Monday was my birthday, and I had a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends. I think it was the best birthday I have had as an adult. I got to spend my special day with my parents, my siblings, and some of my closest friends. Everyone wanted to make this day special for me, since it would be the last birthday I would spend with my loved-ones for a while. And it was indeed special.
The best gift I received came from my dad; it was a little autobiography of his life. On Father’s Day, I gave Dad the book My Dad: His Stories. His Words. It was a journal book in which Dad would answer questions about his life, from his childhood through adulthood. As I told dad, it was a “selfish gift” because it was really a gift for me, my siblings, and our future children. Dad was supposed to work on the book while I was away in South Africa, but he finished it up early and gave the completed work to me as a birthday present. The story of Dad’s life in his own words is a priceless gift that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Reading Dad’s story was a reminder to me that my parents are human beings. Beginning in our teenage years, the image of our parents begins to transform into something of the “other.” For some, the image is negative; parents seem like a foreign species. For others, the image is positive; parents seem like perfect beings, like angels. The latter is how I viewed my parents for many years.
In my 30s I began to realize that my parents were not perfect; they have made mistakes like the rest of us. But Dad’s book also reminded me that my parents have experienced many ups and downs in their lives, that they have feelings, that they have joys, disappointments, frustrations, and dreams. Unfortunately for me, I often allow the label of “parent” to overshadow the humanness of my parents.
I don’t have children, but I think being a parent is the hardest “job” in the world; and I think it gets even harder as your children grow up. Eventually, you have to let them go. I don’t know my parents’ inner thoughts, but they are dealing with my upcoming move to South Africa with amazing faith, grace, and dignity. Without their support, love, and encouragement, I would never have the strength to follow God’s call to South Africa.