The story is somewhat vague to me, but one of the first times my mom brought my dad home, my nanny’s sisters were over. My nanny later said to my mom, “How dare you bring that long haired hippie over when your family’s all here.”
My papa said to my nanny, “Honey, that there is a good boy,” and my nanny trusted my papa.
Required to get a legal signature for permission from his parents, my dad married my mom at 17, and she was 18. Even at such a young age, both of them agreed to do something extreme.
They decided to make a commitment to never allow any drugs or alcohol into their home.
They weren’t Baptist. They didn’t even go to church. But both sides of my family had siblings who struggled with drug addictions, and they had seen the dangers that come with alcohol. They wanted to safeguard their home, their marriage, and their future children.
As a high school teacher today, I examine the maturity levels of some of my seniors, and I’m further impressed by my parents’ monumental decision at such a young age.
Because of their precocious wisdom, my parents were able to give me one of the most precious gifts a kid could ever receive—a good and safe childhood.
I never had to worry about Mom or Dad drinking too much, and drugs were merely an alien concept that existed in another world.
When I was around 10, my mom and I went to the lake with one of my best friends and his mother. His mother had a drinking problem. Instead of bringing a bottle with her, she had a Big Gulp that she kept sipping out of throughout the day. In a few hours, she was passed out, and we all learned it wasn’t soda she had been sipping.
With my mom driving us all home in our minivan and his mother recovering in the passenger seat, my close friend sat one seat away from me trying to hide his tears as he sniffled privately.
I never had to experience anything like that in my house.
It was safe.
But commitments aren’t always easy to uphold.
Although my aunt Lana was only a few years younger than my mother, she almost seemed more like an older sister than an aunt. Not marrying or having children helped her stay in the youthful state of the vogue of the younger generation. She still listened to current popular music and dressed in a way that the kids at my school would say she was pretty if they ever saw her with me.
But she wasn’t around that much.
Sadly, drugs had taken her away from us; she didn’t ever want us to see her when she wasn’t doing well.
When she was around, she completed the family with her uplifting energy, smile, and life-bringing laugh.
I was in the fourth grade, and my family hadn’t heard from Lana in a while. Back before cell phones and social media, you couldn’t keep track of people as well, and honestly, I don’t think my family knew if she were dead or alive at the time.
One regular day my parents heard a knock at the door, and there she was with one of her guy friends. She was unhealthily skinny, which we all knew wasn’t a good sign, but she put on her loving smile and gave us all hugs being happy to see us. I remember my mom looking so thankful that her sister was alive and with her again.
Then Lana went to use the bathroom. After a few minutes, I noticed a disappointing look overcome my dad’s face. Lana eventually came out of the bathroom, and my dad walked in it. When he came out, he said, “Sorry, Lana, but you have to go now.”
She understood and left quickly. I saw my mom’s face fall as she watched her only sibling leave, not knowing if she would ever see her again.
As the front door shut, my mom was already in tears as she pleaded with my dad, “Couldn’t we just have let her stay? She’s not doing well at all.”
My dad restated the commitment, “No one is going to do drugs in this house. It’s our rule. We aren’t going to allow it for her or from anyone.”
I thought my mom was going to be angry. Maybe even furious. I was mentally preparing for some sort of fight—something huge. But my mom did something that I know was extremely difficult for her. She wiped her eyes and said, “You’re right. We can’t.” She looked down. “It’s just that she has had such a hard life.”
My dad responded gently, “I know.”
She and my dad honored their commitment even when it was the most difficult, and they probably didn’t even realize there was a blond hair, little boy watching from the hallway and learning valuable lessons that no scholarly article or academic book nor the most renowned college professor would ever come close to teaching.
Right after high school many years later, I went to a home Bible study associated with a church nearby. The father of the home who lead the study said to us, “If you could only have one word written on your tombstone someday, no name or bio, no dates of your lifespan, just one word, what would that word be?”
I thought about this question for a while as other people threw out words like, “kind” and “helpful.” Some said, “successful” and “ambitious.” Eventually, someone asked him what his one word would be, and he replied, “Faithful.”
Coming from little money with no real education, two young people, 17 and 18, decided to start a family being faithful to their commitments. And because of their selfless faithfulness, they allowed for their children to have a childhood full of peace, love, and safety, so growing up wouldn’t have to happen too fast.
Let’s pray that God helps us all be able to have “faithful” written on our tombstones someday.