Monday, May 30, 2011

At the Barbershop

Big Rapids holds the bulk of my childhood memories. Saulte Ste. Marie and Faribault each have some of my memories, but Big Rapids dwarfs both of them.

In all those years living in Big Rapids there were only two places I’d generally get my haircut: Dan’s and Brown’s Barbershops. The two places were very different.

Dan’s Barbershop was by far the more interesting of the two. Located next to the feed mill, it was not the most cultured of places. The building was small, and I doubt it could have fit more than two barber chairs, which was fine, since there were only two guys who cut hair that I can remember.

Stepping into the store was like entering the back woods. Copies of Field & Stream were strewn about a small coffee table, and a few chairs and a sofa were available for customers to wait their turn. A Rubik’s Cube sat next to the magazines hopelessly twisted into an unsolvable mess. Other peg board games were there as well.

Mounted on the walls were small animals, birds, and fish of various sorts. Apart from the peg board games, this provided much of my entertainment while I waited. I’m not sure what kind of person decorates a barbershop with ermines, ducks, trout, and antlers, but it didn’t seem to bother any of the other customers.

My favorite aspect of Dan’s Barbershop was the bathroom. I never worked up enough courage to use it, or even to look inside, given the strange appearance of the rest of the place. I don’t even know if it had a toilet. The door itself was covered with a poster and a hand-drawn, cartoonish lumberjack with a long handlebar mustache carrying a double-bitted axe and the words, “Pee here.”

Over time we gradually started going exclusively to Brown’s. The building was bigger, conversation was nicer, there were more magazines, and a TV always turned to golf. Besides, I could get a decent flat-top or crew cut, my preferred styles.

I became a bit of a regular at Brown’s even after I was old enough to drive on my own and chose where I wanted to go. My last haircut before my wedding was at Brown’s. And my last haircut before moving to Indy. Two of the more important events in my life were predicated by a visit to Brown’s, and that makes it special to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Note of Encouragement

I sit here thinking about life and about you. Life is very hard, even though we have been blessed and protected from a lot. But you are by my side to hold me and remind me that God is in control when life seems overwhelming. I love you and I'm so very happy to have you as my hubby.
—Hannah, in an e-mail today

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Weekend to Remember

This past weekend my wife and I went to the Weekend to Remember marriage conference. It was a nice break from the norm, as we’ve had two funerals, a women’s conference, and other happenings this month that have really weighed heavily on us, pushing both Hannah and I to the brink of exhaustion.

Yesterday, after the conference, I took a two hour nap. I never take naps. Even Hannah was surprised by it. We’ve been rushing around without the chance to stop and catch our breath.

That’s why this weekend was so nice. Instead of rushing around and focusing on other things (all good things, mind you), we could stop and focus on each other. The whole program was rather simple and enjoyable. We were given time to discuss some issues, pray together, and make the weekend memorable.

Sunday afternoon after the last session we decided to stop at a little restaurant on the corner of Delaware and Ohio in downtown Indianapolis called Barcelona Tapas. We made it just in time for the brunch buffet and we tried some Spanish dishes I haven’t had in five years. I would love to take Hannah to Spain someday.

All in all the weekend was relaxing. We enjoyed a fine marriage conference, passed time in the shade along the canal, ate some great food, and even watched The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

With all that fun, it will be hard to get back into the swing of things, but I am ready for normal once again.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bring on the Pink!

Hannah and I have been unable to agree on a girl's name since we started talking about kids long before we found out we were pregnant. Now it is official. The ultrasound shows a little girl. And we have to choose a name.

Everyone in our family was expecting a boy. Everyone, that is, except Hannah's sister, Deborah. I wrote earlier that I thought it was a girl, but I hoped for a boy. Not that I'm not excited. I know that our girl is going to be Daddy's girl. Bring on the pink!

I don't know how finding out the gender makes any difference, but when we went back to the waiting room after the ultrasound, we talked a little about names and came to a quick conclusion. Abigail. It's a biblical name and means "Her father's joy." Like I said, Daddy's girl.

The funny thing is that we've discussed this name before. Hannah had suggested it, and I said I would want to call her Abby. Hannah said no. Then, ten minutes after the ultrasound, Hannah says we can call her "Abby" for short. Is it any wonder I don't understand women?

As for a middle name, that is still up for grabs, but we've tentatively settled on Renee. Abigail Renee Wencl. I like it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Forgotten Legacy

My paternal grandmother passed away the same day as Osama bin Laden. I don’t know if there’s any significance in that. Maybe it’s ironic. I doubt the two of them could be any more different from each other. Yet in fifty years people will still be talking about Osama bin Laden and hardly anyone will know anything about Betty Jean Wencl.

That’s one of the things that I think about. Legacy. What we leave for those who follow behind us. Who will remember us and for how long. The first sermon I preached for the English services at our church was on this topic. And I realize that I am very young to even be considering these things.

During my sermon, I asked a series of questions that got increasingly difficult. How many of you know your parents’ names? This one was easy, though I imagine that some people from single-parent families or who’ve gone through divorces may not know.

How many of you know your grandparents’ names? This is more difficult because we’re talking about four people that each member of the congregation may or may not have had any contact with. I had little contact with my paternal grandmother, and my paternal grandfather died almost ten years before I was born. But I knew their names. There was a small drop of hands when I asked this one.

How many of you know your great-grandparents’ names? Now we’re up to eight. In all, I only asked the congregation if they knew 14 people’s names. Only a few in the congregation could. When I asked that those who are into genealogies put their hands down, there were none left.

Is it possible that in just three generations I could be forgotten? And even if I am remembered, would it be anything more than just a name and maybe a date of birth and date of death? What will my children know about their great-grandma?

Life is short, and in just a few intervening years entire lives are forgotten. Love stories are lost. Family tragedies fade into the recesses of time and memory.

In light of this I wonder what kind of influence I can have on the coming generations. On my unborn child. Is my memory doomed to be lost to history unless I become famous (or infamous)? And even if that happens, what good is it if people for generations to come learn facts about me, but never really know me as a real person?

That’s why I’d rather focus on the unseen influence that I can have. I want my children to grow up in a Christian environment where they are presented with a clear message of the gospel. I want them to learn about the world around them and develop meaningful relationships with God, family, friends, and others. In the generations to come my influence will be so diluted as other people and forces act, but if I can leave a true spiritual inheritance, that will be more important to me than if my great-grandchildren remember my name.

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…” Proverbs 13:22, ESV

Photo from the David Crowder Band music video SMS [Shine].