This morning I was wondering if my Dad ever really had fun with us when we were kids. He was so worried about making sure that we were raised properly that I don’t remember him as playful and easy-going.
Dad had a lot of stress in his life … and his family didn’t help with that, to be honest. Mom drove him nuts. She liked to spend money, he worried over every penny that came into the house. She’d grown up in a home with alcohol and Dad was a tee-totaler like you can’t even imagine. I have some of his early sermons and every single week he was preaching on the evils of drink. It’s pretty funny.
Here’s a laugh … oh, here are a couple of them, then I’ll get back to the main story. One evening we were out with some people and they gave Dad a gift … I remember the gift bag contained a bread mix with a can of beer. A normal gift you might think. Well, not to Dad. He pulled into the gravel of our driveway, opened the can of beer and emptied it, then handed the mix to Mom and told her to figure out another way to make the bread. You weren’t going to convince Dad that alcohol cooked out of something … it was still beer.
We went to another family’s home one evening for dinner. She served a bowl of fruit. No one thought anything of it until Mom got the giggles. She’d taken a bite and the woman had soaked the fruit in rum. The rum was still marinating that fruit in the dish. Dad politely declined and passed it away from the three of us kids. I don’t know if Carol or Jim got to taste any, but I remember not being able to get my hands on it. The woman was so proud of her dish, that she gave it to Mom to take home – the crystal bowl was mom’s to keep and we could eat the fruit as leftovers throughout the week. Dad didn’t think it was funny. We laughed about it for years.
Anyway … as I was contemplating whether or not Dad had any ‘fun’ while we were growing up, I had a sudden flash of memory. As a family, we spent a lot of time in the living room. The television was in Mom and Dad’s bedroom and we were only allowed in there once in a while. We didn’t watch a lot of TV. We did our homework in the living room, everything happened in that great big room.
We were also a family of wrestlers. Dad loved nothing more than having the three of us kids pile on top of him. Within seconds, he’d have us on the ground and in his control. Mom just watched from a chair, doing all she could to stay out of it, because once she got involved, well … it became manic.
Dad’s favorite trick was to get one of us on our back and then drop his weight down on our chest, crushing the air out of us. If we were smart, we’d take in a huge breath and let it out slowly so that we had more time. The next thing he’d say was, “Tell me you love me and I’ll let you breathe. Come on, tell me you love me.”
Now, he’d raised three fairly stubborn kids. I don’t know what in the world we thought we could do at that point. The man was going to win. We’d whimper and cry and try to get him off, sometimes the other two would try to pull him off, but generally they just flopped on top of him to increase the pressure.
“Tell me you love me,” he’d repeat. Laughter and tears from laughing so hard would flow.
“Tell me you love me.”
Finally Mom would say, “Just tell him the words. He’ll let you go.”
More stubborn behavior. There had to be another way.
“Tell me you love me.”
Now that I’m older, I know that he was in fact, not crushing us. The man was so strong and so in control of his strength that he was only letting a small part of it hold us down.
Finally, the desperate need for air would win out and whoever was on the ground would squeak out an “I love you.”
If we weren’t completely blue in the face, he’d laugh and say, “Who do you love? Tell me you love me!”
“I love you, Dad,” and he’d toss the other two off his back and stand up.
Someone needs you to say the words to them today. “I love you.” I’m so fortunate to have people in my life who say those words regularly, but part of that is because I’m so free with saying them to my friends. I learned from those very regular wrestling matches that saying “I love you” doesn’t have to come after a moment of torture. It’s much easier to say it and mean it … because the truth is, I really do love. I love you.
Say the words. Don’t make them pin you down and crush the air out of your lungs before you admit to loving them. Out loud. Say the words.