I have always made friends easily. In fact, that is one of the things that employers find best about me. As an administrator I am outgoing and cheerful; almost endlessly optimistic. This is not an act. I am these things. Why? Let’s start at the beginning.
When I was a child, I quickly learned that the world was out to get us. We, the poor, I mean. My dad had his first heart attack in the horrible winter of 1979. I remember getting a pillow for his head after our snow-plow man carried him across to the house from the barn, where he had fallen shoveling snow, and laid him on our kitchen floor, with it’s fake, red-tile brick flooring. My older sister freaked out and wouldn’t retrieve a pillow from the living room couch for his head and so I ran to do it. The pillow was tan. I can see the scene vividly in my mind to this day. I was four.
My father recovered, slowly, but then was struck by another heart attack in May. His doctor warned us that if he had another, he wouldn’t make it. We were seven and four respectively, and all I could think of was loosing my daddy. No child should ever have to go through that. I don’t remember much from that time, besides the pillow-fetching, but the little grey stuffed dog my dad purchased in the hospital gift shop; one for me and one for my sister. I still have Drooper Dog.
Ahh…but I digress. Since my father was out of commission on the work front and my mother felt ill-equipped to return to office work as while she had been away having and raising my sister and I, computers had come in, and she had no training in them whatsoever, we were forced to live on very strict means. Treats that my children take for granted, were few and far between for us.
Our Barbies were an inclusive group, including ones that my grandfather (my father’s father) deemed had been “in the war” because of our puppy, Yoshi’s, tendency to find their feet, legs, arms, and even heads, a delectable delicacy. Our Barbies had a wheelchair before Matel ever thought to make one. My dad fashioned it of spare wood. It was amazing and it rolled seemlessly.
I always knew that my dad had a gift for talking to people and making friends. Everyone liked the usher in the funny suits (resale shop finds, or ones used car salesmen couldn’t use anymore!) with the big personality. It was an act with him. He was a very angry, bitter, depressed man. He was always trying to figure out everyone’s “angle” and could never accept that anyone just wanted to do good. He would never take charity, though we were very poor. He was a proud man.
For Christmas, we received things that my parents had bought and fixed up (though we didn’t know it at the time) and reveled in the baby furniture or dollhouse or whatever lovely things they got us. We never knew that money was a problem at Christmas. At other times during the year my mom would spill out her money troubles to me and I would try to be sympathetic, though I was a child. But at Christmas, it was magical.
We lived on a small farm, surrounded by evergreens and deciduous trees. The setting was idyllic. My family, as most, was dysfunctional. Dad was strict and violent. We tiptoed in fear of what might be coming. On the other hand, he could be goofy, and so much fun! It’s hard to reconcile those two images to the same man, but there you go. My mother would make us sit on “the settle” bench in the kitchen when we did something wrong in an effort to control us and not alert dad that some crime had been committed. If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times, her telling my sister (the loudmouth who did not know when to quit!) that she would be getting a much worse punishment if it wouldn’t alert dad and send him into a tailspin.
I can’t really blame my dad for how he was. He had a terrible childhood. His mother was but a teenager when she married his father. She had four children that lived past infancy, though one of the boys drowned as a child while my dad watched and couldn’t get to him. Add to that the fact that his father was a violent alcoholic, who would pull dad from a dead sleep to beat the hell out of him, just because he could. How do you get over something like that?
To the day he died, my dad woke up swinging. You learned to call him for dinner from afar. I only stood too close once, and I learned to never do it again. When he realized what he almost did, he apologized and explained to never wake him standing too close to the side of the bed.
Since my father’s generation did not believe in therapy, he really couldn’t heal, though I believe he did find God and that helped him, he was a very negative person. I would say, “Dad, the sky is so blue today! Isn’t it pretty?” and he would reply with, “we’re supposed to get a storm tonight.” It was disheartening to say the least. How could one stay positive in such a situation?
So, here’s my point: You see what you choose to see. It’s that glass half empty or half full thing again. If things are going badly, praise God, and know that He has a magnificent plan for you. If things are going well, praise God, and know that He has a magnificent plan for you. In all things – PRAISE GOD!!! THIS is where your joy comes from and that is no act!
Have I had bad things happen to me in my life? Yes. Awful, terrible things. Has God always been there. Absolutely. He cries with me when I’m sad and holds me when I’m inconsolable and rejoices with me when I am filled with joy!
So, what do friends have to do with this? I have had some terrific friends, and I have had some “friends” that end up hurting me. Sometimes they’re there for a season, when I need them most, and other times, they’re there for a lifetime. Some friends can’t handle my “drama.” Ok. Did I ask for a dramatic life? Don’t I want life to settle down so I can breathe? Of course. I’m not an idiot!
This is the life I was so graciously given by God. I have yet to figure out all of it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I never will. And that’s ok. I will continue to live in the way that I think pleases God. If I am down on myself or life, well that happens sometimes. If I am so very pleased, well that happens too. It’s a roller coaster ride, isn’t it? What makes a difference is who you take on the journey!