Being the oldest of three children, sometimes I felt like I was the “practice child.” I say that in jest because my parents were/are amazing. There were small things; for example, I am left-handed, and my father was right-handed. Teaching me how to pitch and hit the baseball wasn’t easy for him. When my brother came along, my father had it down, and my brother turned out the be a fantastic baseball player. I was always so jealous of his skills and abilities. My baby sister came along eight years later, and while I now consider her and my brother my best friends, at the time, I wanted to flush her down the toilet because I knew she would further take away from the attention that I felt should have been mine to receive. That, of course, was not true, but at the time, it felt true to me.
My parents are the most amazing people I know. My mother was twenty when she had me. My father served as a sergeant in the Big Red 1, stationed in Germany and Fort Riley, Kansas. Me coming along wasn’t an accident, I don’t think, but I did come along very early in their lives. Life was not easy for them, and they struggled as all young adults, and new parents do, but they loved me, they loved my brother and sister, and readily sacrificed their youth, sometimes their happiness, and their own needs, wants, hopes and dreams so they could provide for my siblings and me. All you can think about is how suffocating your parents can be when you are growing up. It is not until later in life that you fully appreciate all they have done and who they are as people.
My mother raised each of us in the Christian faith. It is rare for her not to end a conversation with “remember your first love,” which is her way of saying God is always watching; remember that in everything you do. You already know that I am a momma’s boy if you’ve met and know me personally. So I try to always “remember my first love” and remember that I do not want to see the disappointed love in my mother’s eyes when I fall off the path. This woman is so strong. She has faced what others would see as insurmountable obstacles, but her faith, remembering her first love, and love for us push her forward.
Disappointed love is what I describe as that look in someone’s eyes when they look at you with comfort, love, and support, but just under the surface, you can see the disappointment. Not because they judge you, but because they know the person you are and the person you can be. Especially in parents, I think there is also a sense of what could I have done better? As a parent, how could I have kept this from happening? The answer is that you can’t. All you can do is prepare your child for the world by giving them the strength and tools to survive. My parents did this, and my mother continues to, but even still at forty-one, I sometimes come up short.
Even though I sometimes think that I am, I am not a perfect person. Over my life, I have risen, and I have fallen hard. I have struggled with alcohol, addiction, depression, and life. My decision-making has not always been the best, and poor life choices have made my path more difficult. But it is my path, and those poor choices, good ones, and guidance from my mother, father, brother, and sister shaped the person I am today.
We have not reached the end of this story, but we will pause for now to give your eyes a break. Throughout this series, I want to share my story to help you better understand who I am by talking about my struggles, past addictions, and failures. Because of my role, people often put me on a pedestal or feel my past should be squeaky clean, but I assure you it is not, and nor will my future be. But it is those failures or lessons, as we will call them, that help me understand others and see people as people. Those lessons remind me that we are all on the level. I want others to know that people fail, and that is okay. Embrace your failures because it is only through failing that we find out who we are and learn how to become better people than we were the day before.
Until next time, RYFL (remember your first love).