You Can Create Nothing More Precious Than Memories

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As I write this week’s blog I’m about to embark on a weekend wedding for my niece. Camera, check. Kilt, check. Greek dance lessons, check. I’m not exactly sure what all is in store but of this I’m certain-lasting memories will be made. Some will be suitable for print and framing while others will simply be etched forever in our minds. Truly, there is little more precious that one can create than a memory of a happier time. They cost nothing but are priceless.

I’m not old by any means but I’m certainly getting older every day. While I try not to linger on things past or regrets just yet, I do already regret that I didn’t make the effort to create more positive memories, especially with my boys. I’m sure many who thought they took advantage of every opportunity can look back and say much the same thing, especially as your kids grow into adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I carry with me plenty of precious memories of their childhood and school years.  I can still remember my oldest son’s cap and gown kindergarten graduation. I recall my middle son playing Little League baseball-I still have his gear. I recall my youngest being a chubby version of his current model like appearance. I remember taking all of them to a small Indiana amusement park no longer there; I remember wrestling with them on the living room floor and sledding with them on cardboard boxes down snowy banks during Indiana winters. These are things I won’t soon forget. But, I didn’t spend nearly enough time with them as I should have.  For every opportunity I took advantage of there are two or three or more I missed. And sadly there is no way to go back in time and recapture lost moments or forfeited opportunities-once lost, they’re gone forever. And I’m just as certain that if you were to ask the boys they would say the same thing-I could have done more.

My wife takes pictures of everything-every event-every occasion; we must have 50 photo albums waiting to be filled that we haven’t started because we have 100 albums worth of photos to go through. Each photo is a moment in time-an image captured that can be revisited and for a brief moment relived. There seems to be nothing so insignificant or unworthy of a photo opp with her-I love that about her. One thing we have learned as grandparents is that moments are fleeting.  We want to be sure not to miss anything we might have missed in the first round as a parent. And besides, who can resist pulling out embarrassing baby pictures on certain occasions just because we were smart enough to keep them handy for such times.

There are many things we do in the faith to remember special occasions-things we should never forget. In the Jewish custom Passover is celebrated as a reminder of the Exodus. We partake of Communion at the Lord’s command to remember His broken body and shed blood on our behalf. We celebrate Christmas to acknowledge the Incarnation, the day the Word became flesh.  We likewise celebrate Easter or Pascha and give thanks for the glorious works done through the cross and the Resurrection. We refer to scripture to revisit the historical roots of the early church and acknowledge the lives of certain Saints for their works and contributions to the traditions of our faith. To us of the faith these are indeed precious memories of eternal existence that will continue to be celebrated in our Heavenly home. 

Creating lasting positive memories is vital to enjoying life because all of us will unfortunately have our share of not so positive memories that must somehow be offset. There are the memories of past relationships that couldn’t be repaired.  There are the memories of broken homes and reduced visitations and forever lost bonding time. There are the memories of tragic events, auto accidents, violence, the unexpected loss of a loved one, the crippling illness that one never recovered from. I recall a fire in 1994 that destroyed all our photos.  Life is not always kind and some painful memories will be created by circumstances beyond your control and without your consent. Such is life.  They too are forever etched in the recesses of your mind and can pop up randomly without explanation. It is for this reason that we must have an inventory of deliberate memories to fall back on that can push out the ones we don’t cherish as much.  This catalog of mental archives can sustain us through the most difficult situations. It is in times of distress that we can be grateful for moments captured and embossed in our memories.

This wasn’t intended to be overly spiritual. All of us, regardless of faith or race or income bracket have equal opportunities to latch on to memorable occasions and relish the value of time-stamped memory making. If I could offer any advice for my children that they would actually adhere to, it would be to never take for granted the small seemingly insignificant events of your life when laughter is shared and family and friends are gathered.  And never think that time stands still for you or that you will pass this way again at some point in the future. Don’t let “if only I had known” be a regular part of your vocabulary. Don’t look back at times in your life and have regrets that you didn’t do more to exploit and savor the moments. Take advantage of every opportunity you are given to create something that costs you nothing but can’t be purchased for all the money in the world-precious, timeless memories.

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I Love Being Papa Joe

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In the 70’s during my “cool” phase the thought of someday being a grandparent never invaded my world. I was never going to grow up and I would cling to my coolness for as long as it was cool to do so. By then both of my grandfathers were already gone and I had no real idea what being a grandfather should look like anyway, so why dwell on it.  Then came my three sons and eventually another and two daughters through marriage. Before I realized it I was a grandfather of six!  

Now I can completely appreciate the term because being a grandfather is indeed a grand blessing. Thankfully they don’t call me grandpa but rather Papa Joe, a title that is higher to me than General Manager, President, Owner or any other designation of elevation-being Papa Joe is the coolest thing I could be, and I embrace that title with both humility and pride that no one else could comprehend. 

We have three granddaughters in Texas, and one here in Las Vegas as well as two grandsons. Each of them has a special place in my heart, as I will briefly explain. The oldest of the Lone Star girls, a recent high school graduate, has done an amazing job in helping to care for her younger sisters, and has grown into a beautiful, intelligent and independent young lady. Her middle sister was a newborn when I married their Nana and I fell in love with her just by holding her all that weekend. She has a free spirit and is also an intelligent and beautiful young lady, who will be graduating high school next year.  I developed an immediate connection with the youngest of the three while in Disneyland. She was an infant not yet ready for rides so I carried her most of the day. She quickly grew into rides, mainly on my back whenever we visited. She grew up way too fast and will be an eighth grader next year. They are uncomfortable with being complimented about their God given beauty, but hey, proud Papas don’t have rules.

Every Sunday we picked up our oldest grandson here in Vegas and took him to church.  I played drums in the band and he would cry until I came down to hold him. As he got older he developed an interest in music so I taught him a few guitar chords and now he is one his way to becoming an accomplished guitarist. He is also quite the football player. I was present when our granddaughter was born here 11 years ago and fell in love with her as soon as she cried. She has become a ray of sunlight that can brighten the darkest of my days. Her brother, the youngest of the six, is my little buddy. He is still in the phase that when he sees me, he runs up to me with and animated “Papa” and jumps up into my arms.  He and his sister would visit me in my office frequently. Their presence would make the worst of days a vacation. 

The best of our weekends are those when we are keeping the local grand kids. As the sign above says, what happens att Nana and Papa’s stays at Nana and Papa’s. I can say with all honesty that I love each of our grandchildren as much as any human is capable of. There is nothing in the world I would not do for them-I would gladly lay down my life to save theirs at any time.  I pray for each of them daily, for protection from harm, from abduction, from illness, from anything that would cause them any distress. I also pray that they are open to the reality of God and His Son. And yet with all I feel for them, I’m struck at the thought that God loves each of us with a love that is inhuman, that is untainted and incomprehensible. I’m in awe that that the true depth of love and emotion that any man can have for any other being can not come close to measuring up to the depth of love God shows us daily. To paraphrase a verse in the New Testament, “Stop and observe if you can, the level of Love God the Father has bestowed upon us, that even we in our sins can be labeled Children of the Most High God”. Wow. Wow.

That someone could love me a hundred times greater than I love my grandchildren is indeed incomprehensible. Yet He’s proven it time and again in my life. And I can rest assured that if I can never outrun the love of God, then my grandchildren will never exhaust His supply of love, grace and protection. Thank you God for allowing this cool guy to experience the real coolness of being a proud Papa.