories of my dad taking me to see the original Tron in the theater that used to be in what used to be Parkway City Mall the year I turned seven. Friday night, Heather needed to do some Christmas shopping, so I took the boys, seven and almost-five, to see Tron Legacy. And it was really cool sharing with Finn something that I got to do at the same age. As an added bonus, the next day, we all went to a Christmas church service Sunday night, and I got to watch Finn and my dad talking about Tron, getting to be both the kid and the adult at the same time.

Arguably, that was the ideal way to see Tron Legacy — with the recaptured joy of the child that I was 28 years ago, and vicariously through the fun of a child enjoying the neon thrills of the new film. For all the world-building and exposition and family emotion, it’s still, ultimately, a movie about guys that throw glowing Frisbees at each other. It’s a tribute to how much fun the original Tron was, and this movie is, that they can make kids want to leave the theater and have fights with Frisbees.

And it is fun. It’s pretty and frenetic and glossy and cool, and unabashedly and unapologetically fun. Thanks to changes in technology and movie-making over the intervening years, it’s a much more polished and mature and accessible film than the original Tron, with a more rooted emotional core, but at the same time it takes itself less seriously in a lot of ways. As critics will point out, it’s not perfect, but, really, that’s OK.

And me? I bought my toy Tron disc the next night.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...

Image via Wikipedia

I had planned to write a great post for today about all the things I’m thankful for in life, all the things I’m thankful for in the past year.

But, you know what? It’s Thanksgiving. I don’t need to be spending time on the computer today writing that any more than you need to be sitting around on Thanksgiving reading it.

In fact, if you’re reading this on Thanksgiving Day, just stop, right now, and tell someone thank you. If there’s someone around you, tell them something about them or that they’ve done that you’re grateful for. Or just that you’re grateful for them. If there’s not, send an e-mail. Send a text. Make a phone call. Right now.

You done? Good. Happy Thanksgiving! Now, go enjoy it!

Just Like A Prayer

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Prayer.”

I’m behind on writing these, and I’ve been pondering this one for a while before finally finding time to write it, so it’s been through several mental iterations before I typed the first letter.

I’ve been working through my thoughts lately on corporate prayer, and had planned to write about that. Should we pray differently in groups than we do alone? Should we close our eyes when we pray in groups? Things like that. (I’m leaning towards “no” to both, for what it’s worth.)

But even though that’s where I am with my current rethinking of the topic of prayer, for some reason, I really felt like I should go back a bit in writing this post, and tell the story of a pivotal time in my prayer life. So I will.

"Praying Hands" (study for an Apostl...

Image via Wikipedia

I never stopped praying after the divorce. Not really. Not completely.

Oh, I came very close. Basically, I did everything but stop praying then.

My faith in God wasn’t shaken. But my faith in my relationship with Him was.

What was the point in praying? If He really cared about me, if He really listened, I wouldn’t be in this situation to be debating this issue.

I had prayed. Really I had.

I’d prayed for Him to fix my marriage. I’d prayed for Him to give Nicole a willingness to work things out. I’d prayed that He make me a better husband.

My mom told me a story not long afterward about when I was a child, and when I broke a toy, I would take it to my father, and say, “Fix it, Daddy.” Back then, I lacked the understanding to actually put it that eloquently in my prayers, but that was pretty much the sentiment. My marriage was broken. “Fix it, Daddy.”

But He didn’t.

Or, at least, my marriage ended.

So what’s the point of praying? I had shared with Him my heart, and He had shown how much He cared.

I kept praying. But my prayer was almost bitter, like the bit from the old Five Man Electical Band song, Signs — “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.” I told God what was going on in my life, how I was feeling, what my issues were, and so forth.

But I asked for nothing.

No requests, no intercession. I didn’t pray for others out of a feeling that I would be hurting them more than helping them.

I’m not sure how long this went no. Weeks? Months?

I do know what changed it. It was the smallest of things. Something that normally a person probably wouldn’t notice or pay attention to. But something that made a huge difference for me.

My sister-in-law said she was praying for me.

It helps in telling this story if you know Erin. She’s kinda amazing. Jonathan did well. She’s pretty and she’s smart, but most relevant to this story, she’s incredibly sweet and has a beautiful heart. She’s also the mother of two of the greatest kids on the planet.

In my hurt, in my despair, in my confusion, I could believe that God didn’t care about my prayers. That He didn’t care about what I wanted.

But even in my hurt and despair and confusion, I couldn’t believe for a moment that He didn’t care about Erin’s prayers. Not for a second.

And, using the transitive property, if God cares about Erin’s prayers, and Erin is praying for me, then God has to care about me.

I couldn’t escape it.

Regardless of how I felt, I had to bow to the superior power of logic.

I went to the track near my house where I do serious prayer, and had a heart-to-heart with God about it. I wish I could say that it brought about a sea change in my prayer life, but it didn’t. And, really, that was probably better. I didn’t get the answers. But I got a whole lot of questions, that I’m still trying to answer.

There was a phase when I prayed, but only that God do things that could be accomplished through me. Don’t change the world, change my heart. No “poofing,” no prayer for anything that required the supernatural. This related to the “We pray to love” phase, when intercession focused on wanting God to soften my heart toward people so that I would want to stand in the gap for them.

This was followed by the “remake the world” phase, praying boldly to ask God to do things so huge they could only be Him. And during this time I learned that, during the current age at least, God can remake the world, but it’s still fallen. He can do anything, but man can still ruin it.

I assumed that one or the other of these approaches had to be better, but since then, I’ve been working to find some balance, to let them be different instruments playing together in harmony. And still seeking another better route.

I guess, if anything, I’ve learned it doesn’t really matter. If I’m in a relationship with someone, I’m not going to sit around debating what sort of strategy I should use for talking to them. I’m just going to talk to them.

Same with prayer. Really, it should be about saying to God what we feel like saying to God. Treating Him not like a bureaucrat to whom we have to submit requests in the proper format, but like a caring Father, albeit an omnipotent one, who wants what’s best for us.

But the other lesson in all of this is that we don’t always know what our prayer accomplishes. In a very real way, Erin’s prayer for me was fulfilled, but almost certainly not in a way that she imagined. But her prayer for me, and her incidental comment that she was praying for me, made a huge difference.

Really, I should pray like I believe my prayers will do for others what hers did for me.

Father, help me to do so.