A Few Good Men

Every Father’s Day is a day in which in am able to think about those men who have helped me along in the thing called life. I am blessed to have a loving dad who has been a blessing to not only me but so many others. I thank my dad for everything he has done over my 37 years. But in addition to him, there have been other men. Men who didn’t have to be there and at times, probably wondered why they were there. Men who, if asked today, may or may not know how they impacted my life. Men who, would never look for anything more than a hug when I see them and an honest answer to what was going on in my life.

These men came from all over. As far back as I can remember, there are certain men who took time out of their life to show me how to a a better son, husband, dad, friend and overall person. Some like Bill, came from my early days of church at St. Luke Presbyterian Church. Bill is a larger than life man in so many ways and would let me know when I was wrong but always corrected me in a loving manner. Bill always prayed with me and for me and to this day when I see him, he always gives me a kind word and something to think on. Others were coaches of ball teams like Vernon, LeRoy and Jim. These men showed me the importance of winning and losing the right way. They also showed me if you wanted to be great, it would take work.

Other men came from my family. Way too many to acknowledge all of them but they have normal names like Bob, Mike, Johnny, Clark, Wayne and David. They all have the same first name though, Uncle. There was J.W.; aka, Granddad. A tall, strong cowboy who would let you know where you stood. You weren’t allowed to talk politics or religion but if one on one, he’d let you know. I’d like to think he’d be proud today of our family. Proud of where we are and even more proud of who we’ve become. Others were Bob, Wheeler and Rodney. Brothers who would beat me up and tease me but be the first to stand up for me. Thanks guys! All of these men in the family have shown me how to love, teach, rebuke and love even when it’s hard.

More men came from church in my adulthood. Men like Mark, Kyle, Richard, Jason, Alan and so many others. Men who have prayed, loved, cared so much it hurt. We’ve shared tears, sweat and even bled a little in hopes of learning more about each other and Christ. We’ve laughed and been mad at each other. Asked for and offered forgiveness. Shared the Gospel and watched grown men fall to their knees experiencing the power of Christ. We’ve sat through long meetings and disagreed but always came back to the realization it’s not about us. We’ve seen growth in ourselves and our families. We’ve come together in the time of need and been so broken we didn’t think we could be fixed. We’ve been real.

As I look back, I can’t help but look forward to see who God might put in my life next.  I hope you’ve had a few good men in your life and I hope you’ve learned what they’ve tried to teach you. I only hope I can be as good of an example for my son Garrett as my Dad has been for me. I also hope I don’t get in the way of anyone’s growth. I am thankful for the lessons from a few good men and I look forward to more years of learning from more men! Thanks gentlemen!

The Story of Us

It all started in the Fall of 1992. I was just starting my freshman year of college and not real clear of where life would lead me next. It was a Monday afternoon when it started. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember it clearly and each time I think about it, my heart races just as it did that day. It was the beginning of the Story of Us.

As I entered Daniel’s room with James and a video tape of the latest Dallas Cowboys game, I saw someone who I had not yet met. I saw a girl, no a woman, who I may not have known but someone who I did want to meet. As Daniel introduced everyone, I could not help but think, “Why is she here?” What I was really thinking was, “Why is she here to see Daniel?” Not giving my friend enough credit or whatever, I could not help but think she’s too, well, too pretty, nice, sweet, too everything for him!

As I sat and visited, I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking. Why was she here? Is she Daniel’s new girl? Has he kidnapped her? Or does she feel sorry for him that he has a broken collarbone? Honestly, it didn’t matter because I knew what I saw. I saw a beautiful, loving person who I wanted to get to know. Who I met that afternoon was an angel named Christy.

A person who, as I got to know much better over the next few months, would make me better as a person, never question God’s plan or love for us and someone who, I wanted to spend forever with.

As the next few weeks and months past, we finally got together and started dating. I was so nervous I forgot her name on our first date. We went to a movie and ran into my Uncle Wayne and Aunt Eveline. I couldn’t remember her name so I didn’t introduce her to them. I just kind of stood there and talked to them with my back to her. As they left, I could see it in her eyes. What the heck man? Rude boy. Oh boy, this first date could be the last.

But as the night drew to a close, we set another date and then another and another. It was a get to know you time and it was great. Again, I was so nervous that it took me about 3 dates and as many weeks to finally give her a kiss. It wasn’t either of our’ first kiss but it would the last kiss that lasts a lifetime. There have been kisses since this day but only with each other.

As fall turned into winter in 1992, we grew closer and closer. As 1992 drew to a close, we both knew this was going to last. It would not turn out like the others had. It might be hard but everything great is supposed to take hard work.

Over the next few years, we continued dating and really started talking about marriage. Our plan was to get married in the summer of 1996 but instead and against the advice of our parents, we set on July 22, 1995. It was a great day and a time to join two families into one. And what a great family it has become!

Since that date, we have added much to our story. We have added 2 beautiful children, a home, many great fiends, 2 college diplomas, great careers, a business and 4 dogs. We have also been able to watch our family change so much over the years. We have celebrated the births of nieces, nephews and cousins. We have celebrated and welcomed new family in through marriage. And, we have celebrated the lives of 4 Grandparents, 2 uncles, a cousin and too many friends who have gone to be with the Lord well before we were ready for them to go.

We have loved each other enough to say forever and mean it. We have made mistakes and been so mad at each other it would be easy to say enough is enough. No, it hasn’t been perfect all the time but that’s okay. As long as each day we wake up and know how much we love each other, it will be okay.

Our story is just 18 years old. It’s a high school senior if you look at it that way. It started out with baby steps, grew into learning more and more about each other and life, grew into a marriage, then with kids and it’s still growing. This story, I pray isn’t near over. We have lots to see, lots to do and lots to learn.

On this day, I pray for each of you no matter where your story is right now. Many are happy, many are hurting and many are searching. It’s okay. Life may throw you a curve now and then but it’s just part of your story. Learn from it and carry on like you know you can.

I look forward to many more years of seeing our story written. I love my wife, my kids,my family and my friends. The Story of Us would not be if it weren’t for each of you. Thank you and know we love you all!

I love you all!

Daddy, let’s talk

“Daddy, let’s talk.” Three little words from a young lady that will just absolutely make you stop in your tracks. One phrase said so simple and sweet you almost miss hearing it. Three simple words, said so boldly, you can’t help but wonder what’s wrong. Three words my daughter said to me one evening after a great day with her. One phrase every parent longs to hear but is scared when they hear it.

But as she said it, I could tell, there wasn’t anything wrong, it was all good. You see, it was right after our game at College Station and we had been together for the past 24 hours. Sleeping, eating, watching football, cheering on the Aggies and much more. I could tell throughout the day there was something on her mind. Something she wanted to say or do but just didn’t know how. And as we sat at the Cotton Patch restaurant in College Station, she simply said, “Daddy, let’s talk.”

I wasn’t sure what about but I was sure it was something. Could it be boys? It always seems to be boys. Could it be school? It never seems to be about school. As I looked into her eyes, I said, “Yes, we can talk.” There was time and that’s all we had that night. Nowhere to be and only about 2 hours ahead of driving for us. As she talked, I realized what she wanted. She wanted me. Nothing more, nothing less. She wanted time to ask her Daddy about growing up.

How were times “back-then” she would ask. All kinds of things she wanted to learn about and I was plenty happy to tell her about it. As we continued talking, I could tell she had a peace about talking to me. I could tell this was her first attempt at opening up and seeing how much she could trust me when asking me questions. I could tell this was the beginning, not the end.

Over the few months since this conversation, there have been countless times I’ve picked her up at school and heard, “Daddy, let’s talk.” We’ve talked about how dumb boys are and about how important school is. We’ve talked about problems with friends and who the best friends are. We’ve talked about God and His plans. We’ve talked about cancer, divorce and what hurts us. But mostly, we’ve just talked. Daddy and daughter talk. Things maybe she shouldn’t hear at times but at least she heard it from me. Time for us to grow closer together and build on what God wants us to build on. Talking. That’s it. No expectations, no demands, no pretending.

As I think about our conversations I can’t wait for Garrett to open up more and more. To me or his mother, it doesn’t matter. But I’ve also realized that I haven’t fully said these words all the time to my “Daddy” as much as I need to. Not my earthly Dad, we talk all the time but to my Heavenly Daddy. Why? I have no idea. I can talk about good things, bad things, dumb things or just nothing and He’ll listen. He won’t judge and I may have to wait to hear His advice. But through it all, He will listen. He cares more than I’ll ever comprehend and loves no matter what. He’s the One I need to say “Daddy, let’s talk,” a lot more often to. Three words, one short phrase we need to say more often. Daddy, let’s talk.

I love you all!

Daddy & Daughter in College Station – Whoop!

It started out as a simple question, then turned into a burning desire and on October 30, 2010, it became reality.

While on vacation this past summer, Elisabeth asked for one thing for her birthday. It came as we walked from Kyle Field back to the parking garage to our van. “Daddy, can you please bring me down here for my birthday and let me watch A&M beat tech?”How could I say no? So with that, I started searching for tickets and just randomly, someone sent me a text. “Hey, you know of anyone who wants 2 tickets to the A&M – ttu game in October?” The answer was yes and the birthday present was secured.

As Elisabeth opened her present on her actual birthday in September, she couldn’t believe it. She was so excited but kind of bummed she had to wait over a month. As the time got closer, the anxiety was beginning to eat her up. I felt sorry for her because of the wait but I knew it would be worth the wait for her.

As we woke up on the cool, crisp last Friday morning of October, Elisabeth beat everyone dressed and was ready for her first Aggieland experience. The outfit she was to wear to the game on Saturday was the first thing packed. Maroon shorts with white strips and A&M on the side. A grey A&M shirt and of course, and A&M hat to finish it off. The only thing missing, according to her were A&M shoes, which she tried to get me to buy later.

As we got closer and closer, the questions started to fly out of her mouth. Everything from where is College Station to how many people will be there. Will there be any tech fans, and as she said, “I hope not.” Elisabeth was ready for anything but she had no idea how much there would be to do once we got there.

As the sun came up on our hotel room on Saturday morning, Elisabeth woke me up and said, “Daddy, it’s game time. Let’s go!” At 6:45 in the morning, she was ready for breakfast and more ready to get to the stadium.

As we arrived, the anxiety grew for both of us. Would there be a win in our future or just another game to wonder what happened? We put those questions out of our mind and made the jaunt from the parking garage to Kyle Field.

Her eyes were getting bigger and bigger as we neared the Fan Zone at Kyle Field and as we approached Elisabeth couldn’t help but grab my hand and say, “Daddy, I’m home!”

As we walked from booth to booth in the Fan Zone, Elisabeth would stop and want me to take her picture. We were just there a few months earlier but this time it was different. It was gameday and Elisabeth knew this time it was different. We walked and walked and went from store to store, tailgate to tailgate and ran into a few people in the meantime.

First we ran into NBA Hall of Famer, David Robinson. Elisabeth and Mr. Robinson exchanged a few words and as he came down to her level on his knee, he told Elisabeth that Christ will always love her. As he turned to me, he gave Elisabeth a hug and we got a picture of the two together. We stood in line to get autographs from Terrence Murphy and John David Crowe. Both of these Aggie legends lived up to all the stories about how great they are. Mr. Murphy requested a picture with the prettiest girl in Aggieland and Mr. Crowe asked if he could get Elisabeth’s phone number to pass along to his grandson so he could look her up when they are both in Aggieland in about 10 years.

With kickoff just around the corner, we decided on lunch and headed into the stadium to watch The Fightin’ Aggie Marching Band come into the stadium along with the Corp. It was a great scene and questions were flying out of Elisabeth’s mouth. As we talked more and more and the stadium began to fill, I tried my best to get her ready for the famous fly-over at Kyle Field. As the National Anthem ended, I told her to look behind us and here they came. Down low, fast and then loud, Elisabeth jumped into my arms and screamed, “What was that?” It was amazing to see and only at Kyle will you get that kind of experience.

Elisabeth sat through the first half of the game and as halftime approached, she headed to the bathroom so she wouldn’t miss the bands. As the Aggie band finished, E looked at me and said, “Daddy, everything is better in College Station, especially the band!”

As the clock ran down, we realized a win was coming to our Aggies. A win over ttu and a win for Elisabeth. A win for a Dad and his daughter to not only enjoy but to relish in. A game to remember for so many reasons but mainly that we were there together.

With the cannon going off in the background, the band playing, the yell leaders leading and the crowd swaying, Elisabeth and Dad had the time of our life. We went to watch football and in the ending, grew much closer. It was a time to get away together and learn a little more about each other. A time for her to look at me and say, “Daddy, let’s talk.” A time for me to look at her sleeping while I was driving and to begin crying over this precious gift. And a time to thank God for our weekend and our family!

I love you all!

Two Different Men – One Common Theme

Being born into a very large family is a blessing but it’s hard at the same time. Having parents with many friends who love you like family is also a blessing but it’s also hard. It’s hard having to say goodbye and tomorrow, we will say goodbye to two men who mean the world to me.

Just about every memory I have has my Uncle Clark and Walter Johnson in it. These two different men, always treated me the same. Joking, laughing, loving and at times, correcting. 

Uncle Clark – Thanks A Million

Clark E. Wooldridge, had a way with me. I don’t know what it was but he could always make me smile and I especially liked getting to talk to him about many things. My earliest childhood memory of Uncle Clark came in Las Vegas, NM at the Hillcrest Inn Restaurant.

We were on our way to the mountains and I ordered french toast. (That was my favorite as a kid) When the french toast came, Uncle Clark told me not to eat it. It had powdery white stuff on it and he told me it was maggots. You can’t believe what that will do to a little kid. I not only freaked out and didn’t eat it then; I didn’t eat french toast with powdered sugar on it until well into my teenage years! That’s the kind of stuff Uncle Clark and I got to laugh about.

Uncle Clark was a great husband to my Aunt Barbara, a loving and correcting father to Ted, Tracey and Christy and a wonderful grandfather for his grandkids to look up to. He proudly served our country in World War II while in the Navy and loved being on the water. I can remember times at the lake in his sailboat and I always wanted to sail the ocean with him. What a time he’s having today sailing in heaven!

Uncle Clark also loved taking pictures and has quite a library of our family history in pictures. He and Aunt Barbara have so very greatly photographed our family and it has allowed us all to look back at easier times, harder times and loving times. Thanks for that Uncle Clark, you and Aunt Barbara have captured our family history forever.

You will never know how much you meant to me and those Yankee Dimes you and Elisabeth shared are still with her. As we told her of your passing, she, like all of us, was very sad. Elisabeth thought of you as more than an uncle. She and Garrett looked to you as a grandfather and someone who loved them very much. 

I will never forget our times together. Your pictures are here forever but more importantly, the lessons you taught us are with us forever. You’re already missed but we know you’re in peace. Thanks for everything and never forget we love you!

Walter Johnson – What A Damn Mess!

I was introduced to Walter Johnson as a very young boy and I was terrified of him. He was tall and had a deep voice that carried for miles. It frightened me and to tell you the truth, there was no reason for me to fear this gentle giant!

My earliest memory of Walter happened at Camp RYLA in Summerlife, NM. As we were leaving RYLA, Walter asked me what I had in my grasp. I had been given a ping-pong ball, I know, no big deal to you but a very big deal to me, by one of the campers. Walter took the ball from my grasp and put it in his mouth. Once again, I freaked out and as he gave me back a squished ball, he said, you’ll never forget this Denny. Well, as you can see, I didn’t forget it.

Walter was a jokester to all and always had a new story, new song to play on his harmonica or some sort of life lesson to leave with you. Walter was a sportsman and it still amazes me as to what he did in his life. He talked to everyone crudely and had a nickname for everyone. He called my dad Mudd, my wife, well, I won’t say and me, the ultimate rug rat!

He loved being around all people and it seems as everyone in the world knew Walter. He taught me life lessons and showed me enough love every time I saw him to leave my heart full. From frightful times like my dad breaking his neck and Walter driving 90 to nothing around the New Mexico mountains and just being there for my mom at times of need, we are forever thankful.

We will miss our friend but know he’s playing jokes up in heaven and walking from mountaintop to mountaintop he never got to walk here on earth.

Tomorrow will be hard as we say goodbye forever and celebrate the lives of these two different men. But my heart is full because these two men had a common theme in my life. Love, Love, Love. That’s all these men had and that’s all they leave with us.

Thanks Uncle Clark and Walter. This world has been forever changed by your lives and so I am. I love you both and can’t wait for our reunion!

I love you all!!

More than an Uncle

Over the past week, I’ve had a chance to sit and think about someone who’s really been on my heart. His name is Wayne Rivers, better known as Uncle Wayne to me. I have cried, laughed, pondered but mostly just thought about the great times we had with him and what he means to our family.

Uncle Wayne has always been larger than life to me, well, mainly because he’s a rather large man. But one thing that’s always been great to see is that while he is a large man, his heart has always surpassed his frame in size. I’ve remembered back this week to family reunions at Thompson Park, birthdays, times at lake Fryre, Thanksgiving and Christmas. To me, Uncle Wayne has been more than an uncle.

From as far back as I remember, Uncle Wayne has been the guy who has given me a hard time about stuff but always said he loved me when I left. He’s always been the loud, large uncle who may have yelled at me for doing wrong but the first to give me a hug after explaining to me why he was so upset. Uncle Wayne was the first to give each of my kids a taste of coke and you know what, I didn’t mind because it was his way of showing the kids they could come to him for what we wouldn’t give them. He’s the type of family member you wish everyone had and then when I sit and think, he’s my uncle, you thank God for him.

As much as he means to me as an uncle, he’s always been much more than an uncle. He’s a son, brother, husband, father, grandad, uncle, friend and just full of God’s love for everyone to see. God has definitely used you Uncle Wayne and our family is so much better off for it. Upon the death of Grandad, you filled in so gracefully as the patriarch and you have done an amazing job in Grandad’s shoes.

You and Aunt Eveline together raised 3 amazing children and poured your love and knowledge into 7 amazing grandkids. You have touched so many’s hearts in our family and in this community. Our family and community will be forever touched with your generosity and love.

We will never have another Uncle who will give the “Wayne Balance Test” to our kids when they are just a few months old. Your time on earth may be short now but your memory will last forever. You have done the job God had for you and from my point of view, you did it well. Thanks for everything and know you are loved and your memory will live on in our hearts and minds. I love you Uncle Wayne!

Love you all!!

Worth Every Tear

From as far back as I can remember, I have cried. I came into this world crying, somehow showing the doctors I was normal, and I’ve cried for many reasons throughout my life. Tears are proof that we do have emotions and we need  to release our emotions somehow. Tears are cleansing and come out for a variety of reasons.

I can remember the tears of sadness and pain when I learned of my dad losing his job at the bank and again when he got injured at work. Then after finding out he would never walk again, more tears. I cried when losing people in my early life like Uncle Bob, Bart Flenniken (my best friend), Scott Greever and Casey Angel. And more recently losing 3 friends in their thirties to cancer like Andrea Dobbs.

But I’ve also experienced tears of anger. Like when I was so angry because I had screwed up a relationship or when I was so angry at a friend for breaking my heart. Tears of anger on September 11, 2001 because of what was happening and also tears of worry on that day because I knew my brother could be in the Pentagon and I couldn’t reach him. 

Tears of confusion and frustration over job, church and family issues and just not knowing where to turn or how much worse things could get. But finding out in the long run that it was always God’s plan and getting to see the growth that came from it.

I’ve also experienced tears of joy in my life. When Christy said yes to going out on a first date, then more tears when she said yes to a second date, even though I had forgotten her name on our first date. Joyful tears when she said yes to marry me and on our wedding night. Again when we found out we had a baby on the way and tears of worry when I found out our first would be a girl. Tears of excitement when we found out we had a second baby on the way and tears of a proud dad when I realized I would have a prince to go along with my already perfect princess. More tears of happiness and worry when I realized they would be looking at me every step of their life as to what to do and what not to do. I hope I’ve not let them down and I pray that I never do.

As I sit back and think, I realize that God intended us to have tears for cleansing and release. I’ve learned it’s okay to just let the flood gates open on my emotions because without them being open, I have a tendency to get down and be depressed. I’ve also realized that with every tear, there’s growth. No matter how happy or sad, when I look back at every tear, I see a lesson learned. I see the things my dad was able to teach me while not being able to walk. I learned from my Uncle Bob that the bonds of brotherhood are meant to be solid no matter what and that you can show someone love just by squeezing their hands while in a coma. I’ve also learned that no matter what age, you’re going to lose friends and family and it’s all in God’s plan. I’ve also learned that tears of joy are just as releasing as tears of worry, pain or sadness.

But through every tear, I’ve found that if you could bottle every tear from either pain, sadness, worry or joy, you would have one heck of a story to share. Don’t be afraid to share your story. I have many more tears to come for a variety of reasons and know my tears over the years have been worth it. I pray that you also see your tears as worth every tear.

I love you all!