Around about the time I was approaching my 30th birthday Randy Stonehill (a contemporary of Larry Norman…if neither name means anything, just tell yourself how much younger than me you are!) had a song out called “Turning Thirty”. It was a wonderfully introspective look at the experience of a landmark birthday.
Last week I too celebrated a landmark birthday. I’ve just taken a solo trip (using my brand new Senior Railcard) down to the far south of England to visit my son and my 9 month old grandson so I could be at his dedication service. This morning’s goodbyes were a bit different because in just 3 days’ time we’ll be together again, along with all the other children, as we have a rare all-together time in a big house in North Wales.
So here I am travelling home on a seven hour train journey, with my own opportunity for some healthy introspection.
My thoughts almost immediately turn to my father. I’ve been thinking about him quite a bit just lately. He was a very private person…there are whole chunks of his life I will never know about, as he died 2001. He always kept a very tight grip on his emotions…I only ever remember him crying twice in his life: once in frustration over a job and once when he silently wept with me when I was devastated by a failed relationship.
I find myself wondering how he felt as he turned 60 and did his own spell of looking backwards over life lived and forward to the changes (good and bad) that ageing brings. I wonder how he felt as he watched me making my own way in life and as he spent time with my children…two sons by the time he was 60, and three girls yet to come (the youngest born after his death).
Most of all, I regret that despite all my encouragement he never felt able to open up to me. I wonder if he ever really understood my faith and the way I chose to live my life. I’m pretty certain he knew I loved him as much as he loved me, and I hope he knew how much I admired and respected him, especially as I got older too. On the other hand I have no regrets about some of the wonderful memories I have of times spent together; many of my own interests were planted by him on walks together.
I am a much more open book than he was able to be, and I have worked hard to both understand and shamelessly show my emotions. I must remember to appropriately let my kids know how I feel about our changing relationships and give them a window on this ageing process that creeps up on us all.
So here I am staring at the screen again, a major, 23 part online serialisation (A Short History of Divorce) finished, and no inspiration for what to write next. No major ideas at the moment, so for a while it’s likely to be a series of ‘one-offs’…hope you’ll stick around and see what turns up.
In the mean-time, one of my friends re-posted this cartoon on Facebook:
What made me sad was that a lot of the comments that followed on after the picture consisited of theological nit-picking…”you shouldn’t talk about the resurrection in a cartoon in the B C series as it hadn’t happened then”…”actually it isn’t about the resurrection, it’s about the crucifixion” etc.
First off, clearly some Christians (maybe more than I thought) just don’t understand that a cartoon, like a story, is aiming at making you think, of communicating truth in an unexpected and, yes, subversive way, of making you say “WOW! I never saw it that way before!” It’s about real, true stuff in an unreal setting…and that’s OK…that’s how the genre works.
And second off, so many seemed to miss the amazing, subversive beautiful truths about God’s love and Jesus sacrifice.
Ahhhg! End of rant.
When all this happened 18 years ago, the man decided that he would not go public on the events surrounding the breakdown of his marriage and the subsequent divorce, partly out of respect for his ex-wife and partly because the children had no idea what had gone on.
In the meantime, the children have grown up and have partners of their own, the ‘developing relationship’ flourished and the man re-married. The second marriage has proved to be lasting and strong; he has truly found a loving and loyal wife.
A conversation with a member of the church of the ‘if only we’d known about your circumstances’ variety, following the failure to be appointed as the church’s part-time pastor, got the man thinking, and the last 22 blog posts have been the fruit of that. They are very much told from the man’s perspective, which is probably fair enough, and he has tried to be honest and fair about the part his ex-wife played in the story.
Several postings prepared in draft have been left out, because even now there are some things better left unsaid.
He has a new friend. Well, actually, she’s an old friend, but they have a new relationship.
It’s still very tentative, neither of them are certain how it is going to go. In public they are beginning to talk about their ‘developing friendship’.
They are walking together in a country park on a still beautiful December afternoon. They are talking a lot and enjoying one another’s company.
They arrive at a spot above a bend in the small river that flows through the park. They stand a respectable distance apart, looking down on the river and drinking in the view.
Suddenly, and without warning time stands completely still. The air between them seems to be filled with crackling blue sparks and their awareness of each other becomes intense.
The moment ends. They almost flee back to the normality of the car park and the safety of the car. They talk about what they both felt and agree some boundaries for their suddenly much more developed feelings for each other.
Later, when he is alone, the man realises that it this is another Christmas Eve, but this time not one of painful revelation but one of new hope.